The Penguins fandom has never been quite the same since June 21, 2017. On that night, longtime Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft. Fleury, along with everyone else in the organization, knew the writing was on the wall and the Flower’s time in the black-and-gold was coming to an end.
Young upstart Matt Murray had just captured his second Stanley Cup in as many years. And more importantly, for a cap-strapped team like the Penguins, Murray was younger by a decade and a cheaper option. It was a no-brainer for GM Jim Rutherford. But ever since Fleury’s departure, some Penguins fans have long held some type of disdain for Murray.
“His glove hand is the worst in the league. He’s not as athletic as Fleury. He’s not my goalie! We shoulda kept Flower!” The list of Facebook commenters and their complaints can go on and on.
Penguins fans have been calling for Murray’s head for a while now, and many only want to see Fleury as a Penguins’ netminder.
Well, take a stroll over to Las Vegas and it looks like the Golden Knights have a bit of a goalie controversy on their hands as well.
Who will start in the playoffs—Robin Lehner or Marc-Andre Fleury?
Ever since coming over in a surprise trade from the Blackhawks on February 24, the rumors have run rampant that Lehner would soon supplant Fleury as the starter.
In his very, very small sample size with the Golden Knights, Lehner has gone 3-0-0 with a .940% save percentage. Whereas Fleury has a record of 27-16-5 with a .905%, a respectable stat line in his own right, though he slumped with a just a 15-10-3 record and a .892 save% in his last 28 games that helped reinforced the need for Vegas to acquire a goalie like Lehner in the first place.
Lehner will become a free agent at season’s end, and when talking about the 2020-21 season in a recent interview, Lehner was quoted as saying:
“I’m sure we’ll have some discussions [with general manager Kelly McCrimmon] after the season and see what happens,” Lehner said Wednesday. “I really like it here. Great team, great organization, great group of players. We’ll see what happens. You never know, but it’s a very good impression here so far.”
Marc-Andre Fleury still has two more years left on his current contract after this season, both of which will see him have a $7 million cap hit.
Keep in mind, too, that the 2020-2021 season will see the NHL have a flat cap, there will be no increase in cap space for any team from last season’s upper limit of $81.5 million.Several tough decisions await many clubs as they look to lock up talent on expiring contracts.
The Vegas Golden Knights could very well buyout the remaining years of Fleury’s contract after this season, leaving Robin Lehner as the goalie of the future in Vegas and Fleury without a team...
And that brings us back to the Penguins.
Matt Murray’s status as the starting goaltender in Pittsburgh has come into question this season with the sudden emergence of All-Star Tristan Jarry.
Murray’s contract situation will surely be on the mind of general manger Jim Rutherford once this season ends. Murray is still a restricted free agent, meaning the Penguins control his rights, but Murray can test the open market and the Pens can match any offer an opposing team gives him. But he is in line for a hefty payday nonetheless.
And looking at Tristan Jarry, he will be a restricted free agent as well, but he comes to the table with much less leverage than the two-time Cup winner Murray.
The Penguins could do one of two things: tender Murray as an RFA and see if anyone puts an offer in for the player, which has become a rare sight in today’s NHL, or the team could outright trade Murray for a substantial package, leaving Jarry as the sole owner of Pittsburgh’s crease.
Marc-Andre Fleury could come home to Pittsburgh and act as the mentor to Jarry in the final few seasons of his professional career. Now, whether Fleury would accept that role remains to be seen, as I am sure he feels he is more than capable of leading another club to glory as a starter.
All of this is pure speculation on my part, but I am sure there are many Penguins fans who would love to see Marc-Andre Fleury don the #29 jersey for one final run with the only other professional hockey team he has ever known.
Would you be interested in seeing Marc-Andre Fleury return to the Penguins?
This poll is closed
Yes, bring Flower home!
No, his time has come and gone!