Getty

Report: Vegas to select Fleury and acquire additional draft pick from Penguins

16 Comments

On this date in 2003, Marc-Andre Fleury went first overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL Entry Draft. Today, it does in fact appear, based on translated reports, that the popular veteran goaltender is heading to Vegas in the expansion draft.

Fleury has been, for quite some time now, mentioned as a possible option in net for the Vegas Golden Knights.

According to Pierre LeBrun of TSN, it also looks like the Penguins are sending a draft pick to the Golden Knights — a deal made to persuade George McPhee to take Fleury.

Now 32 years old, Fleury had a no-movement clause in his contract, but with Matt Murray taking over the No. 1 goaltending duties in Pittsburgh, Fleury decided to waive, making him available in the expansion draft.

As it stands right now, the Penguins now have about $15 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly, with 12 players on expiring contracts. That includes pending restricted free agents Conor Sheary, Brian Dumoulin and Justin Schultz. They also have a number of pending unrestricted free agents, like Nick Bonino, Trevor Daley, Chris Kunitz and possibly Ron Hainsey.

Pittsburgh’s general manager Jim Rutherford has urged the club’s pending UFAs to test the free agent market, but kept the door open to those who may want to return.

Fleury has become a fan-favorite in Pittsburgh, and he recently got the chance to say goodbye to Penguins fans.

PHT Morning Skate: On Marc-Andre Fleury’s ’emotional’ goodbye to Pittsburgh

Getty
10 Comments

–The on-ice carpet that was used during the 2017 Stanley Cup presentation has been put up for auction. The current bid is over $6000. (Auctions.nhl.com)

Marc-Andre Fleury made what could be his final public appearance as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He got to say goodbye to the fans that have supported him for each of the last 13 years. “It’s been a little crazy. I think, wherever I go, people have been great to me. They say hi, take a picture or something. They all have very kind words. Sometimes it’s a little emotional, but it’s very flattering.” (NHL.com)

–Yesterday, the NHL and Adidas showed off each team’s new jersey. The Score grades the biggest changes of those new jerseys. The Carolina Hurricanes were one of the teams that got an “A” while the Nashville Predators were given an “F”. (The Score)

–Ellliotte Friedman’s “30 Thoughts” blog is always a must-read. In this week’s edition, he writes about Marian Hossa‘s mysterious allergy, the possibility of James Neal landing in Los Angeles, Brian Elliott‘s short stay in Calgary, and much more. (Sportsnet)

–The Hockey News’ Sal Barry looks at five funny “shenanigans” that occurred during past expansion drafts. Let’s just say former Leafs head coach Punch Imlach wasn’t too pleased about losing Terry Sawchuk to the Los Angeles Kings in the expansion draft, so he got revenge in a pretty creative way. (The Hockey News)

–With the NHL draft just a few days away, experts break down the top five North American forwards, defensemen and goalies and European forwards, defensemen and goalies. (NHL.com/RedWings)

Trade: Flames acquire Mike Smith from Coyotes, likely ending Fleury pursuit

Getty
29 Comments

Update: The Calgary Flames and Arizona Coyotes confirmed the trade.

***

Brad Treliving’s latest attempt to solve Calgary’s goalie situation might feature a familiar face.

Per Sportsnet, the Flames and Coyotes are working on a deal that would see netminder Mike Smith head to Calgary. If so, it’d be a reunion of sorts — Treliving was Don Maloney’s assistant GM in Arizona, most notably when Smith inked a six-year extension back in 2013.

It’s been confirmed by multiple outlets including TSN’s Bob McKenzie and the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan.

The Flames’ side

Arizona retains 25 percent of Mike Smith’s salary, according to McKenzie. Smith enters 2017-18 as Calgary’s expected starter, and this likely takes the Flames out of the Marc-Andre Fleury bidding war.

Coyotes’ side

The Coyotes receive prospect Brandon Hickey, a conditional third-rounder and the rights to goalie Chad Johnson. McLellan has more:

More on Smith

Smith, 35, posted a .914 save percentage this season after facing the sixth highest amount of shots against (1,819) among all NHL goalies. And that came in just 55 games played, indicative of the young and rebuilding team Smith was playing behind.

The veteran netminder is entering the fifth year of the aforementioned six-year, $34 million contract that has an annual cap hit of $5.666 million. If the Coyotes indeed retain 25 percent of his cap hit, the Flames would be on the hook for approximately $4.25 million for the next two seasons.

Smith’s name surfaced in rumors earlier this month. Arizona GM John Chayka later responded to the trade speculation, per Arizona Sports. He spoke highly of Smith, but seemed open to the idea of a possible trade — provided the return is to his liking.

