Appreciate Fleury in Waning Moments as a Penguin

Marc-Andre Fleury is the winningest netminder in Penguins history.

He has his name on the Stanley Cup.

He is arguably the most popular player amongst his peers.

He is in the prime of his career, and has been one of the best goalies in the NHL this year.

He is also very likely on his way out of Pittsburgh after this season.

Fleury signed a four-year contract extension late in 2014.

It appeared that the deal would expire about the time that his expected heir apparent, Tristan Jarry, would be ready to step in and take over.

Less than two years later, the unexpected emergence of Matt Murray has changed the landscape entirely. Murray appears to be poised to take over for Fleury sooner than later.

Fleury is 31, while Murray is 21. Fleury Makes $5.75 million, with Murray making $550,000. Murray is ready to start, and excel while still playing on his entry-level contract. Fleury’s trade value may never be higher than it is right now.

The Penguins must take a cold, calculated approach when it comes to moving Fleury. “The Flower” has been in Pittsburgh for a long time. He has a great relationship with his teammates, the fans, and even the media. His smile in infectious, and he always seems to have something positive to say.

Fleury has been around since the days that Dick Tarnstrom was the Penguins leading scorer. He made frantic saves in the final moments to win the Stanley Cup. The Quebec-native has also been part of epic playoff failures but he is the main reason that the Penguins are still in the playoff race in 2016.

For every dazzling glove save, there is a mishandled puck. Life with Fleury is exciting for many reasons. But as much of a fixture as he is in Pittsburgh, it is time to trade him.

Usually when a team is looking to trade an elite goalie it is because they are rebuilding.

The Penguins are in a unique situation with Fleury and Murray to considerably upgrade their team, while maintaining their status as a Cup contender.

Pittsburgh can always use draft picks as they have made a habit of trading them away in recent years. Defensive depth, and some young forwards would be a nice addition.

A team that comes to mind is the Edmonton Oilers. They are a club that needs a top-notch goalie, and they have an abundance of talented young forwards.

They are not the only club that the Penguins could consider as a good match, as high-end netminders are hard to come by.

The potential NHL expansion could force the Penguins’ hand as they would only be able to protect one goalie. Surely either Fleury or Murray would be taken. Jarry’s quality play in Wilkes-Barre allows Pittsburgh to part with Fleury, and still maintain organizational depth.

Trading Fleury would be hard for the team, and the fans. It is akin to the Pirates trading Neil Walker, or the Steelers forcing Troy Polamalu into retirement. When you follow someone for so long, share their ups and downs, while watching them grow from a teenager to a pillar of the team, saying goodbye is difficult. But given the current situation, there is no other option that makes sense.

While he is still here, enjoy every acrobatic save, and every poke check. Remember every smile, and every funny quote after a win. The time for a changing of the guard is approaching, like it or not.

Until next time.