Marc-Andre Fleury‘s eventual exit from the Pittsburgh Penguins has been inevitable for nearly a year now.
Ever since Matt Murray burst onto the scene last season it has simply been a matter of when and how Fleury’s exit happens, and where he ends up going.
Murray, already a two-time Stanley Cup champion, is cemented in as the future of the position and the Penguins were never going to put themselves in a position where they could potentially lose him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights.
The only snag is that Fleury’s contract included a no-movement clause that would have forced the Penguins to protect him — and expose Murray — unless he was willing to waive it.
In the immediate aftermath of the Penguins’ Stanley Cup win on Sunday night it was revealed that Fleury did, in fact, waive that no-movement clause back in February. It not only made things easier for general manager Jim Rutherford and the Penguins’ front office, it also may have ended up saving their season and giving them an opportunity to win another Stanley Cup.
Fleury spoke with Dave Molinari of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about his decision to waive his no-movement clause
“The team came forward to me and asked … it gave them more flexibility for the future, for the summer, so they weren’t scrambling to trade me,” Fleury said, via the Post-Gazette. “I thought it was the right thing to help the team, to stay with the team and finish the season here and have a chance to play for the Cup again.”
Had Fleury refused to waive his no-move clause (which he would have had every right to do) it would have put the Penguins — and Fleury — in a difficult position.
They would have either had to work to trade him during the season before the trade deadline, work out a trade with Vegas to send them some form of compensation to not take a goalie, or perhaps even buy out the remaining three years of Fleury’s contract and have dead money on the salary cap for several years done the line.
None of those options would have been ideal.
Had they scrambled to trade Fleury during the season and actually completed one, there is almost no chance they would have been celebrating their fifth Stanley Cup on Wednesday afternoon.
With Murray sidelined at the start of the playoffs it gave Fleury an opportunity to regain his starting job through the first two rounds of the playoffs. He not only played well enough for the team to get through the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals, he was without question their best player and one of the single biggest reasons they advanced.
He was replaced by Murray in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals after giving up four goals in 12 minutes. Murray finished the postseason, including his shutout performances in Games 5 and 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
In the end the Penguins are still likely to lose Fleury for no compensation (other than $5 million in salary cap space in each of the next two seasons) if Vegas takes him in the expansion draft, as it is assumed they will.
But they were at least able to avoid a lot of the headaches that would have come with trying to rush a trade during the season or in the immediate aftermath so they could keep Murray.
They were also able to get another Stanley Cup out of it.