The Pens officially opened training camp for the 2016-17 season on Friday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. There are certainly many storylines with several key players (and the head coach) missing due to participation in the World Cup of Hockey, as well as that whole defending the Stanley Cup thing.
We'll roll out a daily look at the 5 most intriguing items to keep an eye on in training camp.
1. Goalie Tandem
2. Sixth Man
3. Forward Competition
4. Special Teams
Let's start between the pipes. The Pens are one of the most fortunate teams in the NHL having two legitimate starting (and Stanley Cup-winning) goaltenders on their roster in Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray. No other team in the league can make that claim. In fact, some teams don't even have one legit starter.
Obviously having great depth in the most important position will only make the Pens a stronger team (for more on that read my previous story here).
There are many questions that can only be answered as the season progresses, such as how the playing time will be split between the two men and the working rotation.
Fleury, 31, is used to shouldering a heavy load in his career - playing over 60 games during the regular season on seven occasions. But Fleury could benefit from playing fewer games both from a physical and mental exhaustion standpoint.
Meanwhile, Murray has split playing time the past two seasons (40 games in 2014-15 with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and 53 in 2015-16 between WBS and Pittsburgh). It would be a lot to ask a 22-year-old to handle a huge workload (not that he isn't capable of doing so, it was also a lot to ask a 22-year-old to win a Stanley Cup). But Murray won't have the pressure of being "The Guy" and can concentrate instead on his own game and development over the course of the season.
Both Fleury and Murray will benefit from splitting time. How that rotation will play out is anyone's guess. Many factors could alter any preset plans, such as hot streaks and/or injuries (knock on wood for the former and not the latter). It will be a work in progress as the season goes along and the final answer won't be known until 82 games have been played.
One question that can be answered now is how both men will handle splitting the duties. As we saw during the 2016 Stanley Cup championship run, they'll both handle it humbly and professionally.
Both players have a lot of respect and admiration for each other. Murray has repeatedly talked about how Fleury acted as a mentor and helped him mentally handle the demands of a long playoff run. Fleury, on the other hand, instead of griping about his role, put the success of the team above himself.
"(Fleury) was a big emotional support guy for me the whole playoff run," Murray said last week while in Pittsburgh playing for Team North America of the World Cup of Hockey. "He was a big part of the reason I was able to stay relaxed and focused because he would crack a joke at the right time or give me advice when I needed it. He's done it. He's one of the best in the world."
Having the best goaltender in franchise history and the best young goaltender in the NHL on the same roster is a blessing for everyone, including the two men that wear the masks.
"It's good for the team. Both guys can play, can win," Fleury said. "The bottom line is winning games. It doesn't matter who's in the net."
Tomorrow we'll look at the battle on the blue line to be the team's sixth defenseman.