Ignoring the fact that the New York Islanders have a need on their blue line just because they missed out on a scoring winger is negligence. Yes, the Isles GM Lou Lamoriello should still be trying to figure out how to upgrade the forward group, but he should also be trying to figure out the best course for his defense. The Islanders have five solid defensemen headed into the 2022-23 season. The question mark comes to Scott Mayfield's right. Robin Salo and Sebastian Aho will battle for that spot, but both are unproven at the NHL level. Ryan Murray remains a free agent and is the kind of player who would provide more offense from the blue line as Lamoriello stated he wants.
The former second overall pick in 2012 just has not been able to stay healthy. In nine NHL seasons, Murray has only played a complete season once in the 2015-16 season where he scored four goals and 25 points. The Regina, Saskatchewan native was traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the New Jersey Devils in October of 2020 in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick.
Murray was a regular for the Devils in the abbreviated 2020-21 season skating in 48 of 56 games, tallying 14 assists. Last summer, Murray signed on with the Colorado Avalanche and eventually became a Stanley Cup champion despite not playing in a single playoff game. Murray was a part-time defenseman on a deep Avalanche squad mostly due to the outbreak of Bowen Byram. In 37 games, Murray tallied four assists. By now, Murray likely knows his role in the NHL. He'll have to continue to sign with teams in the short term at a low cost due to his inability to stay healthy.
That should work well for the Islanders' sake. Murray, much like we stated about Calvin de Haan, is another free-agent defenseman that at worst gives the Islanders more depth on their blue line. The issue with Murray isn't the lack of talent, it's his inability to stay healthy. That issue presented itself last season with the Avalanche in November when he suffered a lower-body injury and returned in January.
When Murray is healthy, however, he knows how to move the puck well in transition and has the offensive touch Lamoriello is looking for. He was signed on with the Avalanche for $2 million last season, and because he played so little, there's no reason that number can't likely be brought down into the six-digit range. Murray is a viable option to not only compete for the sixth spot on the blue line but will help bring out the best in some of the young blue liners such as Salo and Aho. Again, at worst the Islanders rotate Murray in as a seventh defenseman if Salo wins the spot out of training camp.
As previously stated, ignoring that the Islanders have a need to the left of Mayfield is negligence. That doesn't mean they don't also need to address a scoring winger, they do. Murray is another one of those options that don't hurt the wallet and provides some depth on the blue line. And if he can stay healthy and bring that pedigree he had when Columbus drafted him second overall, it's a win for everybody.