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30 Thoughts speculates on Marc-Andre Fleury, Nick Bonino, free agency, and the Penguins' influence

You know how the NHL is a copycat league? The Penguins are the ones to copy now.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Elliotte Friedman's latest edition of 30 Thoughts is full of speculation for the future. It's draft day, so there are big trades to be thought of, especially as 2016 first round picks will be put into effect in mere hours.

But a big portion of his thoughts also revolved around the Pittsburgh Penguins. Not only are they Stanley Cup champions - and now, also, becoming a team others in the league should look to emulate - but they're right up near the cap, and have some moving parts to take into consideration.

Marc-Andre Fleury is one of the most interesting parts of this Penguins off-season. Since Matt Murray ended up with the starter's net, he's been a force, and the threat of the looming expansion draft really complicates things. But then there's the matter of Fleury himself (#7):

In all of the discussion about Fleury’s future, one thing remains unclear: Fleury’s own desire. He’s been a terrific teammate and a cornerstone — a major factor in two Stanley Cups. No, he wasn’t the starter this time, but the Pittsburgh Penguins may not even make the playoffs if he doesn’t hold them together when they wobbled early in the season.

Word is he was told to think about things before making any rash decisions, but if Fleury decides he wants a clear-cut starting job elsewhere, would Pittsburgh take a deep breath and say, "Ok, he’s earned the right to make this call?"

Here’s a personal theory: Carolina. The Hurricanes are improving and Fleury would make a real difference. They could also flip a goalie — Eddie Lack or Cam Ward — to play with Matt Murray. I’d bet Jordan Staal would be happy.

If Fleury does end up wanting out, it would certainly be with no ill will towards Pittsburgh - just business. And a goalie-for-goalie trade with the Hurricanes would be extremely interesting, and help take some of the pressure off of Murray.

But what about Nick Bonino, newly beloved cult hero - and soon to be free agent? (#11):

Can definitely see teams asking Pittsburgh about its plans for Nick Bonino. One more year at $1.9M, then a big raise coming. Great, great playoff performance for them but a tight cap. Keep for another run, or get something for him? Not an easy call.

And here's a really interesting thought: Michael Grabner. The soon-to-be UFA had a $3 million cap hit this past season, but that number is likely to go down a lot. (#26):

The Penguins’ speed sure made everyone take notice in the Cup Final. You know which free agent that could be good for? Michael Grabner.

And finally: how the Penguins are making other teams reconsider their entire makeup. (#27):

As much as Pittsburgh’s quickness gave the San Jose Sharks fits, what really won the series was the Penguins’ ability to put Sidney Crosby one line, Malkin on another and Phil Kessel on a third. The Sharks couldn’t handle all three. Don’t think other teams missed that.

According to Friedman, the Dallas Stars and Anaheim Ducks have both stopped and considered this method. True, it was born of injuries - but it really, really worked out, didn't it?