Marc-Andre Fleury is the greatest goaltender in Penguins’ history. There are those that will contend Tom Barrasso was better, especially considering the laissez-faire attitude taken towards defense during his time in net, but the numbers are simply too great to ignore at this point. Fleury has 375 wins to Barrasso’s 226. Fleury has faced just over 6000 more regular season shots than Barrasso. Fleury’s save percentage is .912 compared to Barrasso’s .895 and Fleury’s Goals Against Average of 2.58 is the lowest in team history among qualified goalies. (P.S. — the minimum threshold to enter the leaderboards for goalies is 75 regular season games played. Matt Murray has played 62 regular season games.)
Fleury has the playoff cred, too, even with his spell of noted flameouts in 2012 and 2013, with 62 playoff wins (by far more than anyone else in team history) and two Stanley Cup rings, including the 2009 ring that he was an essential component of obtaining. There’s a better-than-even chance that he’ll be getting a 3rd chance to raise the Cup. He was a vital part to the first half of this playoff run.
And although it has absolutely nothing to do with on-ice matters, Fleury is probably in the top 3 (if not the absolute top) of nicest people to ever play for the franchise. Everyone loves his happy-go-lucky nature on the team, fans love his attitude, and he has never once complained about being benched for poor play or now being shunted to the side in favor of Matt Murray.
But what has happened is that his mere presence on the roster has created a riven divide between the fanbase. There are large swathes of the fanbase, and not just the younger generation that dominate Twitter, that are placing themselves into either Team Fleury or Team Murray. And a subset of these factions are actually happy when the other goalie struggles, as it will mean that their chosen guy will get another chance. It reached peak partisanship when Dejan Kovacevic, for reasons unknown, posted after Game 6’s 2-1 loss that there were multiple reasons that Fleury should be re-installed for Thursday’s Game 7. Chief among them were that they fans would rally behind him and create an electric atmosphere, more than if Murray were in goal.
While this is beyond silly, as the only thing that matters is which goalie gives the better chance to win against a certain opponent, it shows that all of this season has lead to that crescendo. Marc-Andre Fleury is too distracting for fans. When you are the greatest goalie in Pens’ history, it’s too much of a temptation to use him as a talisman when ‘momentum needs to be changed’ as I’ve heard on the radio. Keep in mind, many fans are talking about replacing a goalie that backstopped the Penguins to a Stanley Cup just last year and is technically sound with ice running through his veins in net. And he put a shutout on the board against the Senators waaaaay back in Game 5. Such is the fever dream mentality of Penguins fans, at times.
Marc-Andre Fleury is not going to be on the Penguins come opening night in October. He’s either going to get moved in a trade ahead of the expansion draft or waive his no-movement clause and potentially get drafted by Vegas. His $5.75M over the next two years is not cost-prohibitive for the level of production he still provides, but the Penguins themselves can’t afford to tie up $9.5M between two goalies on a team that pushes right up to the salary cap each year. Matt Murray is younger, cheaper, and better at this point. Add in the fact that Tristan Jarry is ready to be in the NHL, too, and the Penguins are suffering from a good problem to have — too many quality goalies.
The question of ‘where does he get traded to?’ is still rather murky. Fleury does not have a full no-movement clause, as some think. Rather, it’s a 18-team list that he can be traded to. Naturally, we do not know those 18 teams, but it’s a 60-40 proposition who’s on it. If the Penguins can get Fleury to somehow to agree to waive his no-movement clause, thus enabling him to get drafted by Vegas, that would give them more latitude to make moves so that his new team knows they can expose him in the draft, if necessary.
Calgary seems like an obvious destination, as they currently have no goalies under contract for 2017-18. He would provide them an upgrade over the Brian Elliot/Chad Johnson tandem of this year. The Penguins could slide one of their extra 5th round picks to Calgary to get Elliot or Johnson back in a deal so that they can gain negotiating rights to them prior to their Unrestricted Free Agencies starting. If they can sign one of them to be Murray’s backup, not only do they have an exposable goalie in the Expansion Draft, but they would have a quality backup for Murray next year, too. The Penguins would also save the difference between Fleury’s $5.75M cap hit and whatever they sign the new backup goalie for, thus freeing up needed cap space.
When Fleury is gone, my hope is that the Penguin fanbase fully coalesces behind Murray. He doesn’t have the megawatt smile, won’t make the acrobatic saves, and probably won’t be the court jester in the locker room. But he wins. That’s all that ultimately matters, right? Right?