2014 NHL Draft - Portraits - Round 1
Getty

Prospects Fleury, McKeown looking to crack talented young Carolina blueline

3 Comments

We’ve written before about all the good, young, intriguing talent GM Ron Francis has assembled in Carolina.

Come next year, even more of it could be on display.

A defense that already features Justin Faulk (24 years old), Ryan Murphy (23), Jaccob Slavin (22), Brett Pesce (21) and Noah Hanifin (19) could get another injection of youth next season, with former first-rounder Haydn Fleury (19) and Roland McKeown (20) looking to make the jump.

McKeown was acquired from Los Angeles in the Andrej Sekera trade, and actually played alongside Fleury for Team Canada at the world juniors. Described by ‘Canes amateur scouting director Tony MacDonald as a “world-class skater,” McKeown looks like he’ll challenge for a spot with the ‘Canes this fall.

More, from the News & Observer:

The 6-1, 195-pound blueliner was acquired from the Los Angeles Kings, along with the first-round pick that became Julien Gauthier, in exchange for Andrej Sekera at the 2015 trade deadline.

In his first full season in the Carolina organization, he finished third in OHL Defenseman of the Year voting after his fourth campaign with the Kingston Frontenacs, tallying 42 points as team captain and leading Kingston to the best regular-season record in the conference. He called it a “special year” and said he developed substantially “in all aspects.”

Fleury, the seventh overall pick in 2014, is currently attending his third consecutive prospects camp. He’s been brought along slower than some of Carolina’s other defensive draftees — like Hanifin, for example — but there’s reason to believe he could challenge for minutes this year.

“I went back to junior the last two years and got better at the areas I needed to get better at to give myself the best chance to make the team this fall,” Fleury said. “I’m going to come into main camp in the fall and do my best to take that spot.”

The biggest question is how many spots Carolina will have available on defense. One was cleared out when Francis bought out the final year of James Wisniewski’s contract, and it remains to be seen how big a role Czech defender Michal Jordan will play next year — if at all, as Jordan is still unsigned.

Whatever the case, though, one thing is clear. The ‘Canes blueline has a very bright future.

(Oh, and by the way, Carolina has yet another good young d-man in the system — Jake Bean, the 13th overall pick in this year’s draft.)

Pens GM Rutherford would ‘like to start next year with both goalies, Fleury and Murray’

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)
Getty Images
3 Comments

Now that the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, they’ll find out just how hard it is to keep a championship team together.

One of the positions that will likely see significant change is in goal. Matt Murray, who was fantastic when called upon, is just 22 years old. He isn’t going anywhere.

A long-time Penguin who’s in jeopardy of being shipped out of town is Marc-Andre Fleury. In a cap world, keeping Fleury doesn’t make much sense. The 31-year-old had a great season in 2015-16, but he comes with a cap hit of $5.75 million through 2018-19.

Despite Fleury’s high salary, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford wouldn’t mind starting the season with both Muray and Fleury on the roster. With the strong possibility of expansion in 2017-18, that’s probably not possible.

“Ideally, we’d like to start next year with both goalies, Fleury and Murray,” Rutherford told ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun. “But we have to look into some things. We have to, first of all, look into what the expansion guidelines are (if the Board of Governors votes yes next week), and talk internally as to how all this works, if both goalies are here.

“We’re very fortunate that we have two very good goalies; one a franchise goalie who’s done a lot for the Penguins over the years and another, up-and-coming young guy that just helped win a Stanley Cup. We have to look at the situation but it’s a good one to be in.”

Fortunate is one way of putting it.

Fleury is an asset that other teams will be interested in, but there’s no doubt that the best decision would be for him to leave Pittsburgh. It’s believed that any player with a no movement clause (Fleury has one) will be automatically protected in next summer’s expansion draft. If that’s the case, the list of players the Penguins can protect will be cut down significantly.

Teams like Calgary and Toronto could be interested in acquiring a goalie, but Fleury isn’t the only one on the market. Names like Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen or Detroit’s Jimmy Howard are also believed to be on the block.

Still, neither one of those goalies has a track record like Fleury’s. A lot will depend on Rutherford’s asking price.

Report: Flames have contacted Pens about Fleury trade

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 09:  Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins defends the goal as he had 24 saves in a 4-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on December 9, 2015 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Getty Images
29 Comments

Calgary has long been rumored as a potential landing spot for Marc-Andre Fleury — and now, there are reports that Flames GM Brad Treliving has reached out to discuss the possibility.

From the Sun:

Trading Fleury now is best for everyone involved.

Flames GM Brad Treliving is well aware of the possible fit and, as should be expected from the diligent workhorse, he’s been in contact with [Penguins GM Jim] Rutherford.

The Penguins could use the cap space as they are currently $2.5 million over the $71.4 salary cap, which may very well dip lower, further exacerbating the problem.

In meeting with the media today, Rutherford addressed the situation at hand with Fleury and Matt Murray, the club’s 22-year-old goalie of the future — and, to be honest, the goalie of the present, given he just backstopped the Pens to the Stanley Cup.

“If it wasn’t for Fleury, we wouldn’t have made the playoffs,” Rutherford pointed out, per DKonPittsburghSports.com. “In a perfect world, [head coach Mike Sullivan] and I would like to keep both Matt and Marc-Andre.”

Earlier in the postseason, Rutherford was more demonstrative in his outlook on Fleury, saying the veteran netminder was “absolutely not” done in Pittsburgh.

