Sunday, June 26, 2016

Draft proves a team effort as Penguins' Rutherford sways from plan


June 26, 2016

Filip Gustavsson reacts after being selected in the second round by the Penguins during the NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, N.Y. (Getty Images)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Jim Rutherford, just days removed from being named NHL General Manager of the Year, sat at the head of the Penguins' table at the NHL Entry Draft on Saturday at First Niagara Center but trusted the men who flanked him with tough calls about the organization's future.
Years must pass before anyone will know whether Rutherford's decision to defer to his scouts on the Penguins' first two picks and delay the acquisition of defensemen — the position he identified as the priority heading into the draft — proved wise.
Rather than bolster the organization's blue-line depth with their second-round selections, the Penguins chose Swedish goalie Filip Gustavsson at No. 55 and Finnish forward Kasper Bjorkqvist at No. 61. When they finally began to collect defensemen, they strayed from the scoring-oriented, puck-moving style that served them so well this season and embraced players with some “edge,” as Penguins director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton put it.
“Their puck skills are sufficient to play the way we want to play,” Sexton said of fourth-round pick Ryan Jones and third-rounder Connor Hall. “And they bring a certain dimension that we currently don't have, particularly if we're not able to get (unrestricted free agent) Ben Lovejoy re-signed. ... They bring a physical edge and a dimension that we don't have enough of in our depth chart right now.”
Less than 24 hours before Rutherford stepped on the stage and announced Gustavsson — and minutes later, Bjorkqvist — as draft picks, he made it clear to media members he wanted defensemen.
That desire apparently never waned. He just allowed Sexton and the Penguins' other scouts to talk him into the promise of what they considered the best goalie available in the draft — the NHL's Central Scouting department ranked Gustavsson as the top European goalie prospect.
“Surprised he was still there at our pick, so we really couldn't pass on him,” Rutherford said of Gustavsson.
And of Bjorkqvist: “Our European scouts, they were close, and they followed him, and they loved this player. As I said earlier, I was leaning more towards defensemen, but they felt so adamant about him, and he's just a really good all-around center.”
Gustavsson said he left the predraft interview with the Penguins pleased with the encounter. “Pretty easy questions” was how he described the chat.
Bjorkqvist, who did not attend the draft, impressed the Penguins staff with his pride in his feisty two-way play, head European scout Patrik Allvin said.
“He's a super competitive player,” Allvin said. “We view him as more of a third-line player who comes to work every day.
“He has a really strong low game. He's strong on the puck. Goes to the net. He's hard to play against. He can play the net front on the power play. He can kill penalties. I'd say his game is suited for a (North American) ice surface.”
The Penguins scouts snagged the players they considered too good to pass up. Rutherford still hauled in four defensemen, including a pair of more offense-first options in Finland native Niclas Almari and Joseph Masonius in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively.
“We are absolutely thrilled that Gustavsson fell to us,” Sexton said. “I think when our fans and particularly Jimmy has a chance to see him next week at development camp, he's going to be pretty happy. He's a technically very strong goalie, and he has tremendous rebound control and tremendous poise and mental toughness.
“Jim is incredibly supportive (of the scouts' recommendations). We walked him through our whole list, and we laid out where we thought we could get some D-men. We talked about trading up, but in our opinion, the D-men that were available to trade up (for) were marginally better than the guys we thought we could get, and we just didn't think it was worth losing a pick or two to get somebody we thought was marginally better. And he supported us in that.”
Bill West is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at wwest@tribweb.com or via Twitter@BWest_Trib.

