As 2017 approaches, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury remains a fixture in the NHL rumor mill. With the expansion draft on the horizon and Matt Murray supplanting Fleury as the Penguins starter, it's assumed the 32-year-old netminder will be on the move before the March 1 trade deadline.
Potential trade destinations are limited right now, while Fleury's modified no-trade clause is an additional hindrance. The Dallas Stars could be one option, but they must first move either Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi.
The St. Louis Blues are another possibility. As of Dec. 30, the tandem of Jake Allen and Carter Hutton have a 2.92 goals-against per game, ranking among the league's bottom third. TSN's Darren Dreger, in a Wednesday appearance on NBCSN, acknowledges the Blues remain wedded to the 26-year-old Allen as their starter. He wonders, however, if they might pursue Fleury if they feel they're on the cusp of Stanley Cup contention.
Allen's new four-year, $17.4-million contract begins in 2017-18, while Fleury ($5.75-million cap hit) is signed through 2018-19. It's doubtful the latter will accept a trade to a club where he'll be in a backup role. The Blues also carry less than $1 million in cap space. Either they shed salary in a side deal to clear room for Fleury or the Penguins retain part of his cap hit.
A lack of skilled depth at center is a bigger issue for the Blues. If they opt to go shopping before the March 1 trade deadline, it'll likely be to address that problem.
PANTHERS SEEKING BOOST UP FRONT
With Florida Panthers president of hockey operations Dale Tallon recently resuming some control over the club's management, it's assumed he could attempt to shake up the roster in the near future. On Dec. 14, TSN's Darren Dreger speculated Tallon could look at adding some pieces following the holiday roster freeze period.
With the freeze now lifted, Dreger's colleague Pierre LeBrun believes the Panthers are worth watching in the trade market. Given the high expectations for the club entering this season, he feels the Panthers’ organization isn't happy with their current position outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
LeBrun didn't specify which areas Tallon might target, but offense is the biggest concern. Averaging 2.32 goals-per-game, the Panthers are among the league's lowest-scoring teams. Injuries are the biggest reason behind the Panthers' offensive woes. Notable scorers such as Jonathan Huberdeau, Nick Bjugstad, Jussi Jokinen, Jonathan Marchessault and Rielly Smith were sidelined at various times this season. Huberdeau, 23, isn't expected to return from a torn Achilles until mid-January.
Tallon could wait another month before making a trade, allowing for Huberdeau's return and to give his club a few more weeks to reverse their fortunes. But if they continue to struggle, his hand could be forced.
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.