NHL Insider Pierre LeBrun revealed that the Dallas Stars and the Pittsburgh Penguins have initiated talks about the future of Marc-Andre Fleury.  These two teams are realistic trading partners. The Stars desperately need a goaltender and the Penguins will be likely forced to move either Marc-Andre Fleury or Matt Murray before next season.

The Potential Trade:

The Penguins would presumably get either Antti Niemi or Kari Lehtonen in return. Salary would have to be retained for either player. It is unknown if the Dallas Stars are willing to sweeten the pot with draft picks (probably) or an upgrade to the Penguins blueline like Johnny Oduya (unlikely).  The key to this potential trade is timing. Is this a trade that will be made this season before the deadline? Or will this be a trade that is made in the offseason before the expansion draft?

Question 1:

The key to understanding this trade is to get into the mind of elder statesman and general manager of the Penguins, Mr. Jim Rutherford. The first question that needs to be answered is, “Are the Penguins contenders this season for the Stanley Cup?” The answer is, unequivocally, yes.

Question 2:

“Will the Penguins be able to win the Stanley Cup with Matt Murray alone in net?” The answer here is, maybe. Murray is a strong goaltender and last year has shown he is capable of leading his team to the Stanley Cup. However, what if Murray is injured? Tristian Jarry is a fine young goaltender, but would he be ready for the spotlight the way Murray was last season? The answer here is probably, no. Having Fleury as a backup is an excellent insurance policy against a Murray injury, but it also is very expensive.

There are really four outcomes for GM Rutherford at this point:

Option 1: Keep both goaltenders through the season and win the Stanley Cup. The return on Fleury might be less in the offseason or he might have to be bought out. However, consequences be damned, no one would have a right to complain. They still would, of course.

Option 2: The Penguins win the Cup with Matt Murray and without Fleury. The Penguins likely will maximize their return for Fleury. People will complain and be sad about seeing the Flower get his walking papers.  All in all, a positive outcome ultimately.

Option 3: The Penguins do not win the Cup, yet both goaltenders are kept for the duration of the season. Rutherford does nothing with Fleury until after the season. This is a safe move.

Option 4: The Penguins do not win the Cup, Fleury is traded before the playoffs. This represents the greatest risk. Jarry or whomever Fleury’s replacement is could potentially play for the Pens in the playoffs. Is the need to maximize the return for Fleury so great that it justifies the idea of Niemi blowing a playoff game in Pittsburgh?  Probably not.

Essentially what Rutherford needs to decide is; which of option 3 or 4 is most palatable. Option 3 is safer, and generally results in a more favorable outcome. If the Penguins were going to trade Fleury before the playoffs, they would have moved him already. Fleury will be playing the season in Pittsburgh. There is no rush to move him until the season is over. Pierre LeBrun’s news of talks does little to change the position the Pens held before the season started and will likely continue to hold until the season is over. Fleury is a Penguin until 2017-2018.

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