The 2016 NHL off-season will be kicking into high gear very soon. Tomorrow afternoon the league is expected to welcome Las Vegas in as the 31st franchise and then all eyes will be looking to next summer's expansion draft.
By now, you probably know the particulars that are about to be confirmed tomorrow - teams will be forced to protect all players with no movement clauses, which is bad for the Penguins since Marc-Andre Fleury has such a clause, meaning that goalie phenom Matt Murray would be available to be selected by Las Vegas, unless of course Fleury is no longer on the team.
Toronto seemed like a prime destination for Fleury, but yesterday they made a trade and signed Frederik Andersen from Anaheim for $5.5 million per year. Andersen is younger than Fleury, but also riskier with a much smaller sample size. Regardless, Toronto's chosen their path in net. What about everyone else? Where does it make sense for Fleury?
No chance in hell (15)
All of these teams require little to no explanation why they wouldn't be interested in adding a 31-year old goalie like Fleury with a $5.75 million cap hit for the next three seasons, since they already have established (and usually well-paid) goalies of their own. Unless these teams are going to make a subsequent, drastic, unwise move to trade their own established guy (which, they're not -- or not going to be able to in some cases) then there's just no way Fleury's going to half the league already.
Montreal (Carey Price)
Washington (Braden Holtby)
NY Rangers (Henrik Lundqvist)
Boston (Tuukka Rask)
Columbus (Sergei Bobrovsky)
Nashville (Pekka Rinne)
Chicago (Corey Crawford)
Los Angeles (Jonathan Quick)
Minnesota (Devan Dubnyk)
San Jose (Martin Jones)
Colorado (Semyon Varlamov)
New Jersey (Corey Schneider)
Anaheim (John Gibson)
Florida (Roberto Luongo)
Budget teams that already spend a lot in net (3)
Arizona - Mike Smith has a $5.1 million cap hit, Arizona doesn't need a second high-priced player in Fleury who's similar in age to what they already have.
Carolina - Cam Ward + Eddie Lack are signed for the next 2 years at combined $6.05 million, for better or worse it looks like that's the course the Hurricanes are charting in net
Ottawa - They have Craig Andersen signed for 2 more years at $4.2 million and the Hamburglar still around on a reasonable backup contract. Ottawa has a lot of issues, but depth in net isn't one. Their focus will be on improving their skaters while working within their budget, not making a move to bring in an expensive goalie.
Teams with bloated goalie contracts (5)
Edmonton - they're kind of in between this level and the one above, with Cam Talbot at $4.1 million. And, with their never-ending rebuilding effort, it doesn't make sense for them to bring in a 30+ goalie like Fleury who will be well past-prime by the team their team is ready to be a contender.
Detroit - Jimmy Howard is over-paid at $5.2 million against the cap and the Wings have to re-sign RFA Petr Mrazek this summer. With the Pavel Datsyuk dead weight cap hit looming, they've got a lot more to worry about than fiddling with the goaltending situation.
Dallas - They're paying Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi a combined $10.4 million against the cap (woof), so trading for Fleury doesn't make a ton of sense even if they include one of those contracts, which probably (hopefully) is a non-starter for the Penguins.
Vancouver - still have to pay Ryan Miller $6.0 million for one more season. Can't see the Pens touching that as part of a return, and the Canucks cap situation is pretty messy, they can't afford to take on Fleury really.
NY Islanders - already spending $4.5 million on Jaroslav Halak and have Thomas Greiss as a capable backup, they're no reason for Fleury, just as the Penguins wouldn't be interested in trading a starting goalie to a playoff-caliber division rival team who's biggest weakness is in the net.
Winnipeg - I guess this is where they fit. Between Ondrej Pavelec, the recently re-signed Michael Hutchinson and 2 prospects, Winnipeg makes up for quality in quantity.
No way, Jose (1)
Philadelphia - they already have Steve Mason ($4.1 million) and a good backup in Michal Neuvirth so they're probably uninterested anyways...And besides, do you really see the Pens sending MAF to that goalie wasteland?
The troublemaker (1)
Tampa - The Lightning are in a similar situation to the Penguins with Ben Bishop being their Fleury and Andrei Vasilevskiy being their Murray. Pittsburgh might want to get moving before Tampa beats them to the punch by trading Bishop to one of these teams below...
Teams that could work for Fleury (3)
So after the process of elimination, 26 teams are most likely either not interested in Fleury because they don't have a need for him, or the various other reasons. With Toronto scratching their names off, three teams remain.
To be honest, this remaining destination is the biggest stretch. The Blues already have Brian Elliott and Jake Allen under contract for reasonable prices. But neither of those players have gotten the job done in the playoffs. Josh Yohe at DK Sports recently said the Pens really like Elliott. The Blues are having a cap crunch of their own and might lose captain David Backes to UFA this summer, and possibly defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk either this summer in a separate trade or next summer to UFA.
With Ken Hitchcock having 1 more year left, it might be wise for the Blues to make a bold move and shuffle the deck for a new starting goalie. Admittedly, we don't know if they're feeling that bold, but a Fleury for Elliott + a pick/prospect doesn't add a ton of salary to their bottom line, and potentially gives the team new energy behind a proven starting goalie.
The Flower and Dan Bylsma, reunited 200 miles north of Pittsburgh? It's possible. The Sabres brought over Robin Lehner last summer with high hopes, but injuries limited him to just 21 NHL games, and was a big factor on their season. Fleury's calling card has been playing a ton of games per season and Bylsma knows that.
Buffalo's ownership has never been afraid of making the big splash and spending money - and they still have the space to do so with over $20 million in cap room right now. If Buffalo wants to add a goalie, Fleury would seemingly be a great fit for them, the question becomes do they trust Lehner to stay healthy or opt to add another option?
Right now, Calgary is the most obvious choice for a trade. They have no goalies under contract for 2016-17, more than enough cap space and young players/prospects to make an offer for Fleury.
But, as we've mentioned before, Fleury has a 12-team no-trade clause and could block a trade here, if he thinks it's too cold, too far from his extended family, fearful of Brian Burke's management, any reason at all.
However, Calgary isn't an unappealing option - they have a solid core of defensemen (Mark Giordano, TJ Brodie, Dougie Hamilton) and some young forwards that are starting to break through at the NHL level. They scored more goals than a lot of Western Conference playoff teams, their biggest problem was they had the worst goaltending in the league. Acquiring Fleury would go a long way to getting them on the right track, if the competitor in Fleury would be open for the challenge of starting anew.