Marc-Andre Fleury wants to stick around with the Penguins for ‘a long time’

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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.

Sabres agree with Dylan Cozens on 7-year, $49.7M extension

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres agreed to terms with forward Dylan Cozens on a seven-year extension worth $49.7 million.

The team announced the contract. Cozens will count $7.1 million against the salary cap through the 2029-30 season.

Cozens, who turns 22, is the latest core player the Sabres have extended over the past six months. Buffalo signed All-Star forward Tage Thompson for $50 million over seven seasons in August and defenseman Mattias Samuelsson to a seven-year, $30 million deal in October.

Rasmus Dahlin, the top pick in 2020 who’s a Norris Trophy candidate and filled in for Thompson at NHL All-Star weekend, figures to be next for a big contract. He’s signed through next season and can begin talking about an extension this summer.

Cozens, who was set to be a restricted free agent, has already set career highs with 17 goals, 26 assists and 43 points – with 30 games left in the season. The seventh pick in 2019, Cozens has 34 goals and 60 assists in 169 regular-season NHL games, all with Buffalo.

The Sabres, led by Dahlin, Thompson, Cozens and 2021 No. 1 pick Owen Power, are contending to make the playoffs. The organization’s 11-year playoff drought dating to 2011 is by far the longest in the league.

Stanley Cup champion Avalanche steadily returning to health

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Had his coach been watching, this might have made for an anxious moment: Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar catching an edge and falling in the fastest skater contest.

Jared Bednar wasn’t tuned in, though, and had no idea what happened in the skills contest over All-Star weekend. Only that Makar emerged from his crash into the boards just fine.

These days, things are definitely looking up for the Stanley Cup champions on the injury front. Defenseman Bowen Byram returns to the lineup, along with forward Valeri Nichushkin. Defenseman Josh Manson is creeping closer to a return. Same for captain Gabriel Landeskog, who’s yet to play this season. Forward Darren Helm is progressing, too.

In spite of all their bumps and bruises, the Avalanche entered the All-Star break in a playoff spot. To weather the injury storm, Colorado has relied on 39 different skaters this season, a mark that’s tied for the most in a single season since the team relocated to Denver in 1995.

“Anybody we can get back right now is huge,” said Makar, whose team kicks off a three-game trip Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.

Byram returns after being sidelined with a lower-body injury since early November. He was an integral part of their Stanley Cup run a season ago, when he led all rookies with nine assists in the postseason. Byram was off to a fast start this season – two goals and three assists in 10 games – before his injury.

“He’s looking great. He’s buzzing out there,” Makar said of his fellow blue liner. “Hopefully it doesn’t take him too long to get back into game mode. But I think he’s a guy that can turn it on pretty quickly.”

Byram missed a chunk of games last season as he dealt with concussion symptoms. This time, he was able to be around the team as he worked his way back.

“I was just happy it wasn’t my head,” Byram said. “It was a lot easier to be out when you’re still feeling good and feel like yourself. … I’m just excited to get going again.”

Count on Byram for as many minutes as necessary, too.

“I’m 100%, so no reason to ease into it,” Byram said. “I’m confident with jumping back in.”

Manson will join the Avalanche on the trip so he can skate with the squad. He’s been out with a lower-body injury since the start of December.

“I do think it helps to get on the road, be around the guys,” Bednar said.

Landeskog could be back “fairly soon,” Bednar said, but didn’t have a definitive timeline quite yet. The longtime Avalanche captain has been sidelined since knee surgery in October.

The Avalanche entered the All-Star break on quite a roll, winning seven of their last eight. They’ve amassed 57 points, which trails Dallas (66 points at the All-Star break), Winnipeg (65) and Minnesota (58) in the Central Division.

One thing the Avalanche are guarding against is another slow start out off the break. It happened over Christmas when the team had a few days off and promptly went 0-4-1 upon their return.

“It’s just shifting the mentality back to game mode. No more vacation,” Makar said. “We still have a long way to go. We’re not where we want to be right now. But there’s a lot of time left.”

Kraken add some size, acquire Jaycob Megna from San Jose

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SEATTLE — The Seattle Kraken acquired defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for a 2023 fourth-round draft pick.

Megna is in the midst of his best season with 12 points in 48 games for the Sharks while averaging more than 19 minutes per game.

“Jaycob has shown with his play this season that he is a responsible defenseman that can be relied on in all situations,” Seattle general manager Ron Francis said. “He provides welcome depth to our defensive group and we are happy to have him join our organization.”

The 6-foot-6, 220-pound Megna will add some size and bulk to Seattle’s lineup. Megna ranked fifth for San Jose in both blocked shots and hits.

Megna previously played for Anaheim for parts of three seasons between 2016-19. The 48 games played this season is a career-high for the 30-year-old.

Seattle is tied for the lead in the Pacific Division and will return from the All-Star break beginning against the New York Islanders.

Islanders sign Bo Horvat to 8-year deal after trading for him

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The New York Islanders signed center Bo Horvat to an eight-year contract less than a week after acquiring him in a trade with the Vancouver Canucks.

The team announced the contract after their first practice following the All-Star break. Horvat’s deal is worth $68 million and carries a $8.5 million salary cap hit through the 2030-31 season.

General manager Lou Lamoriello joked to reporters at practice on Long Island that Horvat’s contract was “too long and it’s too much money.”

The Islanders sent forward Anthony Beauvillier, prospect Aatu Raty and a protected first-round pick to the Canucks for Horvat . He was set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and the trade was a result of Vancouver and Horvat’s camp being unable to reach a deal last summer.

Lamoriello and Horvat expressed confidence about getting a deal done after the trade. The 27-year-old has scored more than 30 goals for a second consecutive season.

Horvat was chosen as an All-Star and played for the Pacific Division despite the trade. He played with longtime Canucks teammate Elias Pettersson and combined on one last goal together before parting ways.

“I want to get going,” Horvat said after the All-Star 3-on-3 tournament. “That’s enough. Let’s start playing some games and getting to know the guys. I just want to start playing hockey again.”

Horvat was on vacation with his family in Orlando when he was traded. He said coach Lane Lambert wanted him to enjoy All-Star festivities before getting rolling with the Islanders, who play at the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Obviously getting my legs under me is going to be No. 1 and getting systems down and obviously chemistry with the new linemates and stuff like that,” Horvat said.

After facing the Flyers and Seattle, Horvat will play against his former team when Vancouver visits UBS Arena.