Busy time for new GM

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:16 AM ET

The day John Muckler hired Bryan Murray to coach the Senators in June, 2004, he turned to then-assistant GM Peter Chiarelli and said, "I know I could be hiring my replacement."

How right he was.

Muckler, 73, who was fired by the Senators yesterday, is in fact being replaced by the 64-year-old Murray, who was handed the reins by owner Eugene Melnyk during a press conference at Scotiabank Place.

Murray, a former GM with Detroit, Florida and Anaheim, is going to be busy in the next few weeks starting with the draft this weekend in Columbus, free agency on July 1 and, of course, finding the right man to replace him behind the bench.

So, what qualities does the former coach want in his successor?

"I want a head coach that's a competitive guy, that can relate to the players, that has an interest in teaching and is a good person on a daily basis," said Murray. "He has to have the same goal to motivate the players to play at a high level every night. Those are the ideals.

"I don't know whether you can get one person to do that every night, but you've got to get someone who is willing to work hard at the game and that's the bottom line. We just have to decide who really fits the bill."

That's the biggest question.

Muckler liked Murray behind the bench because he was a total departure from the stoic Jacques Martin.

PUSHED PLAYERS

Murray wasn't afraid to call players out publicly, give them a kick in the butt behind closed doors and push them to get to the next level. He was also a huge reason why the club got to the Stanley Cup final.

Murray is going to begin his search for a coach over the next few weeks and here are some likely candidates:

* Senators assistant coach John Paddock, regarded by many as the top candidate, will be on Murray's list. He worked with the club's prospects in Binghamton and has a strong relationship with centre Jason Spezza as a result.

* Former Senators captain Randy Cunneyworth, one of the AHL's most highly touted coaching prospects, has been with the Rochester Americans and is ready for an NHL job.

* Former Maple Leafs coach Pat Quinn will get consideration. He has kept in touch with Murray since being fired by Toronto last year and turned down a chance to coach the Bruins last summer because he wants a more established team. Ottawa might be the perfect fit for Quinn.

* Former New Jersey coach Pat Burns, who led the Devils to the Stanley Cup in 2003, is also ready to return to coaching after going on a hiatus because of a bout with cancer. It's believed he's got a strong shot at replacing Lou Lamoriello, who left the Devils bench at the end of the season.

Claude Julien, another former Devils coach, was a possibility, but TSN reported last night that the Boston Bruins have hired him to replace the fired Dave Lewis.

Ideally, Murray would like to move quickly because there's plenty of other work to do when it comes to dealing with the club's restricted and unrestricted free agents.

Centre Dean McAmmond, an unrestricted free agent on July 1, agreed to a two-year contract with Muckler before the latter was fired, so that deal has to be signed.

The Senators also have to decide what they're going to do with UFA defenceman Tom Preissing, although it's expected he won't return.

Goalie Ray Emery, a restricted free agent, is looking for a big increase from the $925,000 US he earned last year. Murray will also have to pick up where Muckler left off in trying to trade backup Martin Gerber.

Murray may look to improve the club via the free-agent market as well. One potential UFA that would have interested him was Nashville's Scott Hartnell, whose rights were traded to Philadelphia yesterday. The Flyers then signed him to a six-year deal.

"I saw the fun we had getting (to the Stanley Cup) final this year and I'd like to get there again," said Murray. "To do that, we have to try really hard to be a little bigger in a couple of spots."


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