If there was any question on who the go-to guy in net for the Pittsburgh Penguins, that should have been answered the last week before the All-Star break.
No one would have blamed Head Coach Mike Sullivan if he had played Marc-Andre Fleury after Matt Murray allowed those seven goals against the Washington Capitals. It was still a win, but there would have been no fault in getting your other goalie into the game to let Murray reset.
How did Sullivan respond, though? It has been Murray and only Murray who has seen the net since then, starting the past six games for the Penguins.
At this point into Murray’s young career, there really shouldn’t be a question that he is the number one goalie in Pittsburgh, but after he was forced to miss some time with an injury again. Even with the way Fleury had performed while Murray was out.
Once that is set, the next question to come up is Fleury and his future in Pittsburgh. It is no secret that with the expansion draft coming, as well as the emergence of Murray, that Fleury’s days as a member of the organization are going to be numbered.
Now it is coming out that Fleury is once again frustrated about his playing time, as stated on TSN Insider Trading with Darren Dreger.
It isn’t anything new, and it should be expected from a player who has spent his entire career as ‘the guy’. Adjusting to a backup role has been difficult for Fleury, and his play has suffered when he hasn’t been able to get into the game at a consistent rate.
In a simple world, the Penguins move Fleury and maximize his value while clearing a path for Murray to be uncontested in net, shed some cap space, bring in some depth at another position, and finalize the goaltender part of the expansion draft.
As the defending Stanley Cup champs who brought back their entire roster save Ben Lovejoy, though, the Penguins are right back in the thick of things and trading Fleury might not be the best way to optimize the current construction of the team.
Chase the Cup now, make moves for the future when it comes about. Teams that are in the market for a goaltender now, will likely be looking for one during the offseason as well. Being willing to wait it out may pay out in getting the best possible return.
The only way that a trade may happen sooner than then is if Fleury asks for one at the deadline, or if he starts becoming a distraction in the locker room. Watching Fleury for over a decade, no matter how frustrated he might get at his playing time, he doesn’t seem like a player that would sacrifice team success for his own ego.
It’s unfortunate that a player that has done so much for the organization, and the community, is going to end up being squeezed out of a city that he was a part of for over a decade, but that’s the business of the sport.
At 31 years old, Fleury still has some strong years left in him, and he has quietly put together a resume that could land him in the Hall of Fame someday. He could still easily be another team’s number one goalie.
It just won’t happen until next year.