McCutchen hits 2 HRs as Pirates beat Dodgers 6-1


By John Perrotto
June 25, 2016
Los Angeles Dodgers v Pittsburgh Pirates
Andrew McCutchen #22 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a three run home run in the sixth inning during the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at PNC Park on June 25, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
(Justin K. Aller/Getty Images North America)


PITTSBURGH (AP) Andrew McCutchen broke out of his slump in a big way and helped the Pittsburgh Pirates get back-to-back wins for the first time in 2 1/2 weeks.
McCutchen homered twice, Jeff Locke took a perfect game into the sixth inning, and the Pirates beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-1 Saturday night.
It was McCutchen's 11th career multi-homer game — second this year. The nine-year veteran's batting average had dropped to .239 — 55 points below his career average — after going 9 for 49 (.184) with 16 strikeouts in his previous 13 games.
"He's going to get to somebody sooner or later," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It really doesn't matter who. They can be good. They could have been around. They can be young, fresh. He's going to get to somebody."

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/article86044842.html#storylink=cpy
Pittsburgh has won consecutive games for the first time since sweeping a doubleheader from the New York Mets on June 7.
McCutchen had a solo shot in the fourth inning for the game's first hit and then a three-run shot — his 12th homer of the season — to start a five-run sixth that increased the Pirates' lead to 6-1.
"Of course, it's helpful," McCutchen said when asked if the homers could help his confidence. "Oh-for-100, that ain't helping. It's good to put some hits on the board and not only get some hits but some big hits. It felt good to be able to get a pitch to hit and square it up."
Locke (7-5) retired his first 15 batters before consecutive doubles by Scott Van Slyke and A.J. Ellis to start the sixth inning broke up his perfect game and shutout bids. Locke allowed one run and five hits in seven innings, striking out three and walking none.
He has given up one run in 13 2/3 innings in winning his last two starts after being rocked for 18 runs in 8 2/3 innings in losing his previous two starts.
"They're an aggressive lineup, so it's either a lot of hits or a lot of outs when teams are aggressive," Locke said. "We got a lot of outs, so it was a good team effort, especially with the defense playing unbelievable behind me."
Jordy Mercer hit a two-run home run, his fourth, off Joe Blanton in the sixth inning for Pittsburgh.
Kenta Maeda (6-5) gave up four runs and four hits in five-plus innings with four strikeouts and two walks. It was Japanese rookie's first career road loss in seven starts.
"Both home runs (to McCutchen) were situations where I fell behind in the count and then I made mistakes," Maeda said through an interpreter. "I needed to get ahead in the count there and I didn't and (McCutchen) made me pay for it."
Ellis and Yasiel Puig each had two hits as the Dodgers lost their second straight on the heels of a six-game winning streak. They have also dropped 11 of their last 13 games at PNC Park.
TRAINER'S ROOM
Pirates: C Francisco Cervelli (broken left hand) had his stitches removed and did light work behind the plate for the first time since being injured June 10, blocking soft tosses with his body while holding his hands behind his back. ... RF Gregory Polanco (left leg discomfort) sat out his second straight game after being injured Thursday while running down the first-base line in a loss to San Francisco.
ROSTER MOVES
Dodgers: SS Chris Taylor was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City to serve in a bench role and RHP Nick Tepesch was designated for assignment. Taylor played three games at Oklahoma City after the Dodgers acquired him from the Seattle Mariners on Sunday in a trade for RHP Zach Lee. ... Oklahoma City RHP Carlos Frias is the leading candidate to start Wednesday at Milwaukee in what would have been Tepesch's next turn in the rotation. ... OF Will Venable accepted an outright assignment to Oklahoma City after previously being designated for assignment and clearing waivers.
STREAKS
Dodgers: SS Kyle Seager extended his hitting streak to nine games when the rookie singled in the seventh inning.
Pirates: Mercer ran his hitting streak to 10 games with his home run . LHP Tony Watson made his eighth consecutive scoreless relief appearance, each lasting one inning.
UP NEXT
Dodgers: LHP Clayton Kershaw (11-1, 1.57 ERA) will attempt to continue his nine-game winning streak, which has spanned 10 starts, Sunday night. He is 2-2 with a 2.90 ERA against the Pirates in 10 career starts.
Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl, who joined the team Friday, is expected to be officially recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis and make his major league debut. The 23-year-old was 6-2 with a 2.58 ERA in 14 starts at Indy.




Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/article86044842.html#storylink=cpy

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Joyce helps Pirates snap Dodgers' 6-game win streak, 8-6


By John Perrotto
https://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/teams/pit/
June 24, 2016

Pittsburgh Pirates' Jung Ho Kang, center, celebrates with teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run off Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Nick Tepesch during the third inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Friday, June 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Pirates' Jung Ho Kang, center, celebrates with teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run off Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Nick Tepesch during the third inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Friday, June 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PITTSBURGH (AP) — For a change, the Pittsburgh Pirates got to celebrate Friday night.
Matt Joyce homered and doubled among his three hits and Pittsburgh beat Los Angeles 8-6, ending the Dodgers' six-game winning streak and giving manager Clint Hurdle his 1,000th career victory.
Hurdle is in his sixth season with the Pirates and also had an eight-year managerial stint with the Colorado Rockies from 2002-09.
"It's pretty cool," Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer said. "We all got around (in the clubhouse) and recognized him after the game. It's pretty special."
Joyce drove in two runs while filling in for right fielder Gregory Polanco, who sat out with lower leg discomfort. His RBI single in a two-run fifth inning helped push the Pirates' lead to 7-4 and his eighth homer, a solo shot in the seventh off Chris Hatcher, made it 8-6.
Jung Ho Kang also homered as the Pirates won for just the third time in 16 games. Sean Rodriguez had three RBIs and Starling Marte added two hits.
"It's nice to get back on track," Joyce said. "It's nice to get a win. Everyone knows how our month has gone. It was cool to see some guys smiling out there and having fun. Hopefully we can build upon it. That's what the good ones do. We just have to find our way and get back to how we win."
Dodgers rookie shortstop Corey Seager had four hits to extend his hitting streak to eight games. He is 16 for 34 (.471) during the streak and has six extra-base hits in his last six games.
Yasiel Puig homered for Los Angeles.
Neftali Feliz (2-0), the fourth of six Pirates pitchers, retired all five batters he faced, and Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth for his 21st save in 22 opportunities.
Adam Frazier, a utility player called up from Triple-A Indianapolis prior to the game, hit a single in his first major league at-bat in the sixth off J.P. Howell after entering in the top half of the inning as part of a double switch.
"It was an interesting way to get there," Hurdle said of reaching 1,000 wins. "An interesting game."
Nick Tepesch (0-1) gave up five runs and seven hits in just four innings in his first major league appearance since Sept. 26, 2014 with Texas. Called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City before the game, Tepesch struck out three and walked none.
Pirates rookie starter Jameson Taillon had a second consecutive poor start, allowing four runs and eight hits in four-plus innings with two strikeouts and one walk. He has surrendered a combined eight runs and 16 hits in eight innings in his last two starts after giving up just three runs and eight hits in 14 innings over his first two outings.
Puig hit a 439-foot solo home run, his sixth, into the second tier of bleachers in left field in the sixth inning off Jared Hughes to pull the Dodgers to 7-5.
Puig, Justin Turner and Chase Utley had two hits each for the Dodgers, who homered for the 14th straight game to tie Washington for the longest streak in the majors this season.
The teams combined for 25 hits, 13 by the Pirates.
TRAINER'S ROOM
Dodgers: LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (left shoulder surgery) gave up eight runs — five earned — in four innings in a rehab start for Oklahoma City on Thursday night, but his fastball reached 90 mph, which manager Dave Roberts said was "encouraging."
Pirates: While Polanco was out of the lineup, Marte (sore left foot) returned after being limited to pinch hitting in the previous two games.
ROSTER MOVES
Dodgers: OF Will Venable was designated for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Tepesch.
Pirates: RHP Juan Nicasio was reinstated from the restricted list and moved to the bullpen. He left the team Sunday to attend to a family matter. ... C Jacob Stallings was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis and RHP Jorge Rondon and INF Cole Figueroa were designated for assignment.
UP NEXT
Dodgers: Kenta Maeda (6-4, 2.64 ERA) will face the Pirates for the first time when he starts Saturday night. He is 3-1 with a 1.52 ERA in his last five starts.
Pirates: LHP Jeff Locke (6-5, 5.44) pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings to beat NL West-leading San Francisco on Monday after giving up a combined 18 runs in 8 2/3 while losing his previous two starts.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Remembering a long-forgotten Penguins hero


