No news is no news, but it's always interesting to read the quotes from Penguins GM Jim Rutherford when he talks to the media, and he's done so twice in the last day.
First here he is in the PG as you may have seen in today's Pens Points (all emphasis is added):
"Any time you can have more defensemen and have depth at defense, you’re going to be in better shape, so you always have that in the back of your mind," he said. "But with the balance of our team and basically the same team as we ran with last year, I haven’t seen any team that I don’t feel we can beat."
Of course, the most intriguing aspect of the March 1 trade deadline might not be who is joining the team, but who is leaving it.
Rutherford reiterated the idea that the Penguins’ two-goalie rotation with Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury "doesn’t work ideally" when both are healthy.
"It’s been good to have those two goalies to get us to where we are," Rutherford said. "Are we going to be able to hold onto that? We’ll just have to see how that plays out. It becomes more difficult as the season goes along for the coach to keep both guys happy."Rutherford said the expansion draft is something he’ll have to juggle when analyzing potential trades over the next month, but emphasized that the top priority is winning another Stanley Cup this season.
With the goalie situation — as with the rest of the roster — he doesn’t feel any urgency to make a move just for the sake of making a move."I don’t feel pressured to do something to change our team so I’m going to let it play itself out," Rutherford said. "If a team calls and something makes sense for us, whether it’s to open up cap space, or to make our team better presently or down the road, or to clean up the situation because one of the goalies wants to play more. Whatever that may be, I’ll deal with that at the time. But I don’t feel pressure to do that right today."
This afternoon, ESPN's Pierre Lebrun added some more perspective:
"It's a good situation to be in. It gives you more insurance than some other teams may have," Rutherford said. "But there are a few variables. The expansion draft is one variable. Also, are both goalies going to be comfortable in that situation all the way through to the end? And finally, does somebody come along with an offer that makes sense?''
The expansion draft in June, when Rutherford can only protect one goalie, is not that big a deal to him right now. He is focused on winning now and will worry about that later.
"But I do always have concerns as to whether there's a comfort level with the players' situation," Rutherford said. "And goalie, more than anything, is the position where it's hard to make two players happy. So that will probably end up being the most important thing in our situation."
Similar comments from Rutherford - he's clearly comfortable with his team, and sounds as if he would keep both Matt Murray and also Marc-Andre Fleury all season is he could. As we highlighted, twice he mentions keeping both goalies happy, something clearly on his mind. There's not much to interpret there on a day where coach Mike Sullivan has already announced that Murray will start his 6th straight game.
Lebrun also adds some intrigue with this bombshell (again with added emphasis):
Fleury has a no-move clause, but I think it's clear he would welcome a trade to a good situation. The question is whether a market opens up before March 1. Will teams like the Dallas Stars, St. Louis Blues, Winnipeg Jets or Calgary Flames decide they need to trade for a goalie?
I think it's obvious that the Penguins would rather deal Fleury before March 1 than wait until the offseason, but that decision may be out of their hands.
The last sentence stands out, huh? Especially in the light of GMJR's thoughts above - according to this, the Penguins may sensing the best time might be pre-playoffs to move Fleury for something else to help (like defense help as mentioned in the very beginning?) This would also achieve the goal of keeping Fleury happy, and giving him a fresh start. Surely at some point one would think a guy like MAF, used to starting 65+ games per season, would welcome a chance to play again and not sit the bench six straight games (and probably more) like he currently is.
The Penguins goalie situation seems very fluid right now. On one hand, it's great to have the depth of having two starting caliber goalies. On the other hand, they're going to need to make a trade before June and with the team really going with the one goalie putting up better performances, would it be better to make that trade now?
As Lebrun mentions, key factors are out of Rutherford's hands, even if they do reach the decision to make a trade before March (which in and of itself is an unknown right now). Would Fleury want to go to a place like Winnipeg? Will the other teams even be interested in adding a big salary like Fleury in-season?
This story isn't going to go away until one goalie gets hurt or another traded, so keep staying tuned. I'm sure the diehard Pens fans are getting fatigued by this ongoing story-line but there's no way around it right now.