The Columbus Blue Jackets continue to shed salary from their defense corps. After trading Markus Nutivaara earlier today, the team has now traded away former top prospect Ryan Murray. The Blue Jackets have announced that Murray has been dealt to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for a 2021 fifth-round pick.
Murray, 27, is a productive two-way defenseman… when healthy. The 2012 No. 2 overall pick has not been able to live up to expectations due to his inability to stay on the ice. Murray played in just 27 games for Columbus this season and has played in just 187 of a possible 316 games over the past four years combined.
Murray’s career per-game scoring rate projects 30+ point upside over a full season, even if he’s never hit that mark. However, his $4.6MM AAV implies an expectation that he will reach that point total every year. New Jersey has now taken on the financial risk for the final year of Murray’s final deal in hopes that he finally lives up to the deal. If he does, the Devils will have landed the talented blue liner at a rock bottom price.
The Blue Jackets did not trade Murray because he has fallen short of expectations though. By moving Murray and Nutivaara, as well as buying out Alexander Wennberg and knowing that they have a Brandon Dubinsky LTIR placement in their back pocket, Columbus now has roughly $20MM in salary cap space. They suddenly look like one of the top players on the free agent market and with a defense group that is still solid despite shipping out two starters and a great duo in net, the Blue Jackets can devote those funds to making major additions up front. A team whose 2019-20 season was defined by the elite talent they lost to free agency could begin next year with the opposite label, with names like Taylor Hall, Mike Hoffman, or Tyler Toffoli possibly joining the roster.