June 23, 2016

Ed Johnston and Mario Lemieux

At some point, lower in this space, we'll talk about how the original captain of the Philadelphia Flyers became an all-time Penguins hero, albeit a forgotten one.
We'll talk about how that parade last week never happens without him. And how there is no Sidney Crosby here. No Mario Lemieux. No Stanley Cups.
But let's start with the concept of tanking in pro sports, because it's not going anywhere, no matter how many lottery systems leagues devise.
To the contrary, it seems more prevalent than ever ...
• In baseball, nearly half the National League has been accused of essentially forfeiting this season (not including the Pirates, who are just making it look that way).
• In the NBA, the Philadelphia 76ers are engaged in a brazen, multiyear tanking project.
• In the NHL, the Toronto Maple Leafs will step to the podium Friday in Buffalo (where the Sabres flagrantly sabotaged their 2014-15 season) and select coveted center Auston Matthews first overall on account of a nearly flawless tank job combined with the luck of winning the draft lottery.
• In the NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the first pick in 2015 (Jameis Winston) by losing in spectacularly intentional fashion in their 2014 finale. They blew a 13-point lead to the New Orleans Saints by benching nearly all of their best players.
The line between “tanking” and “rebuilding” always has been blurry. I embrace the practice, however it's phrased, because the last place you want to be is mired in perpetual OK-ness. You don't want to be the Atlanta Hawks.
What's more, I've always found that tanking makes for riveting theater. Watching how teams go about losing can be more fun than monitoring the top of the standings.
There is an art to tanking. It invariably starts upstairs, where a GM can manipulate a roster. It gets murkier, and harder to defend, when coaches start making questionable moves.
Take the 2005-06 Minnesota Timberwolves, who needed to finish in the NBA's bottom 10 to keep their first-round pick. In their final game, a narrow defeat, the Wolves sat Kevin Garnett and others for no apparent reason and let legendary scrub Mark Madsen fire nine 3-pointers after attempting none all season.
Afterward, Wolves coach Dwane Casey said his guys “deserved to have a little fun” after all they'd been through.
“I hope what we did didn't make a mockery of the game,” Casey said.
Mockery? What mockery?
All of which brings us to Casey's spiritual predecessor, Mr. Louis Frederick Angotti, coach of the 1983-84 Penguins and the forgotten hero I mentioned earlier.
If you know anything about Penguins history, you know the '83-84 club finished with a league-worst 38 points and thus won the right to draft Mario Lemieux. There was no lottery. The Penguins needed to finish lower than the horrid New Jersey Devils, and general manager Ed Johnston made sure it happened — by just three points — through a variety of curious-to-laugh-out-loud roster moves.
It might have been the greatest legal tank job in sports history.
But whereas Angotti will readily tell you the Penguins tanked, Johnston will go to his grave never admitting it. Just a few weeks ago, during the Stanley Cup Final, I asked him if he ever told Angotti to lose on purpose.
“(Expletive) no,” he said. “People paid money for those games. Nobody's going to tell anybody to lose. We had no talent.”
When I told E.J. that Angotti admittedly made moves to lose on purpose, he said, in his good-natured way, “He did? I don't remember that.”
But then E.J. added, with a dash of defiance, “You're going to try to win an extra game or two at the end and lose the first pick when it's Mario Lemieux?”
Of course not. Johnston is rightly considered a Penguins savior for doing what he did.

