Four games into his career with the Blackhawks, it looks like defenseman Connor Murphy will be a healthy scratch. The team rolled out its pregame lines Tuesday before taking on the Canadiens, and Murphy was notably absent from the defensive groupings.
Chicago acquired Murphy over the summer from the Coyotes as part of the deal that sent Niklas Hjalmarsson to Arizona. He’s signed to a long-term deal with a $3.85 million cap hit and is expected to be a key part of the defense for the foreseeable future. That’s off to a bumpy start, though.
The Hawks are rolling out Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Gustav Forsling, Jan Rutta, Michal Kempny, and Cody Franson against the Canadiens. Murphy had been on the same pairing as Kempny, but he’s being replaced by Franson, who will be making his debut with the team.
That’s not a strong endorsement for Murphy, a 2011 first-round pick who entering his fourth full NHL season. He recorded zero points, three shots on goal, and a 32.7 percent even strength Corsi in the first three games, so the numbers don’t help much, either. He may be a big guy (6’4, 212 pounds) who can skate well, but he’s been clearly outplayed by Rutta so far.
So with the Blackhawks looking to get Franson into the lineup, Murphy is the one to get sent to the press box. It’s a bad start to his career in Chicago given he’s signed through 2022. If the team decides he’s not fitting, it’ll be interesting to see what happens next given their willingness to move on from other guys quickly.
Murphy is still talented, and it’s a bit premature to write him off as being banished to Joel Quenneville’s doghouse. But it looks like he’s been passed by Rutta as the No. 2 right-handed defenseman on the depth chart, and now Franson is getting a shot. What happens if Franson plays super well? I don’t know, but that might be a good problem to have, all things considered.