In this past Friday’s press conference, inaugurated Pittsburgh Penguins’ general manager Jim Rutherford stated that the organization wanted a “complete change of direction.”
The alteration Rutherford was specifically referring to was the GM and head coaching positions, however, there’s no question that next season’s roster will be shaken up a bit. It’s different every year, ’cause the NHL is constantly moving players each summer, but for Pittsburgh we could be looking at, well, a whole new look.
When free agency commences, Pittsburgh will just have seven returning starters at forward, one of whom is Pascal Dupuis, who’s coming off ACL and MCL surgery. And on defense, they’ll have five coming back, however, Olli Maatta just had shoulder surgery, and Robert Bortuzzo saw limited action this past season.
But the player that’ll be interesting to watch is the status of one Marc-Andre Fleury.
As I mentioned earlier, Rutherford said, “complete change of direction.” The key word to cipher out is “complete.” Does he mean that Fleury is on the chopping block? I mean, it’s easy to throw Fleury under fire because of his recent playoff meltdowns, but could Rutherford imply that this “complete” change entails Fleury’s dismissal as well?
A goaltender is the foundation of the team – period. If you don’t possess formidable goaltending – especially against a Henrik Lundqvist or Tuukka Rask – you’re doomed. And it was evident, considering those are the two netminders who’ve ousted Pittsburgh over the last two seasons. So, Rutherford could find another goalie elsewhere, or be intrigued with the idea of re-signing Tomas Vokoun.
Vokoun’s set to become an unrestricted free agent, and didn’t perform in one game for Pittsburgh this season, but cutting Fleury’s salary and giving Vokoun a one-year deal would put them in prime position to nab one of the better goaltenders in next year’s market. Of course, Rutherford could also just keep Fleury, given he’s got one-year remaining.
Yes, Fleury’s biggest gaffe was that Game 4 blunder behind his net with some 25-seconds left, I get that, but for the most part, Fleury was pretty stable. Granted there were plenty of high-scoring tilts, however, personally, that was attributed to bad defense and lackadaisical puck management – not Fleury. Ultimately, that’s Pittsburgh’s best move though – sticking out another year with him.
Sure, you never know what you’re going to get with Fleury, but isn’t that everyone’s M.O. now? Other than probably Evgeni Malkin, isn’t that the Pens’ problem: not knowing if anybody will show up? It’s easy to single-out Fleury, but perhaps we focus too much on his errors.
Point is, Fleury deserves another go. If Rutherford wants to go in a “different direction,” trade Kris Letang or James Neal. Fleury won’t receive an extension after this season anyway, so why not just ride it out?
Viewing Rutherford’s moves is going to be very intriguing in the coming days.