Having two starting calibre goalies sharing one goalie crease is a great dilemma to have in the NHL. But down the road, it may not be much of a luxury, rather a problem, for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With the assembling of the Las Vegas NHL team penciled in for next June, the Penguins can only protect one of their two goaltenders and if one of their goalies is left unprotected, the Penguins are almost guaranteed to lose whoever they don’t protect. Pittsburgh won’t want to be faced with that decision in the first place when the expansion draft arises. The only solution to avoid losing a goalie for nothing; Either Marc-Andre Fleury or Matt Murray would have to be traded before the expansion draft.
Will the Penguins protect Matt Murray, the 22 year old goaltender that helped them reach a Stanley Cup championship last June? Or Marc-Andre Fleury, the goalie that lead them to a Stanley Cup in 2008-2009 and has been the franchises goaltender for the last decade?
The Penguins are forced to decide between experience and potential.
Whomever Pittsburg opts not to protect, they should wait until after the season to trade that goaltender and for the time being, keep the goaltending tandem in tact.
The Penguins should choose Murray as their starter of the future and trade away Marc-Andre Fleury when looking at the big picture, but they shouldn’t make that just decision yet.
The NHL is evolving in to a young man’s league. That’s not to say there isn’t room for veterans in the league ( because there certainly is) but when facing a decision between a 31 year-old Fleury and Murray who is nearly 10 years younger than him, age is a factor in this decision. But that’s not to say the Penguins are going to be willing to part with their long-tenured goalie so easily.
Fleury has been a key part of the Pittsburgh Penguins since they selected him first overall in the 2003 NHL draft. Along with Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby, Fleury has been at the forefront of the Penguins success for quite some time. The Penguins won’t ship of Fleury midseason because he’s still a very effective goaltender and arguably better than Matt Murray in the present day. The only reason Matt Murray was between the pipes for the team’s Stanley Cup run last year was because Fleury was battling concussion-like symptoms and was far from 100%. It wasn’t a matter of poor play that had Murray leapfrog Fleury, Fleury simply couldn’t play.
There’s a value to keeping Fleury for at least this season and it isn’t just for on-ice purposes. Let’s face the reality here, Matt Murray hasn’t showed to be a stellar and elite goaltender, which is fine. This isn’t a situation like back in 2010 when young Carey Price was so phenomenal that the Montreal Canadians opted to trade long-time starter Jaroslav Halak in order to pass the torch to Price. Murray has shown he can come up clutch when the team needs it most, but he’ll need a 101 on how to be an NHL starting goaltender for more than just a playoff run.
“Fleury is a franchise goalie.” Penguins general manager told NHL.com back in June. “You don’t find any better team guy or any better guy than him. And Murray is just getting started in the league.” Keeping Fleury for this season can help Murray transition to a full-time NHL goaltender and in the process, the duo can provide the Penguins with steady and reliable goaltending.
But it’s easier said than done that the Penguins will ship out Fleury when June rolls around. Hockey’s a business and sometimes decisions are made from the business point of view. Fleury has a no-movement clause and there’s a possibility that Fleury would elect not to waive his no-movement clause and reject a possible trade.
Trade rumours will certainly continue throughout the year, but don’t expect the team to trade one or the other until the expansion draft. The expansion draft is slated for June, giving the team plenty of time until then to decide what they do and plenty of time to likely gauge the interest on the trade market for one of their goaltenders.
No matter which one they choose, they likely will be able to fetch a sizeable package in return.
While I say it’s a slam-dunk decision to choose Murray, Jim Rutherford and co may have a different mindset and ultimately they are the ones making the decisions.