So it’s been a long while since I posted anything but suddenly I have the urge so I’m going with it. Who knows, maybe I’ll start a new trend and keep up with it! Anyone knows…
Back to the point- the Penguins won their 4th Stanley Cup! They started off slow, like real slow. They weren’t even near the playoffs in December when Mike Johnston was fired and Mike Sullivan was brought up from Wilkes-Barre. The year changed and down the stretch they were easily the most dangerous team to face. As you were watching them, you could almost tell they knew it could happen again. And let’s not forget the last time they switched coach’s mid-season: it ended with Sidney Crosby fulfilling his destiny and raising his first cup as the youngest captain in history no less.
Mike Sullivan and Jim Rutherford turned a 200 foot rink, into a speed skating contest with some hockey players. He took the finally health Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang, and brought in veterans, a sniper, and some speed before rounding out the team with call ups that Sullivan trusted from Wilkes-Barre. He brought in Matt Cullen, who already had a ring from his days with Rutherford in Carolina. He traded for Phil Kessel which in retrospect is looking like an absolute steal since he got Toronto to keep some salary. He brought in Carl Hagelin, a former Penguin tormentor when on the Rangers for his speed and brought in Nick Bonino in place of Brandon Sutter (who ironically took the injury bug with him to Vancouver). The 3 headed monster of 2009 was Crosby, Malkin, and Jordan Staal down the middle. The new 3 headed monster would take on a new shape. Crosby, Malkin, and the feared HBK line of Hagelin, Bonino, and Kessel.
Marc-Andre Fleury carried the team in the beginning of the season while Rutherford was still molding it. When Fleury went out with a concussion, Jeff Zaktoff admirably played in his place, and the team decided to call up the goalie of the future. With one fateful call, Marc-Andre Fleury might have lost his net in Pittsburgh permanently through no fault of his own. Matt Murray stood on his head like past great rookie goalies. He was compared to Patrick Roy and Ken Dryden, the head of the class when talking about playoff goalies. Without intending to, the fate of Fleury was most likely sealed when Matt Murray led the team to a Stanley Cup over the San Jose Sharks.
The Penguins dictated the style and pace of play during the series. They handled the Rangers with ease and went toe-to-toe with the President’s Trophy winning Capitals. They faced the hardest test of the playoffs against the Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals, but even then you got the sense they had found another gear and were already planning on a summer with Stanley.
On paper the Sharks and Penguins were an even match that would make for a worthwhile Cup Final. Both are speedy teams, with big name players who can come through in the clutch. The problem was that the Sharks were overwhelmed by the Penguins speed and without Martin Jones in net the score easily would have 12-2 Penguins. The Penguins not only outshot every team in each series, they were doing it by double the amount, close to triple in some games. Unable to close it out at home in game 5, they finished the series in San Jose during game 6, winning a second cup in the Crosby-Malkin era exactly seven years after the first one.
The problem with winning usually is the roster has to start being dismantled. In Pittsburgh’s case, they are in the unusual (and envious) position of being able to keep it almost in perfect order. Short of Ben Lovejoy and Nick Schultz possibly walking, and Beau Bennett not taking his qualifying offer (seriously did he even play enough games to get his name on the cup? He’s always injured) their only contract issue is now in the most important position- the net.
Matt Murray played more playoff games than regular season games, and most likely played Fleury out of town. In most years, they would both be coming back and have a shot at winning the starting job, but with the expansion draft next off season all but certain, the team can only protect 1 goaltender from expansion per league rules. Any player with no movement clause must be protected automatically.
Fleury of course happens to have the NMC and a limited no trade in which he can block a trade to 12 teams each year. Based on the way the rules currently read, they are forced to protect Fleury and let Murray be exposed (and most likely taken because I’d build a roster with him on it if starting from scratch). The expansion draft protections that we know of right now are the following:
- 7 forwards, 3 defensemen, 1 goalie OR 8 skates (forwards/defensemen), 1 goalie
- No movement clauses through the 17-18 season must be protected
- Teams are required to expose at least 2 forwards and 1 defensemen who have played 40 games in the 16-17 season or a combined 70 between the 15-16 and 16-17 combined
What I find interesting is that a team that has more defensemen than the first option of protecting 7 forwards, they will have that opportunity but will protect 2 less players in the end. It adds a layer for some teams to work through. Since it doesn’t change the number of goalies allowed, it really doesn’t affect the Penguins in the end. Plus 2 extra players you might be on the fence about losing is a big deal, especially if they are younger but over 2 pro seasons.
There’s a lot of math that will be happening by all the teams. Another note is that regardless of AHL or NHL, if you are in year 3 or past, in order to be exempt then your name must be on the exemption list so no burying Murray in the A as my first thought was. I am not sure how exactly they can protect them both without really stretching. One thing is that Murray’s contract expires next season and Vegas will be required to take at least 20 of their 30 still under contract. I think trading Fleury at the deadline, even if they get less in the end is better just in case Murray falls apart. Goalies are fragile players as we are well aware. Vegas will be required to hit the cap floor of $54 million while the ceiling will be $73 million while building their team. Since they will be the only expansion team that season, they have the chance to build a somewhat decent roster.
Based on the protections, here’s what the Penguins could potentially make their protected list.
**required to be protected due to NMC
7-Conner Sheary or Bryan Rust have a shot at making this list since they are young. If they play the way they did in their callups this season to fill out the roster, it’s not out of the realm of reality
Let’s keep the HBK line going for a while. They only gelled at the end of the regular season. It could be really fun to watch an entire year of them tearing it up!
I know, I know. I am exposing Chris Kuntiz, but I have to. He meets the game requirements and he’s been regulated to the 3rd line most recently.
2-Olli Maata- he’s still the future and he matured a lot this season, especially in the playoffs
3-Brian Dumoulin- he’s got the size and speed they need moving forward
4-Derek Pouliot? Trevor Daley who finally found a team he fit on again? I really don’t know. The fourth could be a crapshoot.
1-Marc-Andre Fleury** – currently you have to protect him but if they trade him then Matt Murray is absolutely the guy you protect. He’s the future.