Pittsburgh Penguins: 3 Potential Options for Marc-Andre Fleury

May 22, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) stands in net before the start of game five of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Consol Energy Center. Tampa Bay won 4-3 in OT. Mandatory Credit: Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports
May 22, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury (29) stands in net before the start of game five of the Eastern Conference Final of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Consol Energy Center. Tampa Bay won 4-3 in OT. Mandatory Credit: Don Wright-USA TODAY Sports /

Thanks to moves by General Manager Jim Rutherford, the Penguins don’t have to change much from their Championship team. However, one of the biggest question marks is what the Penguins will do with Marc-Andre Fleury.

While the Pittsburgh Penguins’ late season goalie change may have won them a Stanley Cup, it also now poses a difficult question. What do they do with Marc-Andre Fleury?

It is a tough question. And one that is only made more complicated by the NHL expansion draft likely to be held after next season.

Personally, I see absolutely no way the team can bench Matt Murray. He was instrumental in the team’s Stanley Cup run. Also, if the Pens bench him, what could he possibly do to win the starting job? If winning the Stanley Cup wasn’t enough, what would be?

As I see it, there are three realistic options for the Penguins. They could try to keep both goalies, they could keep Fleury and trade Murray, or they could keep Murray and trade Fleury. Let’s explore the pros and cons of each.

Option 1: Keep Both Goalies

According to a recent article by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jim Rutherford said “in a perfect world” he would want to keep both Murray and Fleury on the roster. However, this doesn’t seem like a feasible solution to the issue.

Both Fleury and Murray deserve, and likely want, to be a team’s number one goalie. I have already stated that making Murray a backup wouldn’t work, so this method would have to involve each goalie playing roughly half of the team’s regular season games.

There are some positives to this idea. You can never have too much goaltending depth in the NHL, and both Murray and Fleury are above average netminders. This would also keep both guys well rested give the Pens a great insurance option in case of injury.

Unfortunately, beyond depth and rest, this idea has little merit for the Penguins. First and foremost, the club’s finances make this idea tough.

The Penguins signed Fleury to an extension in November 2014. That deal means the 31-year-old is signed through the 2018-19 season at an average annual value (AAV) of $5.75 million.

By comparison, Matt Murray was signed to a three-year contract in September of 2013. He is under contract only through next season but is only owed $902,500 for the final year.

Financially, Fleury is paid far too much to reasonably make him the team’s backup goalie. Arguably, he’s paid far too much to be this team’s co-starter. Given the Pens annual struggle with the salary cap, I don’t think they can keep both goalies.

Outside of money, Fleury also has a no-movement clause in his contract. While this wouldn’t matter for the Penguins, the clause may have an impact when the expansion draft comes around.

Current rules state that teams can protect only one goaltender from selection in the draft, but teams must protect players with no-movement clauses. By default, the Penguins would have to protect Fleury, and leave Murray for the taking.

Finally, a dual-goalie system would wreak havoc during the playoffs. Which of the starters gets to play? How long of a leash does he have? All of these issues point to this being a problematic and unlikely alternative.

Option 2: Keep Fleury and Trade Murray

This option also has some positives but struggles from some of the same negatives as keeping both goalies.

The main benefit of this alternative would be the team trading Murray when his value is the highest. While Murray has been spectacular, he’s only played 13 regular season games and the playoffs.

There are some who wonder if fatigue could affect Murray’s performance or if he can maintain his numbers throughout an entire season. Questions did arise in the Lightning series if he was tired and led to Fleury playing game 5 of that series.

The Penguins would certainly be selling high on Murray, and they could get a substantial return for someone who has played less than a full NHL season.

This would be similar to the New York Rangers decision to trade goalie Cam Talbot to the Edmonton Oilers for three draft picks. Talbot filled in admirably for the injured Henrik Lundqvist.

Murray, however, has achieved far more than Talbot had, so it would be fair to expect the Penguins to get more in return than the Rangers did.

There are still issues with this course of action. The Penguins would be trading their Stanley Cup winning goalie whose cap hit is under $1 million. It is also fair to say that Murray’s best days are ahead of him after winning a Stanley Cup at age 22.

This also means the cap-troubled Pens would have to keep Fleury’s $5.75 million on the books. This may mean the return of Murray would have to come in the way of picks or prospects, and may not have an immediate impact on the team.

This option would allow the Penguins to keep their longtime goalie and a former first overall pick in Pittsburgh, but this option seems to have more baggage than potential at this point.

Option 3: Keep Murray and Trade Fleury

This is the option that I think makes the most sense for the Penguins. Murray has earned the right to lead this team and the cap space freed up by Fleury would allow the team to either trade for a high-quality player or sign free agents.

Even before any goalie decision has been made, interest around Fleury is heating up. According to the Calgary Sun, the Flames General Manager has already contacted the Pens about Fleury.

There are many teams who could use Fleury as an upgrade in the crease. Calgary, Dallas, and Toronto are just a few examples of teams who could potentially trade for the Pens goaltender.

Fleury does have a limited no-trade clause. However, I feel that, if it meant he would get to be a starter, Fleury would waive the clause, or the Penguins would work with teams that he has not blocked.

Given Fleury’s age, he would still have a lot to offer another NHL team. But for the Penguins, having a 22-year-old phenom in Murray, and a highly-touted goalie prospect in 21-year-old Tristan Jarry, it makes sense to part with the veteran.

Fleury’s time in Pittsburgh has been very successful. The team would not have won the 2009 Stanley Cup without him. However, with the arrival of Murray and his dominance in the playoffs, it simply doesn’t make sense to keep him around.

Next: Pittsburgh Penguins May Have Changed the NHL

This isn’t an easy decision for the franchise to make, and having two great goalies is a good problem to have. However, the Penguins stand to gain more from trading Fleury.

An NHL team can do a lot with $5.75 million. The Penguins could re-sign either Ben Lovejoy, Justin Schultz, or Matt Cullen, the only major free agents from this year’s team. They could also improve the team via free agency.

No matter what the Penguins decide to do, they should be solid in goal for the foreseeable future. Given the nature of today’s NHL, that is a very good place for the Penguins to be.