1968 Topps
Angotti has no such “pride of place” in team history, as Michael Farber put it a few years ago in his outstanding TSN documentary on those pathetic Penguins, titled “Playing to Lose.” Angotti's just a guy with a horrible career record (22-78-12, including a stint in St. Louis) who never coached another game after '83-84, though he remained with the organization for a year.
Now 78, Angotti has been living a comfortable retired life in Pompano Beach, Fla., after many years as a stockbroker there. Before entering the financial world, he opened a bar called Pickles, which was fitting, considering the pickle he found himself in when he took the Penguins job.
Though the team was beyond awful, there were no designs on tanking, Angotti told me, until he, Johnston and broadcaster Mike Lange went to watch Lemieux play a junior game during the Penguins' late-January trip to Montreal.
“Everybody was trying to stop him, and I think he had five breakaways,” Angotti said.
Days later, at one of their customary breakfast meetings, Johnston and Angotti hatched a general plan.
“(Johnston) said, ‘We're going to do whatever we possibly can to put ourselves in position to draft Mario Lemieux, and there's a very good chance it will cost us our jobs,' ” Angotti recalled. “I said, ‘Fine, I think it's the right thing to do.' ”
So this is where we'll pause, barely a week after the Penguins paraded the Cup in front of more than 400,000 adoring fans, and consider the sacrifice.
Johnston and Angotti were hockey lifers — Angotti a small but spirited player who became captain of Philadelphia's expansion team, Johnston the last goalie to play every minute of every game in a season (despite a torn ear lobe, three broken noses and 70 stitches). Yet there they sat, resolving to stuff their pride, go against all their teachings, take a bunch of flak and lose as many games as possible for the chance to win later — knowing someone else likely would reap the benefits.
Someone else did. Neither man was with the team when the Penguins finally returned to the playoffs in 1989.
“I don't think anybody else would have done what Eddie Johnston did,” Angotti said.
What about you? I wondered. Would any coach have done what you did?
“I don't think so,” he said. “I'm convinced of that. I don't think anybody would have put their jobs on the line like we did.”
What, precisely, did Angotti do? He said he would put the wrong players on the ice in special teams situations or send his fourth liners out against stars. He said he once pulled starting goalie Roberto Romano in a game the Penguins were winning and wound up with a valuable loss.
“It was tough waking up in the morning,” Angotti said. “It didn't make me feel very good. It was far more strenuous trying to figure out (how to lose) than it would be trying to play a normal game. I remember we got a penalty, and I sent out two players I wouldn't normally put out there. One player yelled to me, ‘Louie, what the hell are you doing?' It was almost an ongoing thing.
“If the game started off badly, there wasn't much for me to do. It was the games where we were competitive and looked like we were going to win where I was in position to put us in a position to lose. The only thing you could do is manipulate your bench, use whatever you had on the bench to put yourself in a position to lose.
“I can honestly say the players who came to work every day gave all they had. That was the tough part. I was playing against them. It was me against them, them against me. They were trying to go out and win, and I was using them to lose.”
Wow. Take that in. If you find it tough to digest, as I do, consider the likely alternative: Pittsburgh with no Penguins. Two more wins, and that very likely would be the case. I read that quote to Gary Rissling, a small, rugged winger from the '83-84 team, a player in the Lou Angotti mold.
Rissling paused and said, “Did Louie say that?”
I assured him he did.
“If Louie said that,” Rissling said, “then it's pretty much the truth.”
Though he remains close to Johnston, the two visiting in Florida from time to time, Angotti never has returned to Pittsburgh. He has turned down invites to coaches' reunions and the like. His memories of this place hurt too much — and the pain is about way more than losing games. He lost the older of his two sons, Jeffrey, to a car accident during training camp in 1983.
Rissling maintains a healthy respect for Angotti.
“Lou was a very good coach in the minors,” Rissling said. “And when he played, he was like me — 5-foot-nothing with a big heart. Louie doesn't like losing. E.J. doesn't like losing. These are guys who played when hockey was six teams. They know what it takes to win.”
And they knew what it took to lose: a combination of foresight and rare fortitude. So keep a kind thought for Lou Angotti during your post-Cup revelry, won't you?
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at jraystarkey@gmail.com.

