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Penguins know they could lose Murray or Fleury

Potential expansion draft likely would mean Pittsburgh could protect one goalie

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

LAS VEGAS -- General manager Jim Rutherford's ideal scenario for the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins is to have goalies Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury on the roster and splitting starts on a 50-50 basis next season. 

"If we start the season with both those guys we'll certainly have our goaltending covered," Rutherford said. 

But Rutherford knows that might not be the best scenario for the Penguins' future because of the potential for an expansion draft next summer, if the NHL Board of Governors votes to grant a team to Las Vegas during its meeting Wednesday prior to the NHL Awards show at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, Sportsnet).

If Las Vegas is granted a team, it's expected that the other 30 teams will be allowed to withhold one goalie from being exposed in the expansion draft. The rules are also expected to stipulate that players with "no movement" clauses in their contracts must be protected. 

Fleury's contract carries a no-movement clause, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, meaning Rutherford would be compelled to protect him unless Fleury agrees to waive the clause so he can be left exposed in the expansion draft.

Video: Rutherford talks to the media at the NHL Awards

Such a scenario would put the Penguins in a difficult position because it would mean they would likely have to leave Murray exposed, and considering he'd be 23 and coming off of his entry-level contract next summer, he would be a prime candidate to be selected by Las Vegas.

Murray, who won 15 games in leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup championship, would be the preferred choice for Rutherford to protect from an expansion draft, which increases the possibility that he would feel compelled to try to trade Fleury before the end of next season.

Fleury, 31, is signed for three more seasons with an annual salary cap charge of $5.75 million. The Calgary Flames, who need a No. 1 goaltender, have reached out to the Penguins to inquire about a trade for Fleury, according to the Calgary Sun.

"I'm just trying to take it a step at a time here," said Rutherford, who is a finalist for the General Manager of the Year Award. "I'm not aggressively out trying to trade one of our goalies. On one hand we're in good shape from a goalie point of view, but on the other hand we might have to make a tough decision at some point."

"There's a lot of things to think about right now," he said later.

Among them is experience, which is a big reason why Rutherford is uncertain about the potential of trying to trade Fleury.

Although Murray led the Penguins to the Stanley Cup, he has not played a full NHL season. He started 13 games in the regular season and wasn't on the roster on full time until March.

Fleury is entering his 13th NHL season. He has 357 wins in 653 appearances. 

"Fleury is a franchise goalie," Rutherford said. "You don't find any better team guy or any better guy than him. And Murray is just getting started in the League."

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm5: Fleury robs Johnson with stellar save

Fleury is also coming off one of his best seasons. He was 35-17-6 with a .921 save percentage and 2.29 goals-against average last season. Murray played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs because Fleury was out with a concussion he sustained on March 31.

Rutherford, though, credited Fleury for getting the Penguins to the playoffs, and specifically for carrying them through the first two months of the season, before the GM brought in coach Mike Sullivan to replace Mike Johnston and Pittsburgh started playing better in front of the goalie.

"Marc is a proven goalie," Rutherford said. "In Matt's case, he hasn't even played a full year. We think very highly of him. We believe he's going to have a very good career. To this point his pro career has been great, but he hasn't played a full season yet and we are a little cautious of that.

"But on the other side of it, when we get to the expansion draft, which will roll around real quick, we're going to have to be real careful with what we do. In a perfect world, having both goalies to start the season would be ideal."

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