The Silvertips made two roster moves following the weekend, reassigning forwards Luke Gordon and Tre Potskin. However, while two players head out, one is heading back in as captain Ryan Murray is returning to the team this week.
Murray has been caught in NHL labor strife limbo. Everett’s star defenseman was taken second overall in this year’s NHL draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets, and he was expected to make the jump straight to the NHL as a 19-year-old. However, with an NHL lockout all but certain beginning Saturday, Murray is returning to Everett either Wednesday or Thursday, depending on how long it takes him to get things packed up at home in White City, Saskatchewan.
Over the weekend Murray’s agent made some noise about wanting a written guarantee that Murray will be allowed to return to Columbus once the lockout is resolved, regardless of how deep it is into the WHL season. However, the Tips have said all along they expect and accept that Murray will return to Columbus once the lockout is over. The Tips will be happy to have Murray for however long they get him, as not only is Murray a great player, he’s also a positive influence both on and off the ice.
So how long could Murray be back? Who knows? It could be two weeks or two months or the entire season. Apparently there’s some deadlines in November for when television money kicks in, as well as being able to get the Winter Classic played, so late October or early November is as good a guess as any for when the NHL labor situation works itself out. After that Murray would go to Columbus for an abbreviated preseason, then presumably get his nine games with the Blue Jackets before his contract kicks in. Then Columbus will have to make a decision whether Murray will stay in the NHL or returns to Everett. My bet would be on the former.
Now what does getting Murray back temporarily mean for Everett? First off, it means there’s no shortage of bodies on defense. The Tips still have 11 other defensemen on the roster. Lucas Grayson was practicing as a forward today, and since he’s played primarily as a forward during preseason games I think it’s safe to say his transition is well on its way. But with Murray coming back that’s still 11, meaning there’s still some tough decisions to be made there.
However, Murray’s return, even if brief, serves a major purpose. Everett will be extremely young and inexperienced on defense this season. Some of those rookies look more than ready for a regular shift. However, if Murray is back it will help ease the transition for those young defensemen. Instead of being thrown straight into the fire, having to play major minutes against opponents’ top forwards, they’ll at least be able to get their feet wet first.
As for up front, things are beginning to look more set. With the 18-year-old Gordon reassigned to Nanaimo of the BCHL and the 17-year-old Potskin reassigned to Cariboo of the BCMML (both remain on Everett’s protected list), Everett’s roster includes 15 forwards. Grayson should be added to that group eventually, but even so it means the Tips only have one or two more cuts to be made up front.
Here’s where Everett’s roster now stands:
Forwards (15) — JT Barnett (92), Cody Fowlie (92), Ryan Harrison (92), Manraj Hayer (93), Zach McPhee (93), Reid Petryk (93), Josh Winquist (93), Kohl Bauml (94), Trent Lofthouse (94), Stathis Soumelidis (94), Ryan Chynoweth (95), Carson Stadnyk (95), Dawson Leedahl (96), Ty Mappin (96), Tyler Sandhu (96).
Defensemen (12) — Landon Oslanski (92), Evan Morden (93), Ryan Murray (93), Ben Betker (94), Lucas Grayson (94), Nick Walters (94), Austin Adam (95), Griffin Foulk (95), Tye Hand (95), Cole MacDonald (95), Mirco Mueller (95), Michael Zipp (96).
Goaltenders (3) — Andy Desautels (94), Troy Trombley (94), Austin Lotz (95).