You are not the only ones wondering what comes next. The increasingly loaded goaltending carousel, which includes the former Penguins tandem of Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury, is spinning. Round and round she goes, but where she stops, nobody knows.
At least one member of the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey ops “wouldn’t be surprised” if Fleury wound up back in Pittsburgh.
For those who jumped straight to the comments section without reading further, let me clarify and add context. “Wouldn’t be surprised” is NOT an NHL trade rumor. It’s not an indication of trade talks. In fact, PHN has been unable to connect Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon and Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford to any negotiations.
We’ve tried for a week to connect the dots since our first conversation.
Penguins Hall of Fame GM Craig Patrick waited out the competition at the 2003 NHL Draft and traded up two spots to select Fleury first overall. For an organization reeling from an arena fight that depleted competitive resources so deeply that the Penguins resembled an AHL team with an aging Mario Lemieux at center, Fleury was the first bright spot of the new generation.
When Fleury stood on his head and wowed a near sell-out crowd at the Civic Arena just days into his professional career, the Penguins arrow was finally pointing up. When Fleury robbed Detroit defenseman Niklas Lidstrom in the final seconds of Game 7 to preserve the 2009 Stanley Cup championship, everything came to fruition.
It wasn’t always rainbows and unicorns for Fleury and the Penguins. There was the 2013 playoff meltdown, but Fleury finished on a high note. He held the fractured 2015-16 team together long enough to for them to course-correct and win the 2016 Stanley Cup. Fleury stole the 2017 Round Two series against the Washington Capitals, which launched the Penguins to a second-consecutive Stanley Cup win.
Fleury will forever be a Penguins legend.
Is a Marc-Andre Fleury Return Feasible
If members of the Penguins organization are also openly wondering about a Fleury return, that is a testament to Fleury’s impact on the organization. Quite frankly, it’s also a testament to the personality the Penguins have missed since Fleury became the face of the Vegas Golden Knights.
Vegas Hockey Now looked at the top five Fleury landing spots, and we couldn’t find a way to insert the Penguins. We looked. We tried.
The Penguins have about $6 million in salary-cap space to sign Tristan Jarry, Sam Lafferty, and pay a third-pairing defenseman who carries a right-handed stick. That $6 million doesn’t include internal limits as multiple outlets, including PHN, reported the Penguins might not be a cap team next season.
But, we can assume Tristan Jarry gets a round figure of $3 million. He would probably like more. The Penguins would like less. For our math, $3 million is the sweet spot. If Rutherford signs Lafferty to an NHL deal or inserts 2019 first-round pick, Sam Poulin into the lineup, that’s about $900,000.
That combination leaves the Penguins about $1.4 million because they will also need a cushion for short-term injury callups. Next season is going to be a compressed, wild-ride. A week-long injury could mean a three-game absence, almost every week.
How can Rutherford fit the Marc-Andre Fleury and his $7 million paycheck into that mess?
For the Penguins to actually make the Fleury return a reality, a lot of money would have to go out. One of Patric Hornqvist and Jason Zucker would need to go, in addition to one of Jared McCann, Jack Johnson, or Bryan Rust. Would you trade two of those players for Fleury to be a 1A goalie with Jarry?
Would Fleury want to be a 1A goalie? Should the Penguins want a wildly popular figure like Fleury looking over Jarry’s shoulder? That seems like bad news for Jarry and something which would again divide the fanbase and cause the team grief.
Do we really want to live through this, AGAIN?
Perhaps Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman spoke with the same source, or the opinion is spreading. Friedman also reported he wouldn’t be shocked by a Jarry/Fleury tandem.
Quite frankly, given the year which 2020 has been, would anyone be surprised if the Penguins had space aliens in their lineup come December?
It sure would be nice to cover Marc-Andre Fleury again. I haven’t been chirped about a question, nor has a player bellowed to our Shelly Anderson through a sea of reporters in years.
Sentimentality. 100%. Reality? Thomas Wolfe was probably right. You can’t go home again.