The Penguins and Red Wings have capable goaltending duos, but the younger goaltenders are ready to take over for their veteran counterparts. Meanwhile, the Lightning have to decide how to proceed with free agent-to-be Ben Bishop.
Prior to the NHL Draft in late-June, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was the subject of considerable trade speculation. Having lost the starter’s job to Matt Murray in the playoffs, reports claimed the long-time Penguins netminder could hit the trade block. At one point, the 31-year-old was linked to the Calgary Flames.
The Flames, however, opted to acquire the more-affordable Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues at the draft. Over the course of the summer, Fleury’s name largely faded from the rumor mill. However, Murray’s rise to prominence and the fact the Penguins can only protect one goalie in next June’s expansion draft will ensure Fleury’s future remains a topic of interest in this season’s trade market.
TSN’s Bob McKenzie doesn’t expect Penguins management will attempt to move Fleury before the start of the season. He feels they’ll want more time, perhaps even up to the trade deadline (Feb. 28) to see how their goaltending shakes out.
McKenzie also notes Fleury’s no-movement clause could also affect his trade status. However, if approached with an opportunity to play for a club where he’ll be the starter, he could waive it. Fleury must submit a list of 18 preferred trade destinations.
Players carrying no-movement clauses must be protected in the expansion draft, unless they’re willing to waive it. The Penguins are unlikely to leave the promising young Murray available, as he would be certain to be scooped up by the Las Vegas franchise. The preferable option is trading Fleury to a team of his choosing.
Fleury, meanwhile, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Jonathan Bombulie he had a good meeting with Penguins management this summer. He also said he never requested a trade and wishes he could play his entire career in Pittsburgh. However, Fleury acknowledged that he’ll have to wait and see how things go over the course of this season.
HOWARD COULD BE UNPROTECTED COME EXPANSION
The Detroit Red Wings could also face a choice between two goalies in 2016-17. Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek will once again be their goalie tandem. The Wings have nearly $9.3 million invested in the duo, who struggled with inconsistency in 2015-16.
Howard, 32, was the subject of trade conjecture this summer. Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press reports the Wings explored trading the veteran netminder, but his contract (three years remaining) and cap hit ($5.29-million AAV) proved difficult to move.
St. James expects the Wings will stick with their current goaltenders this season and perhaps leave Howard exposed in next June’s expansion draft. If Howard shows improvement, it could also improve their efforts to trade him.
BISHOP’S CONTRACT STILL AN ISSUE FOR BOLTS
Meanwhile, Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times included goaltender Ben Bishop among a list of players Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman could move to free up salary to re-sign winger Nikita Kucherov. The Lightning have around $6.2 million in cap space, and it could cost up to $6 million annually to re-sign the 23-year-old Kucherov. Yzmerna must also re-sign RFA blueliner Nikita Nesterov, which will push him over the $73-million cap ceiling.
Sidelined forward Ryan Callahan ($5.8 million) will start the season on long-term injured reserve, providing Yzerman with some short-term cap relief. However, the Bolts GM be forced to clear some payroll before Callahan returns in late-November.
Bishop carries a $5.9-million cap hit for this season. He’s eligible next summer for unrestricted free agency. With promising Andrei Vasilevskiy signed through 2019-20 and the high cost of re-signing the 29-year-old Bishop, he seems the likely trade candidate.
However, Yzerman has also suggested he could keep his goalie tandem intact for the coming season, as it could improve the Lightning’s Stanley Cup chances. Smith also mentioned center Valtteri Filppula ($5-million cap hit, no-movement clause) and defenseman Jason Garrison ($4.6 million, no-trade clause) as other trade options.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.). For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.