The Marc-Andre Fleury vs Matt Murray debate reached a boiling point at the NHL Draft when Fleury trade rumors swirled like a tornado. Now here we are, weeks removed from the event, and it appears that the drama will continue through at least a portion of next season.
The Penguins will start the 2016-17 season will both goalies on the roster, and it will be a delicate scenario for many reasons. Both players handled the situation admirably in the postseason, but when October rolls around, they won’t be playing in the Stanley Cup Finals anymore. The two netminders are willing to set aside personal interest to do what is best for the team, but you don’t become an athlete at the highest level without having at least a bit of ego. Eventually that will become a factor.
Marc-Andre Fleury is a Stanley Cup winning goalie that is still in his prime. He is a fan favorite that has been with the team since the days that Dick Tarnstrom was their leading scorer. Not to mention the fact that he is loved by his teammates. Last season when the Penguins were struggling, his play allowed the them to stay in contention. Pittsburgh likely would not have made the playoffs were it not for Fleury’s play.
Penguins have Matt Murray, Tristan Jarry and just drafted Filip Gustavsson. Sorry, Marc-Andre Fleury clearly isn’t part of long-term plan.
— Matt Larkin (@THNMattLarkin) June 25, 2016
Matt Murray was considered the heir-apparent even before his recall from Wilkes-Barre, and the Stanley Cup victory obviously sped up the process. The question still remains if Murray is ready to handle an 82-game season, or if his success was just a fluke. But the Penguins hand is being forced with the NHL’s expansion draft, in which only one goalie can be protected. With age and salary being a consideration, it is only logical to protect Murray, and move Fleury in a trade.
So who starts in net on October 13th when the Penguins face the Capitals? How will playing time be divided? Both are difficult questions, with no good answers.
save by Murray after Letang lost his balance pic.twitter.com/dakFVvc73M
— Stephanie (@myregularface) April 29, 2016
One Game with Important Meaning
The Penguins will eventually trade Fleury, but until they do it is his team, and he needs to start on opening night. His locker room influence is undeniable, and a slight to “Flower” could create a distraction. Yes, opening night is only one game, but it is an important night. It is a home game in front of Penguins’ fans that will send a message. Any other game it would not matter nearly as much as who starts the first.
#NHL goalies: Most shutouts over past three seasons
— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) July 5, 2016
The division of playing time is important in many ways. Murray needs to play as much as possible so that Pittsburgh can see exactly how he is going to handle a large workload. Fleury must have a decent workload as not to diminish his trade value. At the very least it should be a 50/50 split, but there are so many variables that could come into play that it will be impossible to put a hard number on it.
Fleury needs to be given the playing time and respect that he has earned. Murray needs to gain experience and continue to prove himself. It will be interesting to see how Mike Sullivan handles the situation. Under most circumstances it would be considered a good problem to have, but so many things could go wrong if not dealt with properly.
Until next time.
Greg is a Pittsburgh Penguins writer for ‘The Hockey Writers’.
He is a Pittsburgh area native who has written for multiple Penguins news and opinion sites. In addition to hockey writing, he is also an experienced YouTube creator.
Greg started with THW in 2015 as a Blue Jackets writer, and spent time as a Fantasy Hockey analyst.