This day was inevitable. Win or lose this year (the Penguins won the Stanley Cup again, in case you forgot), Marc Andre Fleury saw the writing on the wall. He knew there would be a day in the near future where he’d likely be standing in the home team’s dressing room at PPG Paints Arena for the last time as an active member of the Pittsburgh Penguins. And sadly, that day was most likely yesterday.
Marc Andre Fleury is now 32 years old, and has been a part of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization his entire adult life. As an 18-year old, the Penguins drafted Fleury first overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. He’s the longest tenured Penguin, and he’s served a pivotal role as part of a core group of players including Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, and Chris Kunitz, who have helped revitalized the franchise from bottom dwellers of the Eastern Conference to winning three Stanley Cups in the past eight years. So you can only imagine how Fleury felt yesterday fielding questions from reporters knowing that his career as a Penguin is likely over.
With Fleury waiving his no-movement clause back in February, he’s subjected himself from potentially being drafted by the Las Vegas Golden Knights in the upcoming expansion draft next week (June 18-20). And to be quite honest, the Golden Knights would be stupid NOT to draft this guy. This last postseason, Fleury made it painfully career that he still deserves to be a starting goaltender in the NHL. It wasn’t some sort of fluke that he posted a 9-6 record, including a .924 save percentage in 15 playoff games. Marc Andre Fleury can still play. Without him, the Penguins do not win the Stanley Cup this year. Fleury was the absolute difference maker in the Penguins’ second round series versus the Washington Capitals. Plain and simple.
The only problem in Pittsburgh is the fact that the Penguins also happen to employ Matt Murray. Murray is the younger, better, and cheaper option for the Penguins. So when the decision came for Jim Rutherford to lock up one of his goaltenders in preparation of the upcoming expansion draft, it was a no-brainer to choose Murray. But at the same time, this wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for Fleury. Fleury had every right to not waive his no-movement clause. But he did it anyways. Like Fleury mentioned in his exit interview, he knows Matt Murray’s the guy in Pittsburgh, and he will be for a long time. For a professional athlete to have the level of respect, humility, and self-awareness that Fleury possesses is a rarity in today’s day and age. Those qualities and the manner he has conducted himself throughout the past 14 months only speaks volumes to what Marc Andre Fleury, the person, is truly like. The Penguins will be just fine at goaltender for years to come, but I’m not sure if they’ll ever be able to replace a human being like Fleury.
Thank you and happy trails, Marc Andre Fleury. Now pardon me while I go and sulk like a little bitch.