Drive-by interview with a Stanley Cup-carrying Sidney Crosby


Scott BurnsideESPN Senior Writerhttp://espn.go.com/nhl/June 22, 2016

Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV -- You know it’s especially easy to be graceful about not winning the Hart Trophy as league MVP when you know you've been able to carry the big mug called the Stanley Cup into the annual league awards ceremony.
And so it was for Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who lost out on the Hart to Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, but certainly seemed in good spirits after the awards ceremony.
Here are some random thoughts from Crosby on winning the Cup a second time, bringing it home again to Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, and playing againstConnor McDavid in the World Cup of Hockey.
On having a second go-round with the Cup and the first days with it since defeating the San Jose Sharks in Game 6: "Honestly, it’s been pretty similar. Went to a lot of the same places. The parade, everything that comes along with it. I think if anything you just, like I said before, [have more] appreciation for it. Trying to soak up every second. I think you have to remind yourself to do that a bit because I don't think I necessarily did a great job with that first time around."
On Kane’s season and not winning the Hart: "He had an incredible season. Just that [scoring] streak that he had. From start to finish, he was very deserving of it. Coming in, you know with the different awards and things like that, you kind of had a hunch, and I thought with the season that he had, same with Jamie [Benn, fellow Hart nominee], had a great year too. I figured that just being in the conversation was nice, but I was kind of expecting Kane to get it."
On Penguins GM Jim Rutherford being honored as GM of the Year: "It’s great. You look at what he was able to do, the moves he made. Really, just having a plan and knowing kind of what our identity needed to be for us to be successful. He didn't kind of deviate, he just kind of stuck with his plan. The result was us winning, so I think he deserves a lot of credit for what he was able to do and putting the group together. I’m really happy for him."
On trying to top the emotional homecoming he had with the Stanley Cup in 2009 in Cole Harbour: "I don't if I'm going to try. It was pretty special. With going to the shipyards and the whole military side of things. It was incredible. Going up in the helicopter, bringing the Cup in that way. I think second time around, those memories are unique and special; you don’t try to repeat them necessarily, you just try to reach as many people as you can, and that’s what I’ll do for a couple of days as best as I can."
On perhaps having a street named after him back home in Nova Scotia: "It's a compliment. Definitely something that I don’t think that necessarily needs to be done, but like I said, it’s a compliment if they feel that strongly and want to do it, then that means a lot to me. I think about Cole Harbour all the time: My friends back there and growing up there and everything that came along with that, so it’s a special place to me, so that would certainly mean a lot, but by no means is it necessary."
On similarities between him and rookie of the year nominee Connor McDavid: "Pretty similar. When you look at the attention and the expectations coming in. Different things he’s gone through. I think just the confidence and his ability early on. I hope that people saw that in me, but I certainly see it in him. I think that it's pretty apparent that he's a special player, and with his injury it was pretty tough, but he's going to dominate a lot of games, I think."
Thoughts about playing against him and the rest of the kids on Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey: "Yeah, it's going to be fast. Every single one of them can skate. If you look at them, if you look at that list of guys, it's probably some of the top skaters in the league. Fast skaters. So it's going to be entertaining hockey. Might be some chasing around going on out there. It'll be interesting. I think fans are going to love it. I think it's going to be great hockey."

