The Stars could again be seeking an upgrade in goal with Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi struggling, and Penguins veteran Marc-Andre Fleury could be the perfect fit. Meanwhile, the Sabres aren’t about to give up on Zemgus Girgensons.
At some point before the March 1 NHL trade deadline, the Pittsburgh Penguins are expected to trade goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Because NHL teams can only protect one goalie in next June’s expansion draft, it’s assumed the Penguins will ask Fleury to waive his no-movement clause. By trading the 32-year-old veteran, they can protect young netminder Matt Murray in the expansion draft.
Despite weeks of speculation, however, Fleury remains a Penguin. With the upcoming holiday trade freeze starting at midnight ET on Dec. 19, there’s little indication he will be moving before then.
A week ago, TSN’s Darren Dreger reported Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford had yet to receive a trade offer for Fleury. Dreger believed Rutherford would listen if a pitch comes his way. It’s doubtful he’ll get an offer before the calendar turns to 2017.
Dreger’s colleague Bob McKenzie suggested if Fleury agrees to a trade, he’ll only want to be moved once. His preference could be to join a team where he’ll be the clear-cut starter, giving him the opportunity to finish his contract – and perhaps his career – with that new club. He’s currently signed through 2018-19 at an annual average value of $5.75 million.
Last June, it was reported the Calgary Flames explored the possibility of acquiring Fleury, but Rutherford’s asking price was too high. The Flames subsequently acquired Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues and signed Chad Johnson via free agency.
It’s unlikely the Flames will revisit their earlier interest in Fleury. While Elliott’s struggled in Calgary, Johnson is thriving and could net himself a new contract with the Flames.
The Dallas Stars could be an option. Their current tandem of Kari Lehtonen ($5.9-million annual average salary) and Antti Niemi ($4.5 million) have a combined league-worst goals-against per game of 3.20. Both carry no-trade clauses but perhaps one can be persuaded to accept a deal.
Given the struggles this season of Semyon Varlamov ($5.9 million), the Colorado Avalanche could be in the market for a new starter. The Vancouver Canucks might show some interest later this season if they ship out current starter and pending unrestricted free agent Ryan Miller.
One of those clubs could be on Fleury’s list of preferred trade destinations. The Stars could be the best bet. A swap of Fleury for Niemi might work best for both clubs. Dallas picks up an upgrade between the pipes, while the Penguins shed some salary and get an experienced backup they can leave unprotected in the expansion draft.
GIRGENSONS STILL HAS SABRES’ SUPPORT
Since last summer, Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane was a frequent subject of trade speculation. That talk has died down of late, but another Sabres forward could be attracting interest from other clubs.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports some teams are inquiring into the status of Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons. The 22-year-old’s playing time has declined, along with his production. From a career-best 30 points in 61 games in 2014-15, Girgensons managed only 18 points last season and has only five in 27 games this season.
A first-round pick (14th overall) in 2012, the 6-foot-1, 203-pound Girgensons has good size and plays a physical two-way game. The young Latvian saw considerably more playing time two seasons ago on a depleted Sabres lineup under then-coach Ted Nolan. He’s now struggling on a deeper Sabres lineup under bench boss Dan Bylsma.
Girgensons might benefit from a change of scenery, but the Sabres don’t appear keen to part with him. Friedman said they aren’t selling low as they still believe in him.
The Sabres are need of scoring punch and blueline depth. They’ll likely want a good young forward or defenseman for Girgensons.
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.).
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