PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 02:  Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks on from the bench in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Washington Capitals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 2, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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Don’t assume Fleury will be traded, says Penguins GM


Just because Matt Murray signed an extension doesn’t mean Marc-Andre Fleury‘s days in Pittsburgh are numbered.

That was the message today from Penguins GM Jim Rutherford, after Murray re-upped through 2019-20.

“The focus seems to be on what happens with Marc-Andre, but let’s let this play itself out first,” Rutherford said, per the Post-Gazette. “Let’s not just presume that Marc is automatically out. He’s been the franchise goalie here, he is a terrific person, he’s a terrific player and I think that assumption, we’re getting a little bit ahead of ourselves.”

This wouldn’t be such a hot topic if there was no expansion draft in June. But there is, and when it takes place, each team will only be allowed protect one goalie. And if the Penguins don’t trade Fleury, they’ll be obligated to protect him, unless he’s willing to waive his no-movement clause.

Protecting Fleury would, of course, leave Murray as a prime candidate to be chosen by Las Vegas. Unless, that is, Rutherford could strike a deal with George McPhee to, say, send Vegas a draft pick or player, in return for Vegas not picking Murray. Yes, that kind of deal is allowed.

So it’s complicated.

At this point in time, it’s quite possible that Rutherford doesn’t know what he’s going to do. The season is still young, and it remains to be seen which goalie will emerge as the starter in Pittsburgh. If it’s Murray, Fleury might want to be a starter elsewhere and Rutherford’s decision will be an easy one.

If it’s Fleury, the decision could be tougher. While keeping both goalies would be nice, it would also be expensive. Next season, Fleury and Murray will make a combined cap hit of $9.5 million, and there’s only one net.

Again, though, a decision doesn’t have to be made now.

“Our focus this year is winning,” said Rutherford, “and we’ll deal with the expansion draft at the appropriate time.”

Statement made: Fleury lifts Penguins over Capitals


PITTSBURGH — The biggest issue the Pittsburgh Penguins were facing over the summer was how they were going to handle their two-headed monster in net between Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray.

It was — and still is — a situation that creates a number of short-term and long-term questions.

Which one stays, which one goes, and until one of them does go, who is going to get the bulk of the playing time? Right now the situation is easy. With Murray sidelined for the first month of the season due to a hand injury sustained at the World Cup of hockey, Fleury is back in his familiar position as the team’s starter.

In their season opening 3-2 shootout win over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night, he made a pretty big statement that it is still his net.

Even though Kris Letang did his part to help shut down Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin, and even though Evgeni Malkin scored a big goal late in the second period and Phil Kessel tallied the winner in the shootout, it was Fleury that was the team’s best player on the night.

He was spectacular in turning aside 39 of the 41 shots he faced, including all six shots the Capitals put on him during 3-on-3 overtime period.

None of those saves were bigger than this point-blank stop on a wide open T.J. Oshie right in front of the net.

Fleury being the unquestioned starter on opening night is a bit of a reversal from the way things went in the Penguins’ net just four months ago on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.

With Fleury sidelined at the start of the postseason due to a concussion, Murray took over the starting job and played so well that he never gave up the job, even after Fleury was 100 percent healthy and cleared to play. That performance from Murray, combined with the contract situations facing both players and the looming expansion draft next year, created an offseason storyline centered around the two goalies and the franchise’s long-term plans for the position.

Given the ages of both players (Fleury is nearly a decade older than Murray) it still seems logical to assume that Murray is going to be the long-term solution at the position, assuming he doesn’t have a noticeable regression this year. In the short-term, the Penguins seem happy to let the situation play out and stick with both goalies.

On Thursday, on the same night the Penguins were celebrating their Stanley Cup win, it was Fleury’s opportunity to shine after sitting on the sidelines for almost that entire journey.

“It’s great for Marc,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after the game.

“We are thrilled with how he battled to get back last year. It was a difficult circumstance for him personally and he has worked extremely hard to get to this point.”

Even though he only played 75 minutes in the playoffs last season he still played a massive role in their success during the season. Before the mid-season coaching change roster overhaul that helped jumpstart their second half and postseason surge, Fleury was pretty much the only player keeping the team afloat in the standings early in the season. It was perhaps the best season of his career as his career continued to do a 180 after a couple of disappointing postseason performances that seemed to leave his future with the team in doubt.

His future with the team is still in doubt at this point, but for entirely different reasons.

Instead of being performance based, it’s all about a cheaper, younger option coming up behind him.

On Thursday, he showed that he is not quite ready to give up that spot just yet.

Fleury fails to crack ‘Canes roster, but McKeown makes it (for now)

Haydn Fleury

We’ve written plenty about Carolina’s promising young blueline, one that, last year, featured the likes of Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce, Ryan Murphy and Justin Faulk — all aged 24 or younger.

The youth didn’t stop there, either, as several other young prospects were knocking at the door.

But on Monday the knocking stopped for a few.

The notables? Haydn Fleury, the seventh overall pick in 2014, who was demoted to AHL Charlotte and Trevor Carrick, the 22-year-old that made his NHL debut last season.

A third good young d-man, Roland McKeown, is sticking around — but nobody’s sure for how long. The ‘Canes added a pair of veteran defensemen in recent days (Klas Dahlbeck via waivers, Jakub Nakladal via free agency) and Nakladal’s status is “non-roster” due to immigration issues.

Fleury, 20, will no doubt be disappointed by today’s development, though it’s hardly a disastrous setback. The ‘Canes have been pretty methodical in bringing him along — Fleury played four full years with WHL Red Deer — and he’s barely spent any time in the American League.

In that light, going to Charlotte is probably a good thing.