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Penguins want first-round pick as Calgary Flames bid to acquire proven starting goaltender


BY CALGARY SUN
June 20, 2016
Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes a save against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins makes a save against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

And then there was one.
One NHL team looking hard for a starting goalie.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs giving up a first-round pick (30th) and a second rounder next year to acquire Frederik Andersen from Anaheim Monday, the Calgary Flames are the only team left with a gaping hole between the pipes.
Somebody better tell Jim Rutherford.
Otherwise, the Pittsburgh Penguins GM is going to lose out on the opportunity to get something of considerable value for goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Calgary Sun has learned Rutherford is asking for the Flames’ first round draft pick for Fleury — yes, the sixth pick overall at Friday’s NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo.
It’s not going to happen, nor should it.
Fact is, Fleury’s value started declining heavily the minute the Andersen trade was made and will continue to drop as the Flames explore several other options such as Blues goalie Brian Elliott or unrestricted free agent James Reimer.
That said, the Flames are still interested in acquiring Fleury.
Surely it was explained to Rutherford late Monday that Fleury is five years older and more expensive than Andersen, who is a whole lot bigger than Fleury.
Jury is out on who’s better.
The Flames wanted in on Andersen and made what they thought was a comparable offer to Toronto’s. Calgary owns the 35th pick, which was in play for Andersen.
However, in the end, the Ducks didn’t want to trade the 26-year-old goalie to a division rival. Fair enough.
Back to Fleury.
The Penguins need to trade the 31-year-old, who has every right to have his nose out of joint after watching rookie Matt Murray backstop the Penguins to the club’s fourth Stanley Cup last week.
With Murray now clearly the Penguins goalie of the future, the club now has to figure out how best to avoid a goalie conflict next year while also ensuring the team gets something of significance for Fleury before he’s exposed at the expansion draft next summer and lost for nothing.
More importantly, the Penguins are already $2.5 million over last year’s $71.4 million salary cap — a cap which is expected to be reduced next year, further hurting the Pens.
Rutherford can alleviate those problems by trading Fleury before the end of the weekend while the Flames are still keen to address their most pressing need.
Or the Flames will move on to other options.
It’s certainly a buyer’s market.
Fleury, now a two-time Stanley Cup champion, is slated to make $5.75 each of the next three seasons — a luxury the Penguins can’t afford given the 22-year-old Murray will be a restricted free agent in line for a massive payday next summer.
The Flames can easily fit Fleury’s cap hit into their payroll, as a backup like Joni Ortio will make well under $1 million if re-signed as an RFA and would only have to play 15-20 games behind the workhorse veteran.
Fleury is one of the most durable and winningest NHL goalies the last 11 years — a perfect fit for a Flames team that needs a proven starter to go with a budding young team that missed the playoffs miserably due, in large part, to netminding.
If the Flames return from Buffalo Sunday night without their starter, fans should start to get very worried, unless they are big Reimer fans.
Rutherford is on record saying “in a perfect world” he’d start the season with Murray and Fleury on his roster, but that’s not realistic.
Or prudent.
The Flames would likely be happy to part with a middle-of-the-road prospect and one of their two second-round picks for Fleury. Or perhaps a second rounder each of the next two years.
That price is only going to go down as time passes.
Tampa Bay stud Ben Bishop is a pipe dream who will command in the neighborhood of $7 or $8 million on the open market next summer and the jury is still out on whether Reimer can carry the load with success.
Fleury has a limited no-trade clause and has already identified the list of 12 teams he won’t agree to play for. He’s smart enough to know Calgary gives him the opportunity to be a No. 1 goalie and demonstrate he’s still world class.
Elliott is also a very real possibility for the Flames as he can’t be happy the way the Blues have handled him the last few years, with Jake Allen clearly the future starter.
At $2.5 million this year before the 31-year-old hits unrestricted free agency, he’s a great stop-gap measure who has a chance at being re-signed if the fit is right.
A deal to bring Fleury to Calgary is there for the making as soon as Rutherford realizes it’s now or never, in terms of dealing with the Flames.
Only one team values Fleury and the salary he’d come with.
ericfrancis@shaw.ca
@EricFrancis