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Fleury did the Penguins huge favor by waiving his no-move clause

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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.

Penguins, Kings among teams with notable waiver moves

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If an NHL team wants to add a big winger with two Stanley Cup rings,* they merely need to make a waiver claim.

TVA’s Renaud Lavoie tweeted out Tuesday’s list of waived players, with the Los Angeles Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins making some of the most interesting moves.

In the case of the Kings, they waived Jordan Nolan and former Penguins backup Jeff Zatkoff. Here’s the full list, via Lavoie:

There are some bullet points that can sell Nolan, but the 28-year-old’s production was quite limited at the NHL level. Nolan’s never scored 10 goals in a single season; in fact, he’s only reached 10 points once in his career (six goals and four assists in 64 regular-season contests back in 2013-14).

Overall, it wouldn’t be surprising if a team targeted Nolan as a depth guy, even if his ceiling is limited.

While the Penguins’ entries seem notable for sheer volume as much as anything else, Frank Corrado is another name that stands out.

Corrado was often the catalyst for debates about his playing time (or lack thereof) with the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it doesn’t seem like the defenseman is having much success catching on with the Penguins, either.

Zatkoff, meanwhile, fits in with quite a few other names on this list: possibly prominent in the AHL, only likely to get the occasional cup of coffee in the NHL, at this point.

* – Yes, it’s OK to think of Jaromir Jagr before that sentence ends.

Red Wings are ‘excited’ about Michael Rasmussen’s offensive upside

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The Detroit Red Wings missed the playoffs for the first time in 25 years, but there appears to be something good that came from that.

Instead of drafting in the back half of the first round, the Wings were able to get a top 10 selection in last June’s NHL Entry Draft. With the ninth overall pick, they chose power forward Michael Rasmussen.

Rasmussen is listed at 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds. NHLers of that size are a rare breed. Add the fact that he’s gifted offensively, and it looks like the Red Wings may have a gem coming through the pipeline.

In his first three career preseason games, the 18-year-old has already picked up two goals. His play hasn’t gone unnoticed by the organization.

“I’m excited about him as a prospect,” head coach Jeff Blashill said, per MLive.com. “He’s big, he’s smooth, he’s got good hands, he’s got good offensive sense.”

With all big forwards, a lot of their success will be determined by their skating ability. In today’s NHL, it’s pretty clear that you need to be able to move if you’re going to have a long and productive career. But according to Blashill, skating isn’t a big issue with Rasmussen.

“I think he skates well. People have questioned that, but I don’t see that at all. I think he covers lots of ground in a hurry. I think he needs to move his feet a little bit more at times in the D-zone, but overall I’ve been happy with his play.”

No matter what he does between now and the end of training camp, it sounds like Rasmussen will be heading back to the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, where he’ll look to improve his numbers from last year (32 goals, 55 points in 50 games).

Luongo pushes through ‘mental, physical grind’ in comeback from hip injury

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Roberto Luongo is back, taking part in the preseason for the Florida Panthers, in preparation for when the games begin to count in the standings.

However, his latest comments suggest he didn’t know if that would indeed be the case, after suffering a hip injury that resulted in surgery following the 2015-16 season and then shut him down in March last season.

“For a good two- to three-month period it was a battle mentally to just figure out if I could be able to ever come back,” Luongo told NHL.com. “I didn’t feel like I was getting better and it was constantly bothering me, so it was as much a mental grind as a physical grind from March until almost June if I could ever fully recover and feel good on the ice.”

Luongo is now 38 years old and the rigorous demands of playing that position for more than 960 career regular season games — not to mention playoffs or international duty — can surely take a toll on the body. The Panthers have a good tandem in net with Luongo and James Reimer, but what will be intriguing as the season progresses is how head coach Bob Boughner divvies up playing time between the two, with Luongo appearing to be healthier and as Florida looks to get back into the postseason.

The past several weeks, though, have been encouraging for Luongo. He returned to the ice well ahead of training camp and gave an optimistic report, saying there weren’t “any issues.” That was just over a month ago. He stopped all eight shots he faced during 31:26 of ice time in his preseason debut last week, which was a good start.

Auston Matthews puts on a show in preseason tilt vs. Habs

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Auston Matthews and William Nylander are showing no signs of any sophomore slump so far through the pre-season.

Matthews had a hat trick and an assist and Nylander had a goal and two assists as the Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Montreal Canadiens 5-1 in an NHL preseason game on Monday night.

Matthews scored his first goal of the game 47 seconds into the first period. His wrist shot from just inside the blue line went over the right shoulder of Canadiens goaltender Al Montoya.

Matthews made it 2-0 at 4:56. Nylander’s initial shot went high, and Matthews batted down the rebound and into an open side of the net.

He scored his third goal in the third period. While on a breakaway, Matthews shot the puck between the legs of Montoya at 3:46.

Matthews has four goals and two assists in three preseason games.

Jeff Petry scored for Montreal while on the power play at 11:37 of the second period.

Nylander scored at 6:03 of the third period to give Toronto a 5-1 lead.

Patrick Marleau also had a goal for Toronto while Frederik Andersen made 20 saves.