Mike Buckley and Matt Murray go way back.
Buckley spent the past four seasons as the Pens goalie development coach, and spent a lot of time with Murray. The duo has worked on Murray's game and development.
The results speak for themselves.
Murray, 23, has rewritten the National Hockey League record books, becoming the first goaltender in history to win two Stanley Cup championships as a rookie. He's also the first goalie to start in Cup-clinching games in his first two seasons.
And Buckley has been there every step of the way. He held constant communication with Murray throughout his journey and made occasional in-person visits to work on film or technique.
"He is a very smart kid so he picks up on stuff very quickly. He adapts to things very quickly," Buckley said. "He's a good communicator. I know that anything I tell him he will do. It's a really good relationship."
Now, Buckley and Murray will be working together on a day-to-day basis. Buckley was named the Pens new goalie coach and will be in Pittsburgh on a full-time basis.
"It's a perfect scenario. You work with a goalie that you have trust in, and he has trust in you," Buckley said. "It just makes your job that much easier.
"I'm pretty excited. It's an easy transition. I've worked with Matt for a long time and worked with the coaches here for a while. That's what makes it a nice, smooth transition. I'm not going to a new organization or anything like that. I'm pretty comfortable."
Now that the Vegas Golden Knights have taken Marc-Andre Fleury in the expansion draft, Murray is the undisputed franchise goalie in Pittsburgh. He will carry the bulk of the load in the 2017-18 season.
Although Murray has already reached such a high level of play, Buckley will work with him to maintain his caliber of play.
"In terms of working on technique and stuff like that, that's all down. He's got a good structure to his game," Buckley said. "It's more about maintaining it during the season. In the off-season we may make some tweaks here and there. But during the season it's just maintenance and getting better everyday."
Murray will join Buckley in mid-August to begin training preparation for the season. In the meantime, he's relaxing at his home in Thunder Bay, Ontario. But when the time comes, he'll be ready.
"He knows what he needs to do," Buckley said. "He's very mature for his age. No worries there."
Despite having a new role with the team, Buckley still wants to remain heavily involved with all the goaltending prospects in the organization.
"Definitely. I think it would be hard not to," he said. "I've built such a relationship with these guys."
ODDS AND ENDS
*With the departure of Fleury, the Pens are in the market for a backup goaltender for next season. One goaltender that the team could consider is Tristan Jarry, a second-round pick (44th overall) in 2013.
Buckley believes that Jarry could handle the backup duties and play games in the NHL, though the team would prefer to see Jarry have another year of experience at the American Hockey League level.
"For sure, he's definitely ready," Buckley said. "It's always best to give him more time. That's what we're going to do. We're going to give him another year, possibly in the American League. Maybe he's ready by the time camp comes and we have a different path for him. Right now I think he's ready. I think he could step in and play games if needed to."
*The Pens' desired plan of action is to sign a veteran free agent goaltender to serve as Murray's backup. Buckley will play an advisory role with management, sharing his assessment of which free agents would be a good fit with the Pens.
"There are a limited number of guys so we have to do our due diligence, learn their background, study film on them, make sure they'll fit in our system of play," he said. "There is a process to it."