By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Ryan Murray is on his way home.
The Everett Silvertips captain is returning to the team later this week as a consequence of the looming NHL labor strife.
Murray, who became the highest Everett player ever selected in the NHL draft when he went second overall to Columbus in June, is believed to be NHL ready. But the NHL appears destined for a lockout, meaning the defenseman who starred for the Tips the past three seasons is headed back to Everett. He’s scheduled to be in town either Wednesday or Thursday.
“Obviously we’re pretty excited to have him back,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson said. “I guess we’ll see how long the NHL decides he’ll be with us.”
Murray is about as accomplished as a WHL player can be. The White City, Saskatchewan, native was named Everett’s Most Valuable Player each of the past two seasons, and he represented Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships. He even appeared this spring for Canada’s senior national team at the World Championships, becoming the second-youngest player ever to play for Canada at the event.
The Tips were resigned to losing Murray to the NHL this season. However, the NHL’s labor situation means Everett will have Murray for at least a little while longer.
“Obviously it’s a great thing for this organization, for our fans, for our players,” Everett coach Mark Ferner said. “The type of person he is, he even called me and apologized that he wasn’t in camp. He wanted to be here. That just goes to show the type of kid he is. Certainly we’re going to welcome him back with open arms, and he’ll be good for us for as long as we have him, we know that.”
Murray’s fate is in the hands of the negotiators. The NHL’s collective bargaining agreement with the players union expires at 8:59 p.m. (PDT) Saturday night. It’s a virtual certainty that no agreement will be reached before then. The owners plan on locking the players out once the collective bargaining agreement expires.
Murray, because he’s entering his 19-year-old season and was drafted out of the WHL, is only eligible to play in the NHL or Everett. NHL teams made a gentlemen’s agreement to honor the rule preventing players younger than 20 who were drafted out of the Canadian Hockey League from playing in the minors, even though the collective bargaining agreement will have expired. Since NHL training camps, which were scheduled to begin this week, have been postponed, Murray’s only choice is to rejoin the Tips.
Murray’s agent, Rick Valette, made noise over the weekend. In a story on TSN.ca Valette is paraphrased as saying he wants a written guarantee that Murray will be released back to Columbus once the lockout is over, regardless of how deep it is into the WHL season.
However, the Tips have stated all along they expect Murray to return to Columbus once the lockout is over, and are planning accordingly.
“It’s disappointing for him that there’s going to be a lockout,” Ferner said. “We’re certainly happy to have him and welcome him with open arms, but as soon as that lockout ends, we know we’re going to lose him. So for however long we have him he’s certainly going to be a huge asset, not only for our group, but for the organization, the city and the fans because he’s such a class kid.”
Even though Murray likely will be back only temporarily, the Tips are happy to have him.
“I think what it will do is give us some leadership, especially on the back end,” Davidson said. “We’ve got a great young group back there, and now we’re adding a top-end player both on and off the ice. That can only be positive for all our players here. He’ll set the tone on and off the ice. Whether it’s a week or two, or whether it’s longer than that, it can only be a real plus for the players we have here now.”
Murray will be back in time for Everett’s final two preseason games, a home-and-home set against Seattle on Friday and Saturday. However, Ferner did not know whether Murray would play.
“We’re not going to rush him,” Ferner said. “Obviously we know the type of player he is, and we’ll see how much he’s been on the ice. But at the same time, we still have some other decisions to make here.”
Tips reassign two
Everett made two roster moves following last weekend’s preseason games. Eighteen-year-old winger Luke Gordon was reassigned to the Nanaimo Clippers of the B.C. Hockey League, and 17-year-old winger Tre Potskin was reassigned to the Cariboo Cougars of the B.C. Major Midget League. Both remain on Everett’s 50-player protected list. With those two gone and Murray returning, it puts Everett’s roster at 30 players — 15 forwards, 12 defensemen and three goaltenders.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.