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.
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.