Three weeks from today is the NHL Trading Deadline, and you know what that means. More whispers about the status of Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. The reputable Pierre LeBrun made a fairly general statement about the Dallas Stars goaltending situation.
Transcribed by FanRagSports
"As much as they say it [in Dallas -ed], can they really go forward with this goaltending?"
"They can’t," answered NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun when asked the question Wednesday afternoon on Toronto’s TSN 1050. "And I suspect that will be addressed if not before March 1 with an eye toward next year, then certainly in the off-season. I think Jim Nill knows that. He’s not saying that to you and I, he’s not saying it to anyone because it doesn’t do him any service, but I think they will address it. Both of those goalies have another year on their deals, in Niemi and Lehtonen. But they’ve got to make a move.
"I’m told that there at least been a very preliminary discussion between Pittsburgh and Dallas regarding Marc-Andre Fleury, but I stress preliminary because I don’t think there’s anything there at this point. But certainly there’s been contact and sometimes you just do that so that if you have to circle back at the last moment, you know that you’ve at least established contact. We’ll see.
"Certainly Fleury with two more years on his deal and a championship resume, I think we all agree would be an upgrade. But either way, whoever it is, they can’t go into next year – and it’s not all on the two goalies, but the team save percentage speaks fairly loudly. They need saves. I mean, you can’t be chasing all night long like they have been most nights."
As LeBrun is quick to point out - nothing is very advanced right now.
There's every reason to believe Pens general manager Jim Rutherford when he says openly (as he has repeatedly since September) that he wants to keep Fleury and Matt Murray on the Penguins all season long. Rutherford's literally said he's going to "listen" to what Fleury wants before the 3/1 trading deadline and react accordingly. If Fleury, who has been a backup 9 of the last 10 games, is OK with that role and doesn't ask to be moved now, Rutherford is not going to trade him.
However, with the expansion draft looming (not to mention a contract extension for Murray that kicks in next year), as we all know, the Penguins goaltending situation can not be the status quo of Murray-Fleury forever. Which is probably how it has to be, since Fleury isn't going to want to sit on the bench for the majority of the games. He wants to be, and deserves to be a starter somewhere.
Dallas is seemingly the best possible spot available. Outside of their troubling goalies (Kari Lehtonen ranks 41st among 51 goalies in save percentage, Antti Niemi 43rd) their team is of playoff caliber. If they flip Niemi back to Pittsburgh, that gives the Penguins a goalie eligible for expansion draft and offers a $1.25 million savings in 2017-18 over Fleury's contract and Niemi's contract only has the one more year on it, opening up even further savings for Pittsburgh. On top of that, Dallas is a Western Conference team and there's no better landing spot from a Pittsburgh perspective.
As far as places around the league that it makes sense for Fleury to get traded to, whether it's either in February or June, there's no more obvious spot than Dallas. Time will tell when and if it comes to fruition, one would think that Fleury wants to ride out one more run with Pittsburgh. But with the Stars season slipping away, they may have motivation to give him a reason to come to Dallas now and resume being a starting goalie in hopes of saving their year.
It could come down to what Fleury wants - ride out a spring in Pittsburgh, only to play meaningful hockey if Murray gets hurt....Or decide to move on and be the man in the last ~25 games in a race to try and make it into the playoffs on a new team. That's his professional decision, for personal reasons it sure would be a lot easier to have his wife and 2 young children remain in Pittsburgh until the off-season and not have to deal with the stress and hassle of moving their lives so suddenly...But whatever he decides, GMJR has been very frank that he will work with Fleury to give him what he's earned and respecting his wishes as much as possible.
As always, stay tuned..