Now, though, the reality of the situation may be setting in.

While having a high-quality goalie tandem in Pittsburgh next year would be ideal, it would also be expensive. It’s also fair to suggest Calgary might be Rutherford’s best trading partner.

The Flames don’t have a legit NHL starter under contract for next season and, as the Globe and Mail’s Eric Duhatshek pointed out last month, Fleury — who’s under contract for two more years at $5.75M per — could be the ideal “transitional guy.”

“In a perfect world you’d bring in a young guy who can play for you for a long time and grow and mature with your group, but if that guy isn’t available and if you think [goalie prospect] Jon Gillies can be that guy in a few years down the road, then you just need a transitional guy,” Duhatshek said, per Sportsnet. “The acquisition cost for a guy like Fleury… that might just be taking him off your hands, free the money off the books, and it doesn’t cost you a tangible asset off your roster.”

Each year, Fleury submits a 12-team list of teams where he can’t be dealt.

Gotta wonder if Calgary is on it.

Fleury: Now’s not the time to think about future in Pittsburgh

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)
Getty Images
4 Comments

PITTSBURGH — The last time the Penguins were in the Stanley Cup Final, Marc-Andre Fleury was the club’s unquestioned No. 1 netminder.

Now, seven years later, the Pens are back — but Fleury’s in a greatly reduced role. He’s backing up 22-year-old Matt Murray, which has cast doubt on Fleury’s future in Pittsburgh.

It’s a situation he acknowledged at today’s Stanley Cup media availability, but one he didn’t exactly want to dive into.

“Not yet,” Fleury said, when asked if he’s thinking about what might happen next year. “It’s not time. It’s time to win it, it’s time to chase the Cup, and that’s all that matters.”

Fleury’s future in Pittsburgh has been a hot topic this postseason. Pens GM Jim Rutherford was asked about it during the Eastern Conference Final, and offered up an emphatic defense of his longtime No. 1 netminder.

From the NHL:

Q: What about the young players?

Rutherford: “They speak for themselves. Those two goalies – you can never have enough good goalies. The Penguins have three good ones now. I feel bad for Fleury. He’s such a great team guy and we’re fortunate that he is. He’s handled this situation like a pro. First class. He’s ready to go when called on.”

Q: Does this mean he’s history with the organization?

Rutherford: “Absolutely not.”

That absolute hasn’t kept pundits from pointing out that Fleury’s future in Pittsburgh is far from certain.

First, there’s the fact the No. 1 gig may not just be Murray’s now, but also moving forward — meaning Fleury, who turns 32 in November, would be a backup making $5.75 million annually through 2019. An expensive backup, sure, but also a good backup. Fleury’s had at least 30 wins, a 2.35 GAA and .920 save percentage over each of the last two seasons, and was an All-Star in 2015.

That’s the kind of goalie a few teams could use.

One of them, as has been speculated over the last few months, is the proposed Las Vegas expansion club. While the announcement has yet to be made official, all signs — including discussions of expansion draft format at the most recent GM meetings — have led to assumptions Vegas will be a go.

With that said, consider this bit from Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston:

An interesting aspect of the recent deal worked out by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association regarding expansion draft rules is that only players with a full no-movement clause will have to be protected by their team, according to a source.

Fleury’s contract includes a no-movement clause for the purposes of waivers or being assigned to the American Hockey League, but it is limited when it comes to trades. Each year he submits a 12-team list of teams where he can’t be dealt.

As a result, he’s not exempt from the expansion process and the Penguins would have to decide between protecting either him or Murray if both remained on the roster through the end of next season.

It might ultimately force general manager Jim Rutherford into making up his mind sooner in order to trade one away and get a return on the asset.

Now, keep in mind the Penguins do love Fleury, and still think he’s quality goalie. That’s partly why Fleury received the chance to reclaim his starting gig in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final, when head coach Mike Sullivan parked Murray after yanking him in Game 4.

But Fleury wasn’t great — allowing four goals on 25 shots — and Murray stepped back in like he hadn’t missed a beat, stopping 44 of 47 shots over the final two games of the series.

As such, it sees as though it would take a pretty dramatic turn of events for Fleury to regain the net. Because of that, he spent most of Sunday focusing on the “we,” not the “I.”

“To me, it’s about the team — it’s not about me or the way I play. I can’t be selfish about it,” he said. “I’ve been playing here a long time and I really love this city, and I’d really love for them to have another championship here.

“It’s a lot bigger than me, you know?”

Poll: Marc-Andre Fleury or Matt Murray for Pens in Game 6

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 16:  Matt Murray #30 and Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins look on against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game Two of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Consol Energy Center on May 16, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Getty
16 Comments

After the Pittsburgh Penguins lost in overtime to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5, Marc-Andre Fleury admitted that he needs to play better.

The question is: will Mike Sullivan give him another chance, or will he go back to Matt Murray with Pittsburgh’s season on the line in Game 6?

We won’t get an answer from Sullivan until tomorrow morning:

Fair enough.

This allows us an opportunity to play armchair head coach without that pesky “getting second-guessed on Twitter either way” nuisance.

So, if you were Sullivan, who would you start tomorrow night?

(Note: for the sake of simplicity, Jeff Zatkoff isn’t included as we’ll make the assumption that both Fleury and Murray can actually play tomorrow.)