23-Year-Old Defenseman – Columbus Blue Jackets
Ryan Murray Contract Information:
Signed a two-year, $5.65 million contract extension with the Blue Jackets in February of 2016.
Murray is on the Blue Jackets' protected list for the upcoming expansion draft, Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch reports.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
While Murray's 25 points were a modest career high, the most important number for the 22-year-old defenseman was games played. After struggling with various injuries since being drafted second overall in 2012, he suited up for a full 82-game schedule for the first time in his career last year, marking a crucial step forward. The midseason trade for Seth Jones also took some pressure off Murray to become the Blue Jackets' leader on the blue line, as Jones is better equipped to shoulder that responsibility. That doesn't mean Murray will be relegated to a depth role, however. The duo were very effective together down the stretch and should be the team's top pairing both at even strength and with the man advantage for years to come; while Jones has the more imposing physical presence, Murray's hockey IQ, vision and passing skills are all exceptional. Expect him to set some new and more impressive career highs this season.
There's no doubt that Murray is supremely talented -- he wasn't the No. 2 overall pick in 2012 for no reason, after all -- but injuries have dogged him throughout his playing career. Last season was the worst yet, as he played just 12 games thanks to knee, ankle and foot injuries. On the bright side, Murray's just entering his age-22 season, so all hope isn't lost. However, even if he can stay healthy, he'll be hard pressed to put up a lot of points despite a top-four role, as Kevin Connauton is likely to occupy left defense spot on the Jackets' power-play unit.
While injuries continued to dog him, Murray's rookie season was fairly successful. Scoring 21 points in 66 games won him a spot on the Blue Jackets' second defensive pairing and he proved himself to be mature far beyond his years. The presence of Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski prevent him from seeing big power play minutes, which limits Murray's fantasy potential, but it won't be long before he establishes himself as a rock-solid two-way blueliner and an indispensable part of Columbus' future.
The 2012 second overall pick Murray played in just 23 WHL games last year due to a separated shoulder. Assuming he's fully recovered from surgery, he'll head into camp looking to win a spot with the big club. There are no weaknesses in Murray's game, and he's capable of making an impact at both ends of the ice with smart, steady play, but don't look for big fantasy numbers from him right away.
Despite a lack of offense that was about to be exacerbated by the Rick Nash trade, the Blue Jackets passed up the chance to add a potential franchise forward to the organization at this year's draft and instead used the second overall pick on Murray. It's hard to argue with their choice though as he was arguably the most NHL-ready player available, showing a tremendous amount of poise, leadership and maturity during his junior career to go along with an extremely well-rounded skill set. The Blue Jackets' blue line is deep enough that even if Murray does break camp with the club, he won't be required to shoulder a heavy offensive burden, but it will likely just be a matter of time before his play starts demanding ice time in key situations.
Signed a three-year deal with the Blue Jackets in July of 2012.