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


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’


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


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.

Marc-Andre Fleury doesn’t deny it: He wants his starting job back


While Marc-Andre Fleury enjoyed his day with the Stanley Cup, he discussed his goal of usurping Matt Murray, the goalie who led the Pittsburgh Penguins to that latest glory.

OK, that maybe sounds a little sinister, but the point is that Fleury wants “his” net back.

He admitted as much to NHL.com.

“I love Pittsburgh, and the Penguins are my team; I want to stay with them for the rest of my career,” Fleury said. “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.”

Shortly after Murray fueled the Penguins’ title run, people asked Fleury about his future in Pittsburgh, a question he put off.

There’s always the chance that a trade could happen out of the blue, but at the moment, it looks like Penguins GM Jim Rutherford is sticking to his plan to begin the 2016-17 season with both Fleury and Murray on the roster.

While the Pens received calls about Fleury, trading him would be difficult.

His $5.75 million cap hit wouldn’t be the easiest thing to absorb, and his limited no-trade clause means he can reject a move to 12 different teams.

Let’s not forget that the Penguins won a Cup with Fleury in the net, too (in case that save against Nicklas Lidstrom slipped your mind).

As valuable as Murray is, the circumstances may give Fleury a real chance to make this either a platoon situation or even wrestle the No. 1 gig back.

Long story short, this story might go on a little longer than some might expect.

(H/T to The Score.)

Prospects Fleury, McKeown looking to crack talented young Carolina blueline


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.)