Fleury returned to junior, won’t crack ‘Canes blueline this year

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For Hadyn Fleury it was close, but no cigar.

Fleury, Carolina’s first-round pick (seventh overall) at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, was sent packing from camp on Thursday and returned to his WHL team in Red Deer.

The second d-man off the board in June behind Florida’s Aaron Ekblad, Fleury was thought to have a decent chance of making the ‘Canes this year, especially with Carolina’s lack of depth on defense — and at 6-foot-3, 203 pounds, Fleury does possess the requisite size to compete in the NHL straight away.

That said, he’s still just 18 years old — won’t turn 19 until next July — and pretty inexperienced, having only played two full seasons in the Western League with the Rebels.

The ‘Canes also cut nine players aside from Fleury on Thursday, bringing their camp roster down to 25 players. On defense, eight skaters remain: Ron Hainsey, Tim Gleason, Andrej Sekera, Ryan Murphy, Brett Bellemore, Jay Harrison, Justin Faulk and John-Michael Liles.

‘I want to stay here and win,’ says pending UFA Fleury

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A few weeks ago, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said he was “not in a hurry” to re-sign goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who’s under contract for just one more season at a $5 million cap hit before he can become an unrestricted free agent.

That was, apparently, fine with Fleury’s agent; however, the 29-year-old netminder admitted yesterday that he had mixed feelings about heading into 2014-15 as a pending UFA.

“I think for a player, it’s always nice to have the certainty of a contract,” said Fleury, per the Tribune-Review. “You never know what can happen. But at the same time, I’m not too worried. I love this city and this team. I want to stay here and win. I want to play here. We’ll see what happens.”

Fleury has been a lightning rod for criticism since he helped the Pens to the Stanley Cup in 2009. While his numbers were decent this past postseason (.915 save percentage), it’s not too hard to picture the club going in a different direction next summer, especially should his play falter.

Per CapGeek, Fleury has the highest cap hit among all pending UFA goalies.

Penguins aren’t in rush to re-sign Fleury

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Although the Pittsburgh Penguins failed to live up to expectations in the 2014 playoffs, at least this time goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury escaped relatively unscathed. Before the 2013-14 campaign, Fleury had struggled in the Penguins’ recent postseason runs, which put his status as the team’s long-term starter into question.

It looks like his solid playoff showing hasn’t put that matter to rest though. New Penguins GM Jim Rutherford has defended Fleury and sees him as someone that could play between the pipes in Pittsburgh for years to come, but will he re-sign Fleury before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2015? It seems we won’t know the answer any time soon.

“I’m not in a hurry to do a contract with him,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. In fact, the 29-year-old goaltender’s contract status isn’t likely to be resolved before the start of the season.

That’s fine by Fleury’s agent, Allan Walsh.

“We’re actually on the same page,” Walsh said. “It’s of no consequence at all.”

He added that Fleury wants to spend the rest of his career in Pittsburgh.

Related:

Rutherford: Mental game used to be difficult for Fleury, but he’s improved

Hurricanes sign Haydn Fleury to entry-level deal

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The Carolina Hurricanes have inked defenseman Haydn Fleury to a three-year, entry-level deal, per the team’s website.

Fleury, who was taken with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, can earn $832,500 annually at the NHL level and got a $277,500 signing bonus.

“(Fleury) performed very well at our development camp and we are looking forward to seeing him in Traverse City and during training camp in Raleigh,” GM Ron Francis said.

He’s facing an uphill battle to make the team in 2014-15 as Carolina has six blueliners signed to one-way contracts, not including Ryan Murphy. At 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, Fleury wouldn’t look out of place in the NHL from a physical perspective, but defensemen can take longer to develop than forwards and Fleury only has two complete WHL seasons under his belt.

He had eight goals and 46 points in 70 games with the Red Deer Rebels in 2013-14.

Ex-junior teammates Dumba, Fleury hope to stick in NHL this fall

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During the 2012-13 campaign, WHL Red Deer featured a pair of talented young blueliners in Mathew Dumba and Haydn Fleury.

Today, both sit as former first-round picks — Dumba seventh overall in ’12 (by Minnesota), Fleury seventh overall in ’14 (by Carolina) — and both are looking to be full-time NHLers when training camps break this autumn.

But their expectations are tempered by the reality of their situations.

“I want to be [with Minnesota] next season and I’ll do whatever it takes to be there,” Dumba said, per NHL.com. “But at the same time, looking at it with perspective, there’s a plan for me. Everything happens for a reason.”

“When you get drafted so high and you see top 10 picks make it the next year, that’s kind of one of your goals in the summer,” Fleury explained, per the Raleigh News & Observer. “I think at the same time I need to keep a level mind and realize not many 18-year-olds play in the NHL and it’s a big step, especially on defense.”

Of the two, Dumba, who turns 20 tomorrow, has the edge in experience. He’s been up with the Wild on a couple of occasions and made his NHL debut last season, appearing in 13 games. With the Wild only have seven d-men on NHL contracts at the moment — and two of them being Jon Blum and Christian Folin — it seems as though Dumba’s ready for a shot to stick in the bigs.

Fleury’s situation is a little more complex.

Though he boasts NHL size — 6-foot-3, 207 pounds — he only just turned 18 three weeks ago and is relatively green in terms of playing experience. What’s more, Carolina has six relatively experienced veterans on its blueline in Ron Hainsey, Justin Faulk, John-Michael Liles, Andrej Sekera, Jay Harrison and the recently re-signed Tim Gleason. 2011 first-rounder Ryan Murphy will also presumably be up for the entire year, so it’s a crowded situation for Fleury to fight through.

According to new head coach Bill Peters, the ‘Canes won’t rush Fleury into the NHL.

“It’s going to be harder for a D-man than it is for a forward,” Peters explained. “We’re not going to be in a hurry. We’ll go step by step.”