Ryan Murray: A Solid Defensive Defenseman When Healthy

Ryan Murray was a former second-overall pick. (Photo via Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)

Introduction

After a quiet draft day in terms of trades, New Jersey Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald made a splash late Thursday evening. The Devils announced they traded a 2021 fifth-round pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for defenseman Ryan Murray. You can learn about the newest Devils’ defenseman below.

Profile

Ryan Murray is a former second-overall pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets. He is only 27-years old and is listed at six-foot-one and 205 pounds. The left-handed defenseman has one more year left at $4,500,000 on his contract. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent at year’s end.

The issue with Ryan Murray has not been his play, but rather his ability to stay healthy. In his seven-year career, he has only played 82 games once, and more than 55 only four times.

The Statistics

Ryan Murray’s point production has not been how Columbus hoped after drafting him second overall. Over an 82-game season, his career average computes to around 26 points per year. Which in the end is fine, given how he is more relied on for his stout defense.

Chart via Evolving-Hockey.com.

To describe his defensive game, it is better to use charts and data. The above chart shows that Murray is solid when it comes to suppressing opponent shot quantities (Corsi Against per 60) and shot quality (Expected Goals Against per 60). The bottom chart shows that Murray is in the 95th percentile of NHL players in terms of even-strength defense and the 87th percentile in Expected Goals Against. Another extremely promising statistic from this chart is his penalty killing in the 92nd percentile of the NHL. That is terrific. 

Chart via @JFreshHockey on Twitter.

Ryan Murray has a total Goals Above Replacement (GAR) of 17.7 in only 127 games (.139 ratio). In comparison, Devils’ Damon Severson has a GAR of 3.5 in 230 games, unrestricted free agent T.J. Brodie a GAR of 18.9 in 216 games (.088 ratio), and unrestricted free agent Tyson Barrie a GAR of 11.6 in 216 games (.053 ratio). All these statistics are over a three-season period.

Chart via @CJTDevil on Twitter.

Lastly, Ryan Murray excels in both entries and exits. This is something the Devils as a team have struggled with in the past. Specifically, Murray will help with exiting the team’s own zone as he is in the league’s 58th percentile in this area. Also, according to the above chart, Murray excels at limiting opponents from entering his team’s zone. This is demonstrated by him being in the league’s 68th percentile of controlled entries allowed. This is a skill you want to have in every defenseman.

The Verdict

Job well done, general manager Tom Fitzgerald. Ryan Murray is a solid, top-four defensive defenseman who can eat 21-plus minutes a night. Most importantly, Murray is a left-handed defenseman. One of the Devils’ biggest needs entering the offseason was a top-four, left-handed defenseman. You can see an updated depth chart of the predicted Devils’ defense core below:

  • Murray/Severson
  • Butcher/Subban
  • Smith/TBD

The only issue that can arise from this trade is the health of Ryan Murray. His issues in this area are well-documented and should not be taken with a grain of salt.

For the sake of the Columbus Blue Jackets, I am assuming the reason why a fifth-round pick was all that was needed to get this deal done was to shed some cap space and make room for a roster player who is a bit healthier. All things considered, trading only a 5th round pick for Murray was an absolutely terrific move by General Manager Tom Fitzgerald.

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