It’s possible that Marc-Andre Fleury getting picked in the expansion draft is already a done deal between GMs Jim Rutherford and George McPhee.
If that’s the case, what’s written below is moot. Fleury will be off to Vegas. From the Penguins’ perspective, that’ll be the end of it.
So if Fleury is traded before the expansion draft, what would the Penguins do about protecting their roster from the Golden Knights?
Let’s run it down…
A fourth forward, Bryan Rust, also seems likely to be protected.
It’s at this point that the Pens need to make the big decision. Do they protect seven forwards and three defensemen? Or, do they protect eight skaters, regardless of position?
If it’s the first option, they could also protect Patric Hornqvist, Carl Hagelin, and one other forward (maybe Oskar Sundqvist, or perhaps they could add one via trade). However, if they chose this route, then they’d have to expose a defenseman like Olli Maatta.
If it’s the second option, they’d be able to protect Maatta, but they’d have to expose Hagelin, Hornqvist and Sundqvist.
Your answer will probably depend on how you value Maatta. The 22-year-old certainly has his share of critics. He’s had trouble staying healthy. He’s not the quickest skater out there.
That being said, the Penguins just won the Stanley Cup with Maatta playing over 20 minutes per game, and he’s locked in for five more years at a cap hit just north of $4 million. In addition, Trevor Daley and Ron Hainsey are pending UFAS who aren’t getting any younger, and there aren’t many promising young d-men in the system.