While Marc-Andre Fleury was on the ice after winning the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday night in Nashville, he wasn’t dreading the conversation with general manager Jim Rutherford that needed to happen about as soon as the celebration ended.
Because it apparently already had.
TVA’s Renaud Lavoie reports that Fleury – who carried the Penguins through two rounds on their way to consecutive Stanley Cups – accepted the team’s request to waive his no-movement provision back in February, making him eligible for the Expansion Draft later this month.
Fleury’s decision gives the Vegas Golden Knights the opportunity to select him to either compete for their starting goaltender position or use as trade bait.
It’s possible that the Golden Knights will prefer a different player on the Penguins roster, but if any team is interested in trading for the capable starter, it’s unlikely that general manager George McPhee will decline the opportunity to seize the attached value.
Fleury was pushed out of the Pittsburgh crease in 2015-16 by upstart rookie Matt Murray, who head coach Mike Sullivan entrusted to anchor the first of back-to-back Stanley Cup runs when he came on mid-season. Murray continued to be the Penguins’ preferred starter into this year, but fell victim to injury during warmups ahead of Game 1 of their first-round series versus the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Fleury was largely dominant in 14 consecutive starts to begin the postseason and led the Penguins into the conference final versus the Ottawa Senators with a 29-save shutout of the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of their second-round series. But when Fleury allowed four goals in the first period in Game 3 versus Ottawa, Murray came on in relief and did not relinquish the crease, making the next 10 starts, including back-to-back shutouts to close the show in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final versus the Nashville Predators.
It’s bitter-sweet for all involved. Fleury being rewarded for his loyalty and graciousness – and playing an absolutely integral role in the Penguins’ run – was one of the best stories of the postseason. But now that he’s agreed to surrender control, his fate rests in the hands of those with no emotional attachment and he can wind up in any city not included on his no-trade list.
But that’s business, and Rutherford has conducted it masterfully. Having both netminders was essential to a second Stanley Cup, and now he can keep the younger and cheaper option that holds more promise for a third.
Fleury has another two seasons at $5.75 million. If he leaves Pittsburgh, he’ll do so as the franchise’s all-time leader in games played, wins and shutouts.
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