What if Fleury is traded before the expansion draft?

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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.