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The Inside Scoop: Locker Room Cleanout

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins


The Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2015-16 season is now officially over.

On Thursday the team held Locker Room Cleanout Day. The players packed their gear and belongings and said their goodbyes.

Here are some notables from the day…

2-GOALIE TANDEM
The Pens have two excellent goaltenders on their roster in Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray. Fleury is the longest tenured player on the team and the franchise’s all-time leader in wins and shutouts.

Meanwhile, Murray is the best young goaltender in the game. At just 22 years old, Murray already led the Pens to a Stanley Cup title while his 15 playoff wins tied Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy and Cam Ward for the most by a rookie tender.

“It’s a great situation that we have good goalies, but it could be a tough situation going forward,” general manager Jim Rutherford said. “In a perfect world if (head coach Mike Sullivan) were making a decision right now we’d like to start the season with Fleury and Murray.”

Something the Pens will have to keep in mind is that they are tightly against the salary cap (Fleury, $5.75 million; Murray, 620k) and there will likely be an expansion draft. Plus, they have to take into account the feelings of the two tenders.

“I have not met with Marc yet to see what he’s feeling. I have not seen the expansion guidelines yet. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself,” Rutherford said.

However, if both goaltenders are on the roster at the start of next season, Rutherford has no reservations about the two men remaining true professionals.

“I’m not as concerned about how (Fleury is) going to handle it because I already saw it, and I know him very well,” Rutherford said. “He is about as good a pro as you can find in any sport. Through this playoff run it had to be very difficult for him to sit there. He handled the situation so well.

“Regardless of how this plays out he’ll handle it very well going forward.”

Murray told reporters that he doesn’t expect to begin the 2016-17 season as the team’s starter.

“I have no expectations,” Murray said. “I had no expectations this year. That’s just how I live my life. I just take things as they come. With hockey I just play and compete when I’m out there. The rest takes care of itself.”

Murray gave Fleury a lot of credit for his own development.

“I don’t where I would be if ‘Flower’ weren’t around here to guide me through this and give me advice along the way,” Murray said. “He helped me stay calm under pressure and have fun with it along the way. He’s a huge mentor to me.”

ELBOW ROOM
Center Evgeni Malkin played the entire postseason with an elbow injury.

“Most guys play with injuries,” Malkin said. “I played OK, but I feel very good.”

Malkin will have an MRI conducted on the elbow to determine whether or not surgery will be required.

Rutherford put the chances of surgery at 50-50.

“This is a guy that had a real serious injury that played before most guys would have played, and made a contribution to the team,” Rutherford said. “It shows his character. It was pretty impressive.”

BONINO FEVER
Nick Bonino had an infection in his elbow that he was battling through during the Final, as well as a fever.

“After Game 3 of the Final I was on antibiotics. If I had a fever of over 101 they were going to shut me down for the year,” said Bonino, who hit 100.5 at one point. “I was getting IVs every day in the hospital. The docs did a really good job getting my elbow healthy.”

Bonino was quarantined in his hotel room because he couldn’t be around his infant child.

“I wasn’t even living at home. They didn’t want me around the baby,” he said. “It was a weird time, but it was worth it to win.”

UNCERTAIN FUTURE
A few players on the team’s roster are at the end of their contracts. Defenseman Ben Lovejoy, goaltender Jeff Zatkoff and forward Matt Cullen are unrestricted free agents. Meanwhile, winger Beau Bennett and blueliner Justin Schultz are restricted free agents.

Both Lovejoy and Schultz shared a desire to return.

“Every time I see one of my teammates they ask me if I’m coming back,” Lovejoy said. “The answer is I don’t know. This place has been so good to me. I’ve spent the better part of my hockey career here. This place has become home.”

Rutherford, who traded for Lovejoy at the trade deadline two seasons ago, would like to keep him in the fold.

“Depending on cap room we would like to take a look at bringing Ben back,” Lovejoy said. “He certainly deserves a raise. We don’t have a lot of room. We’ll see if there are other moves that can be made to free up some cap space.”

Rutherford said the team will extend Bennett a qualifying offer, but still have to make a decision on Schultz.

“We’d like to have him back,” Rutherford said. “We thought he played real well for us. We feel he has a chance to play better.

“We’d like to figure out a way to bring him back, but we’re a little bit squeezed. So we’ll have to see.”

ALL SYSTEMS GO
Speaking of future, when Rutherford was hired as Pens’ general manager in the summer of 2014, he said that he envisioned being on the job for 2-3 years.

And as for right now, he has no plans of stepping away.

“I do need to take a little time to think about it,” Rutherford said. “We’ll see over the next week or so. Based on some of things I’m doing and planning, I guess it’s tracking that I’m coming back.”

THIS ‘N AT
*Olli Maatta will serve his military duty to Finland this summer.


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