Overall, today’s moves still give the ‘Canes a very young, very exciting outlook for the season. We’ve already mentioned the youth on defense, and the forwards aren’t much older: Sebastian Aho, Elias Lindholm, Phil Di Guiseppe, Viktor Rask, Teuvo Teravainen and Martin Frk are all 23 or younger.

Marc-Andre Fleury wants to stick around with the Penguins for ‘a long time’

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22:  Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks on prior to Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

After an entire summer of speculation and questions about how they were going to handle their goaltending situation, the Pittsburgh Penguins are prepared to enter the 2016-17 season with both Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray on their roster.

Given the way Murray played in the postseason on the way to a Stanley Cup win, and the contract situations that are only going to become even more complicated next summer with an expansion draft, there was a belief that Fleury could be on the move this summer. For any number of reasons, including the lack of a trade market for goalies and the fact Penguins management seems happy to have both goalies in the mix at this point, a trade never happened.

On Thursday, Fleury spoke to some of the Pittsburgh media following an informal workout before the team returns to training camp and said, via Sam Werner of the Post-Gazette, that he never requested a trade from the team this summer and that his goal has always been to remain with the team.

“I’ve always said this is my home,” Fleury said, again via the Post-Gazette. “I wish I could play here all my career. I’ll try my best to do good for the team, for the organization and hopefully stick around a long time.”

In the short-term, the Penguins’ goaltending situation seems like it could be a good problem to have because both of them have shown they are capable of being the team’s No. 1 goaltender, and split of the playing time means neither one has to shoulder too much of the workload and shouldn’t be worn down by the time the playoffs come around. There is also a safety net in place in case of an injury to either one, or if Murray sees his play regress from where it was in the playoffs.

The problems are more long-term as they relate to the salary cap (Fleury’s contract runs for three more seasons and pays him more than $5 million per season) and the upcoming expansion draft. Given Fleury’s contract, which includes a no-trade clause, the Penguins would have to protect him in the expansion draft next June which means Murray would be exposed and create the possibility that the Penguins could lose him for nothing.

That situation helped ignite the trade speculation over the summer.

If all things related to their performance remained equal (Fleury still plays like a starting goalie; Murray doesn’t regress too much) you still have to think that the Penguins would probably prefer to keep Murray long-term, simply because he is still cheaper at the moment (an important thing for a team that always spends to the cap like Pittsburgh) and is nearly 10 years younger. For as good as Fleury has been over the past couple of years since having his career do a complete 180 after a disastrous 2012-13 playoff performance, he is still starting to get to an age where goalies typically start to slow down a little.

If nothing else, the Penguins have the 2016-17 season to evaluate the performance of both and make their long-term decision before having to worry about exposing Murray to the expansion draft.

The 2015-16 season was one of Fleury’s best in the NHL before two concussions sidelined him for extended periods of time. The latter happened late in the regular season and kept him sidelined through the start of the playoffs. By that point Murray had taken over the job. The Penguins briefly turned to Fleury for Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals, an overtime loss that saw Fleury struggle down the stretch. The Penguins went back to Murray in Games 6 and 7 — both wins — and continued to ride him through the Stanley Cup Final.

At the start of the season his play was probably the biggest reason the Penguins remained in the playoff hunt when the rest of the team around him was struggling prior to the coaching and roster changes that helped turn around the season.

The Fleury-Murray watch in Pittsburgh is on

TAMPA, FL - MAY 24:  Matt Murray #30 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with his teammate Marc-Andre Fleury #29 after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Final with a score of 5 to 2 during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena on May 24, 2016 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

This post is part of Pittsburgh Penguins day at PHT…

After a spring and early summer filled with speculation, Marc-Andre Fleury is heading back to where he’s always been — Pittsburgh.

But while his city stays the same, the circumstances are more different than ever.

It’s still not 100 percent official what in capacity Fleury will report to camp next month, though logic suggests that — after watching Matt Murray backstop the club to the Stanley Cup in June — Fleury will enter the season as Murray’s No. 2.

But he wants to be the No. 1.

“I love Pittsburgh, and the Penguins are my team; I want to stay with them for the rest of my career,” Fleury said this summer, per NHL.com. “I had some good conversations with management after the season. Nothing is written in stone. I want to come to camp ready to win my job back.

“I have to get back to the same level of play and help the team, win games.”

The Fleury-Murray dynamic is complex, to say the least.

A few angles to consider:

— For as good as Murray was last year, he’s still only 22 years old with just 13 career regular season games on his resume. It’s a remarkably small body of work, and there’s always the looming specter of a sophomore slump.

— There’s also the looming specter of Fleury, who’s clearly gunning for Murray’s job.

— Next year’s expansion draft is a fly in Pittsburgh’s ointment. The way things stand now, they’d be forced to protect Fleury because of his no-movement clause, which would force them to expose Murray.

— No chance that scenario plays out, so Fleury and the remainder of his four-year, $23 million contract will (theoretically) be on the move at some point.

— Calgary reportedly made calls about Fleury’s availability earlier this summer, prior to trading for Brian Elliott at the draft. But the Elliott acquisition might not close the door completely. The former Blues netminder is heading into the final year of his contract, and there’s been no word from Flames GM Brad Treliving about an extension. Elliott could be a one-year stopgap solution, especially if he doesn’t perform.

— Pens GM Jim Rutherford has been artful in dodging queries about Fleury’s future with the team, dating all the way back to last year’s playoffs. He was at it again prior to the draft, saying he would “like to start next year with both goalies.” The key part there, obviously, is “start.” Nothing about both finishing the year as Penguins.

While this situation doesn’t figure to derail Pittsburgh’s championship defense — as Rutherford pointed out this summer, having two good goalies is a good problem to have — it will be a constant source of speculation and banter until a solution is found.

So yeah, the Fleury-Murray watch is on. The question now is how long it’ll last.