“If it’s being viewed as me making Mike available and starting a bidding war, that’s not the case,” said Chayka. “We’re taking calls on players every year. I don’t think anyone is untradeable but like we talked about last year with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, he’s up as high on that list as anyone.”

As mentioned above, Calgary has been looking for the right fit in net for quite some time. Since Treliving came on board in 2014, the club has used Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo, Joni Ortio, Niklas Backstrom, Chad Johnson and Brian Elliott, all with limited success.

Johnson and Elliott are both currently unrestricted free agents.

If this deal goes through, Smith would be a “bridge” option to hold down the starting gig until one of Calgary’s good young goalie prospects — Jon Gillies, Mason McDonald or Tyler Parsons — is ready to compete at the NHL level.

Fleury on likely Pittsburgh exit: ‘Matt’s the guy here’

Getty
16 Comments

PITTSBURGH (AP) Marc-Andre Fleury knew this day was coming, though the winningest goaltender in Pittsburgh Penguins history did his best to push the idea of his inevitable departure to the back of his mind. No need to become a distraction with a shot at history on the line.

It was only in the aftermath of Pittsburgh’s second straight Stanley Cup championship that he helped author by playing brilliantly at times during playoff series wins over Columbus and Washington that Fleury let the finality set in.

His eyes moistened as he spoke on Thursday while he and the rest of his teammates packed up for the summer following a giddy downtown parade a day earlier. When the Penguins return to work in September, they’ll try to become the first team in more than 30 years to “threepeat.” Fleury will almost certainly have to watch from afar, probably in Las Vegas as a member of the expansion Golden Knights, as heir apparent Matt Murray minds the net.

“Obviously Matt’s the guy here and he’ll be for many years,” Fleury said.

Just as Fleury was for well over a decade, helping the Penguins to three of their five Cups while collecting more wins (375), saves (17.744) and shutouts (44) than any other goaltender in the franchise’s five decades of existence. Fleury understands he makes too much money ($5.75 million) to be a backup. Besides, he wants to be on the ice every night. That’s not possible in Pittsburgh, where the 23-year-old Murray has the No. 1 job.

“I love to play,” Fleury said. “I love to be in there and compete, the challenge of it. I love everything about it.”

Fleury will just have to love it somewhere else and others are also likely to be here when the Penguins raise another banner to the rafters at PPG Paints Arena in October.

“It’s something I don’t even like having to talk about it,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “Playing with someone that long, going through what we did, it’s pretty special.”

So too is the chance at becoming a true dynasty. No team has raised the Cup three straight years since the New York Islanders did it four years running from 1980-83, long before the salary cap came around to make any sort of sustained excellence difficult and fleeting.

That doesn’t mean the Penguins aren’t embracing the challenge. Coach Mike Sullivan issued a challenge during the team’s raucous victory parade. Sullivan wasn’t getting caught up in the euphoria of the moment so much as sending a message to Crosby, Murray, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Phil Kessel that there’s no reason the party can’t continue.

“It was an opportunity to throw out a challenge to our core players right away,” Sullivan said with a grin. “That will be our goal, be our expectation.”

A quick look at what should be a short summer in Pittsburgh.

DECISION TIME

The list of Pittsburgh unrestricted free agents include forwards Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz and Matt Cullen and defenseman Trevor Daley, Ron Hainsey and Mark Streit. The 40-year-old Cullen is considering retirement. Both Kunitz and Daley could be faced with a choice: make more money elsewhere or make another Cup run in Pittsburgh. General manager Jim Rutherford has encouraged all the pending free agents to check the market then get back to him to see if something can be worked out.

PAY THE MAN

Justin Schultz arrived in Pittsburgh 16 months ago as a reclamation project of sorts. Now the defenseman is primed for a significant raise after putting together the finest season of his career. He will become a restricted free agent and is confident the math will work out that will keep him in Pittsburgh next season.

OFFICE SHUFFLE: The raid on Pittsburgh’s brain trust that helped put together two Cup winners has already started. The Buffalo Sabres lured away Jason Botterill to be their general manager. The trickle-down effect led to the team naming assistant GM Bill Guerin will take over as general manager of the team’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

A SECOND ACT

A year ago, Jake Guentzel watched the Penguins win the Cup on TV after finishing his first few months as pro. Now he’ll have to find a way to top a remarkable rookie season that included 21 playoff points, tied for the most-ever in a single postseason by a rookie. The 22-year-old plans on getting stronger during the brief offseason, at least when he’s not taking the Cup back to his native Minnesota.

HARDLY DONE

Crosby will turn 30 in August but he’s hardly feeling “old.” If anything, the chance to make history next year has invigorated him.

“It’s been so long since teams were able to go back to back, to be able to (three-peat) in this era would be pretty tough to beat,” he said. “It’d be cool to shoot for that.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

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

Getty
12 Comments

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.