The beginning and end of each season for Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Ryan Murray always seems to be the same song and dance.
You understand that he is packed with potential and that he is impactful on the ice. That it is growing increasingly frustrating to see him get injured every season and have his year get cut short.
So how do you approach a player like that will also ensuring that you give him every chance to succeed? The Blue Jackets are doing their best, and it still looks like it may not be enough for him to stick around the team.
In 56 games played this season, Murray scored one goal and pitched in with 28 assists for a total of 29 points.
That total is the third fewest games he has played in one season since he came into the league. Despite that, it was his best season to date points wise.
A lot of time was spent with fellow defenseman Seth Jones on the first pairing giving Murray several minutes that he wasn't usually playing in years past. His average time on ice over the course of the season was the second highest of his whole career.
Oddly enough, his resurgence happened despite starting in the defensive zone more than he has in his entire career. His shot metrics were some of the best he put up in his whole career.
Simply put, Murray had one of his best years on record, and the Blue Jackets were able to ride off of that before injuries sidelined him. The points, production, and reliability (while on the ice) put him as one of the top two or three defensemen on the team.
Where does that put a Blue Jackets team that may need consistency more than anything else?
Highlight of the Campaign
Murray is a restricted free agent this summer making matters all the more confusing for both the player and team. Coming off his best year to date, a chunk of change is going to be wanted by Murray and simultaneously, the Blue Jackets are going to want to be cautious about giving possible term to a player that could be perpetually injured.
A high cost, low term deal could provide both sides with what they want. The issue then becomes how vital security of a longer term, a guaranteed deal is for Murray. Last season, Murray came with a $2.825 million average annual value (AAV). An increase will be seen and a couple of years will be added to his deal, just how quickly will the Blue Jackets want to put him into unrestricted free agency considering the time they will already have invested in the player?
As you can tell, it is a lot more questions than answers surrounding Murray. You want to see if he can ever shake the injury bug considering he has had different ailments each time he has missed during the season. Add that to the fact that trade winds are swirling around Murray; it feels as if the two sides are unsure of how to proceed with one another.
As is the case in other sports, you're only useful to a team if you're making contributions. This offseason for Murray may be the final time the Blue Jackets decide whether the juice is worth the squeeze with their ailing defenseman.