Last summer Coyotes GM John Chayka showed a lot of faith in the then 23-year-old defenseman when he signed Connor Murphy to a six-year, $23.1 million-dollar contract, an average annual value of $3.85 million.
At the time Chayka said, "He's a guy we think can be part of our leadership group for a long time moving forward… As we move forward, we aren't paying for past performance, we're paying for future performance. We wanted to get ahead of things and be proactive. We hope it's a deal that's fair and equitable for Murph but if we can get him to outperform that contract, certainly that's kind of what we're hoping for."
If Chayka was hoping for a big step forward right away, this season probably didn’t live up to those expectations. At best, Murphy’s year was very similar to last year. In both seasons he finished with less than 10 goals, 17 points, and 45 or more penalty minutes.
Murphy's Season Stats
The 2015-16 season was largely regarded as a big step forward for Murphy, so having a similar year is certainly better than taking a big step back. Additionally, he wasn’t getting nearly as much ice time with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, so not having a step back might be more of an accomplishment than a first glance would indicate.
His role also should be taken into consideration as he is not an offensive defenseman. This season he didn’t score his first goal until February 11th, a dramatic overtime winner against the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Instead, he is relied on more for his physical play where he was second on the team in hits and third in blocked shots.
One of his best defensive plays of the season is one that doesn’t even show up on the scoresheet. He batted a puck out of midair to prevent an empty net goal by Pekke Rinne and maintain teammate Mike Smith’s record as the most recent goalie to score a goal.
These positives weren’t enough to keep Murphy on the top pairing this season. In some games, he was only getting third pairing minutes behind Luke Schenn and Michael Stone.
One of the most frustrating areas of Murphy’s play is how well he can play all night only to take a stupid penalty late in the game. Far too often those penalties end up becoming goals for the opposing teams. Another aspect of his game that Murphy needs to work on his to not make a panic play when the opposing team is putting on the pressure.
Overall his grade for this season ends up a C; he passes but Murphy isn’t yet playing up to the contract value he was given.
The grades of all the other Coyotes players can be found on our master post here.
What Grade Would You Give Connor Murphy?
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