Bryanna McDermott | The Duquesne Duke
The 2016 Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins have a problem, a goalie problem. Championship teams in every sport often have difficulty retaining players for financial reasons and Marc-Andre Fleury could be in line for a possible departure from the Steel City.
Rumors of a Fleury trade soared the moment rookie goaltender Matt Murray hoisted the Stanley Cup trophy. Penguins’ general manager Jim Rutherford stated that trading the veteran net-minder wasn’t his top priority, but he’s not very convincing.
Fleury’s current contract pays him $5.75 million a year. Meanwhile, Murray’s NHL contract only pays him $575 thousand.
Let’s face it, the Pens are going to give Murray a raise, which means they need to make a decision on how to cut costs against a looming salary cap and prepare for the impending expansion draft next June.
Trading Fleury seems like a logical solution to the Pens salary cap problems, but it could be detrimental down the road.
First, let’s take the Murray blinders off.
What if Murray isn’t as great as we made him out to be? What if his talent was matched by some beginners’ luck?
There’s a possibility Murray will flop come next season and the Pens will be left to rely on AHL goalies who haven’t seen a single game on the professional stage. Is it a risk a team should take while trying to defend the Stanley Cup?
We saw Murray falter in the Stanley Cup Final. He was good, but he wasn’t great. He got worn down from an exhaustive playoff push.
How will he handle a season of 50-plus starts in a league where every team is gunning for the Penguins after their impressive 2015-16 season?
The Pens lost former backup Jeff Zatkoff the first day of free agency, so who’s left to help Murray if a meltdown occurs? Will it be Wilkes-Barre Scranton’s Tristan Jarry or Filip Gustavasson, the Pens’ second round draft pick this year?
Personally, I’d rather see a veteran in net who knows how to win a Cup.
Let’s also not forget that Fleury did nothing to earn a trade.
He played his career best season before a concussion side-lined him for the start of playoffs. Fleury recorded a .921 save percentage and posted a goals allowed average of 2.29, a career low.
Marc-Andre Fleury led the Penguins into the playoffs and he deserves another year as a starting net minder with Pittsburgh.
In a perfect world the Penguins would keep both goalies and Fleury would remain the starter. Murray is reliable, so he’d be able to give Fleury more rest throughout the season and eventually become the starter once he’s completely developed.
It seems that Rutherford is on the same page.
“[Trading Fleury] isn’t even something I worked on,” Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
But would a smart general manager really come out and say he’s planning on trading a franchise player whom the city loves, or would he down play the situation to lower the impact on dedicated fans?
In a sports town like Pittsburgh, professional athletes become family and the city isn’t ready to lose another member.