Marc-Andre Fleury and the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrated their second consecutive Stanley Cup win with a parade Wednesday. By next week, it’s likely the goalie will be a member of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
We learned this week that Fleury was asked, and agreed to, waive his no-movement clause for the expansion draft all the way back in February. In order for the Penguins to protect 23-year-old goalie Matt Murray, the veteran netminder needed to step aside in the off-season. Fleury said he made the decision to waive his clause because it was the best thing for the team and gave him the best chance to win another Stanley Cup.
“The team came forward to me and asked…it gave them more (flexibility) for the future, for the summer, so they weren’t scrambling to trade me,” Fleury told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I thought it was the right thing to help the team, to stay with the team and finish the season here and have a chance to play for the Cup again.”
Fleury could have declined to waive his no-movement clause, which would have put the Penguins in a difficult position. Rather than keep the goalie for the rest of the season, they would have been in a rush to trade him before the March deadline. Although Fleury has a no-movement clause to prevent a demotion to the AHL, he has a modified no-trade clause, which allows him to list 18 teams to which he would accept a trade.
Had he declined to waive the no-move, Fleury likely wouldn’t have been there to step in for the Penguins when Murray was a surprise scratch prior to Game 1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets after he hurt himself in pre-game warmups.
Fleury went on to earn nine of Pittsburgh’s 16 playoff wins en route to the Stanley Cup, a performance that had him in the Conn Smythe discussion before Murray took back the job in the Eastern Conference final. The decision to waive it may have been the difference between Pittsburgh repeating as champs or not.
With two more seasons on his contract at a $5.75 million cap hit, the 32-year-old looks set to resume his career as a No. 1 with the Golden Knights, or perhaps somewhere else. There’s a chance the expansion team will want to trade him after picking him at the draft. Or, if Vegas chooses to pass him over, Pittsburgh will want to trade him and use his cap space to address other areas of need on the roster.
Either way, Fleury has 375 career NHL wins, which is just 110 shy of passing Ed Belfour for third on the all-time list (although Roberto Luongo could eclipse Belfour before Fleury). He has an interest in chasing down that mark and has plenty of time to do so.
“I still love the game,” Fleury told the Post-Gazette. “I still love to play. Hopefully, if I can still do that … it will be appreciated.”
When the Penguins won the Stanley Cup and it was handed to Fleury, he sought out Murray to pass it off to the still-rookie goalie. When Scott Oake asked Murray about that moment, he had tears in his eyes and spoke glowingly about his veteran teammate.
Whichever team ends up with Fleury will get a motivated goalie looking to re-establish himself as a No. 1 in the league and race up the all-time wins list.
Not only that, they’ll also pick up one of the most respected teammates and players in the NHL.