Getty

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

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.

What if Fleury is traded before the expansion draft?

21 Comments

It’s possible that Marc-Andre Fleury getting picked in the expansion draft is already a done deal between GMs Jim Rutherford and George McPhee.

If that’s the case, what’s written below is moot. Fleury will be off to Vegas. From the Penguins’ perspective, that’ll be the end of it.

But let’s say Fleury is traded elsewhere. Because according to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, that scenario remains an option, and a team like the Calgary Flames could be a good fit.

So if Fleury is traded before the expansion draft, what would the Penguins do about protecting their roster from the Golden Knights?

Let’s run it down…

Up front, Pittsburgh is obviously going to protect Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel.

A fourth forward, Bryan Rust, also seems likely to be protected.

(Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel are exempt, so those two don’t need protection. Nick Bonino, Chris Kunitz, and Matt Cullen are pending UFAs that could re-sign, or not, after the expansion draft.)

As for the defensemen, three seem like sure bets: Kris Letang, Brian Dumoulin, and Justin Schultz.

It’s at this point that the Pens need to make the big decision. Do they protect seven forwards and three defensemen? Or, do they protect eight skaters, regardless of position?

If it’s the first option, they could also protect Patric Hornqvist, Carl Hagelin, and one other forward (maybe Oskar Sundqvist, or perhaps they could add one via trade). However, if they chose this route, then they’d have to expose a defenseman like Olli Maatta.

If it’s the second option, they’d be able to protect Maatta, but they’d have to expose Hagelin, Hornqvist and Sundqvist.

Your answer will probably depend on how you value Maatta. The 22-year-old certainly has his share of critics. He’s had trouble staying healthy. He’s not the quickest skater out there.

That being said, the Penguins just won the Stanley Cup with Maatta playing over 20 minutes per game, and he’s locked in for five more years at a cap hit just north of $4 million. In addition, Trevor Daley and Ron Hainsey are pending UFAS who aren’t getting any younger, and there aren’t many promising young d-men in the system.

Anyway, we’ll find out soon how it all shakes out. The Penguins have their parade tomorrow. The protected lists are expected to be released Sunday.

Report: Fleury accepted Penguins request to waive no-movement clause

12 Comments

One of the lasting images of Marc-Andre Fleury in a Penguins uniform may be him passing the Stanley Cup to Matt Murray during Sunday’s celebration in Nashville.

Fleury’s future with the Penguins has been up for discussion for well over a year now, although general manager Jim Rutherford decided leading up to this year’s trade deadline to keep the veteran goalie in Pittsburgh for the playoff run.

It turned out to be a shrewd move.

Fleury backstopped the Penguins through the opening two rounds of the playoffs, before Murray returned from injury and eventually regained the starting duties in the Eastern Conference Final.

However, teams can only protect one goalie in the expansion draft. And despite a no-movement clause in his contract, Fleury’s time in Pittsburgh may be coming to an end.

Per Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports, Fleury had accepted a request all the way back in February to waive his no-movement clause for the expansion draft later this month — but only for Las Vegas.

With Vegas needing a capable starting goalie, Fleury has been discussed as a potential option for that role with the Golden Knights. There are also other teams out there in need of goaltending. Teams like the Flames and perhaps even the Flyers, and Fleury may provide an option for them, as well.

Now 32 years old, Fleury posted a 18-10-7 record this past season. He also had a save percentage of .909, which is slightly below his career average. But he was, for the most part, solid for the Penguins in the playoffs with Murray sidelined.

He had nine of Pittsburgh’s 16 wins and a .924 save percentage before Mike Sullivan decided to go back to the younger Murray versus Ottawa. Despite becoming the No. 2 goalie again, Fleury was the “best team player in all of sports,” said Rutherford last night.

Fleury has two more years remaining on his contract, which has an annual cap hit of $5.75 million.

Pens GM Rutherford calls Fleury ‘the best team player in all of sports’

8 Comments

Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final may have been Marc-Andre Fleury‘s last game as a member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, but that doesn’t mean the organization doesn’t appreciate the work he put in this season.

If GM Jim Rutherford does move on from Fleury this summer, it will strictly be a business decision. The Pens have a number of players they need to re-sign, including blue liner Justin Schultz, so getting Fleury’s salary off the books will be important.

The fact that there’s an expansion draft doesn’t help his chances of sticking around.

After winning the Stanley Cup on Sunday night, Rutherford made sure to mention just how vital the 32-year-old was during Pittsburgh’s run.

“Fleury is probably the best team player in all of sports,” said Rutherford.

“He carried us at different times of the season, carried us through two rounds of the playoffs, turned it over to Murray. I talked at the start of the season about keeping two goalies and these guys did exactly what I hoped they’d do. They got us the cup.”

To his credit, Fleury never openly complained about losing the starting job to Matt Murray last year or this year. He could have easily become a distraction in the locker room, but he chose to handle the situation with class.

Since joining the Penguins in 2005-06, Fleury has started 707 games (384-220-70) and he’s been part of three Stanley Cup-winning teams.