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Matt Murray signs three-year contract with Penguins

Goalie helped Pittsburgh win 2016 Stanley Cup as rookie

by Wes Crosby / Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Goalie Matt Murray signed a three-year contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.

The contract begins next season and has an average annual value of $3.75 million. Murray, 22, could have become a restricted free agent on July 1.

"I'm thrilled, obviously," Murray said. "Pittsburgh is a great place to play. You hear that a lot. [Penguins captain Sidney Crosby] was talking about how guys from Canada were kind of jealous of our facilities and our city. So, it's a great place to play and anybody in their right mind would want to be here.

"It's awesome and I'm really thrilled."

General manager Jim Rutherford said the Penguins began discussing a contract with Murray during training camp.

"It's not something we felt we had to get done within a week," Rutherford said. "We knew it would have to go through the process. I think it's good for Matt and good for the Penguins to get it done. It's not something that's on his mind in a contract year and we're very happy to have him in the fold for three years.

"We have a young goalie who has had a very good career. He won a Stanley Cup and played extremely well, and we feel he has a bright future ahead and a long future ahead of him."

Murray replaced Marc-Andre Fleury after the veteran goalie sustained his second concussion in four months on March 31. After recovering from an upper-body injury that kept him out of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the New York Rangers, Murray helped the Penguins win the Stanley Cup for a fourth time by defeating the San Jose Sharks in the 2016 Stanley Cup Final.

Fleury, Pittsburgh's franchise goaltender of the past decade, was Murray's backup 16 times during its run after returning from his concussion. Murray won 15 of 21 Stanley Cup Playoff starts, which tied an NHL record with Patrick Roy (1986), Ron Hextall (1987) and Cam Ward (2006) for most postseason wins by a rookie.

Murray had a 2.08 goals-against average and .923 save percentage in the playoffs. Fleury has won two of four starts this season with a 2.94 GAA and .914 save percentage.

Rutherford said signing Murray does not guarantee Fleury will be traded.

"The focus seems to be on what happens with Marc-Andre, but let's let this play itself out first," Rutherford said. "Let's not presume that Marc is automatically out, OK? He's been the franchise goalie here. He is a terrific person. He is a terrific player. I think [with] that assumption we're getting a little bit ahead of ourselves.

"Let's let the two guys play it out. We'll see where that goes. If, in fact, it needs to be a decision on Marc-Andre, there are several options of dealing with that, as far as the expansion draft goes."

Fleury and Murray were expected to compete for the starting role entering this season before Murray broke his right (blocker) hand playing for Team North America in a 4-3 loss to Team Russia during the World Cup of Hockey 2016 on Sept. 19. He had recently skated before practices with Crosby, who is recovering from a concussion sustained Oct. 7, before returning to an optional practice Wednesday.

Murray participated in the morning skate before the game against the Sharks at PPG Paints Arena on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; ROOT, CSN-CA, NHL.TV). 

With Fleury performing well, Murray, who continues to wear a splint on his right thumb, has said he doesn't feel pressured to rush back prematurely and is attempting to remain patient in his recovery. There remains no timeframe for his return.

"I'm just trying to push myself in practice right now to see how it feels," Murray said. "Not just that day, but the day after, it can flare up. So, I pushed it really hard yesterday and today, it felt pretty good when I woke up this morning."

The Penguins have expressed confidence in each goalie. Coach Mike Sullivan said the new contract will help Murray focus on his game.

"I think it's great for him," Sullivan said. "It's great for us. He's obviously a quality player. I think the fact that he can put the business side of the game behind him and just focus on hockey and play hockey is great for him. So, from our standpoint, we're thrilled to having him under contract and we're looking forward to getting him back in the lineup here at some point."

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