Matt Murray gave up a goal today with 71 seconds remaining in the game for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. This wouldn't be a big deal, normally, except for the that he stopped the previous 130 shots over 304:11 minutes that has set an AHL record.
Murray, a 3rd round pick of the Penguins in 2012, has had a great rookie year. We were excited for him over the summer, but now there's a lot to be excited about. Murray has won his last 7 games, and has 9 shutouts in 29 games and a league leading .939 save percentage to boot.
For Pittsburgh fans, the obvious question is, what does it mean for next year?
Marc-Andre Fleury , himself no slouch with a league leading 9 shutouts, signed a 4 year contract extension earlier this season that will keep him under contract in Pittsburgh through the 2018-19 season. Current backup Thomas Greiss is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Jeff Zatkoff is signed through next year at the same rate ($600,000). And the Pens have Tristan Jarry - last year's Memorial Cup winner - who was considered an even better prospect than Murray last year- set to start his professional career next season.
Where does Murray fit best next season? There could be two different school of thoughts.
1- Murray doesn't turn 21 until May. He's only played 29 AHL games to this point. That adds up to needing more experience and all the ice time he can get. With Fleury starting 60+ games, it probably wouldn't suit Murray that well to sit on the bench and not get a lot of game time should he be thrust into the #2 role in the organization next year as the NHL backup.
2- If he's talented enough to lead the AHL in shutouts and save percentage, maybe the Penguins should consider using him in the NHL while he's still in his entry level contract. Having Zatkoff next year as the #3 helps too- if Murray isn't ready or getting enough time to develop they can easily assign him back to WB/S and give him more time there.
Either way, it's a great thing for the Pens to have Murray in the fold. The future is looking bright and even though Fleury is entrenched for years to come, Pittsburgh hasn't developed a steady or constant pipeline of talent behind him in really his whole career. That could all be changing with Murray and perhaps later Jarry.