A month ago, Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford cautioned against the presumption veteran goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury could be traded this season. Despite the 31-year-old's no-movement clause and its complications for the Penguins in next June's expansion draft, Rutherford said he wanted to see how things play out with Fleury and Matt Murray.
Under the expansion draft rules, teams can only protect one goalie in the expansion draft. The rules also stipulate players with no-movement clauses, such as Fleury, must be protected unless they agree to waive the clause.
Fleury played well to start the season, especially when Murray missed several weeks with a hand injury. But he's struggled of late, with a bloated 3.19 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage. The 22-year-old Murray, meanwhile, looked sharp in his return, winning six of seven starts with a 1.57 GAA and .945 SP.
TSN's Pierre LeBrun believes Rutherford will listen to offers for Fleury at some point before the March 1 trade deadline. He feels there's not enough room for the Pens to carry two No.1 netminders, and they don't want to leave Murray exposed in the expansion draft.
Despite Fleury's no-movement clause and $5.75-million cap hit through 2018-19, several clubs could pursue his services at the trade deadline.
During the off-season, the Dallas Stars were thought to have interest in Fleury and Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop. While the Stars carry Kari Lehtonen ($5.9 million) and Antti Niemi ($4.5 million), perhaps they'll try to swap one of them for Fleury. Rutherford could then leave Lehtonen or Niemi exposed in the draft and protect Murray.
Prior to the Calgary Flames acquiring Brian Elliott last June from the St. Louis Blues, they reportedly contacted the Penguins about Fleury. With Elliott struggling this season and eligible for UFA status in July, perhaps the Flames could be a fit if the Pens take back an additional salary.
With Steve Mason struggling and Michal Neuvirth on the shelf, the Philadelphia Flyers could use some help between the pipes. However, Rutherford probably won't ship Fleury to the Penguins' long-time rival.
Rutherford isn't under pressure to trade Fleury right now. Indeed, he could stick with his tandem into the playoffs and hope to work out a solution for his goaltending before the expansion draft. He could attempt to cut a side deal with the Vegas Golden Knights to ensure Murray isn't selected if he can't move Fleury via trade.
Going that route, however, won't leave Rutherford much time to swing a deal. While Fleury has a no-movement clause, he also carries a partial no-trade clause, listing 18 preferred destinations. That will also hamper Rutherford's efforts. Rivals with interest in Fleury could squeeze Rutherford to include a high draft pick or a promising young player in the deal.
Moving Fleury by the trade deadline, however, could also leave Rutherford scrambling to find an experienced backup for Murray. However, that could be easier to accomplish than trying to move Fleury within a limited time frame next June.
COYOTES' STONE ON THE BLOCK
Arizona Coyotes' forwards Martin Hanzal and Anthony Duclair recently became the focus of media-generated trade chatter. Now there's speculation swirling about one of their defensemen.
The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson recently took to Twitter saying Coyotes blueliner Michael Stone could be available. The 26-year-old is under a one-year, $4-million contract. Like Hanzal, he's eligible next July for unrestricted free agency.
Stone tallied a career-best 36 points in 2015-16. He possesses good size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and a right-handed shot. He's also had some injury woes over the past year. He missed the final seven games of last season to a knee injury, and only recently returned from an upper-body injury.
Matheson wonders if the Oilers could be interested in Stone. Should he remain healthy and regain his offensive form, several teams could make inquiries about his availability.
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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