Murray left the team’s morning skate earlier in the day with what coach Sheldon Keefe later called “groin discomfort.” Toronto is hosting Ottawa — Murray’s former team — on Saturday and Murray was expected to start.
Ilya Samsonov will get the call now, with rookie Erik Kallgren recalled from the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies on an emergency basis to back up.
The Leafs gain just under $4 million in cap space to recall players now that Murray is on LTIR. However, Toronto is also at the 50-contract limit, so bringing on another goaltender would require making a corresponding move to open up that spot.
Toronto traded for Murray from the Senators in July, taking on the final two seasons of Murray’s four-year, $25 million contract (Ottawa retained 25% of his salary in the exchange).
Toronto opted to add Murray instead of re-signing incumbent starter Jack Campbell, an unrestricted free agent who went on to ink a five-year, $25 million contract with Edmonton. The Leafs also traded Campbell’s former backup Petr Mrazek to Chicago in July, opening the door for an entirely new goalie tandem to take over.
Murray’s tenure with the Leafs thus far has been nearly a worst-case scenario. The veteran has started only one game, a 4-3 season-opening defeat to Montreal that ended with Murray allowing the game-winning goal by Josh Anderson with 19 seconds left in regulation.
Now that Murray’s unavailable, Samsonov will be Toronto’s go-to in net. The 25-year-old signed with the Leafs as a free agent last summer after not receiving a qualifying offer from Washington. Samsonov had been with the Capitals his entire NHL career, sharing the net last season with Vitek Vanecek and posting a 23-12-5 record with .896 SV%.
Murray, 28, has a Stanley Cup winning pedigree from his past with the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning back-to-back championships with the club in 2016 and 2017. When Murray was a pending restricted free agent in October 2020, Pittsburgh traded him to Ottawa, where Murray was immediately extended to his current four-year deal.
The marriage between Murray and the Senators was soured by Murray’s constant injury issues. During his second season in Ottawa, Murray was sidelined by a concussion, upper and lower body ailments, and other undisclosed problems.
That history put Toronto’s decision to trade for Murray under the microscope. Murray can still be effective when healthy, posting .906 SV% for Ottawa last season in limited action. And he has a history with Keefe and Leafs’ general manager Kyle Dubas — he played for the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds from 2010-14, when Keefe and Dubas were coach and GM respectively of that team.
But Murray’s injury-plagued past made going all-in with the netminder more of a risk, something even Ottawa’s coach DJ Smith acknowledged on Friday.
“Matt, unfortunately here, was just injured all the time,” Smith told reporters. “Take nothing away from him. He was just hurt all the time. He had a lot of bad luck.”