Now that the Pittsburgh Penguins have captured the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in team history, the NHL offseason officially kicks off with the NHL draft just two weeks away and free agency right around the corner. Some news and notes as the city of Pittsburgh basks in the glow of Lord Stanley’s chalice.
- The Penguins find themselves facing a different type of opponent as they look to defend their title. The Washington Post’s Mike Hume reports that the Penguins face a difficult question as the offseason kicks off: what to do with Marc-Andre Fleury. While the salary cap is expected to rise to $74MM, it’s the likelihood of an expansion draft that threatens the Penguins’ continued dominance. Matt Murray, who backstopped the Pens to the Cup, has forced Pittsburgh’s hand with former #1 overall pick and franchise goalie Fleury. Murray’s cap friendly contract keeps him under team control while Fleury’s $5.75MM cap hit makes him an expensive backup. Should the expansion draft take place, Fleury’s no-movement clause eliminates him from being taken off their hands. Instead, it would be Murray exposed to the expansion draft. Moving Fleury would be tricky as well since he has final say over any trade, and teams looking for goaltending, such as the Calgary Flames, are not a favorite to win the Stanley Cup anytime soon.
- The signing of Phil Kessel paid huge dividends for the Penguins writes ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun. The former Maple Leafs star notched 22 points in 24 games with 10 of those points being goals. The interesting part of Kessel’s resurgence is his cap friendly contract. Though his cap hit should be $8MM, Toronto agreed to pay $1.2MM of his contract when they traded the star winger to Pittsburgh last summer. The core of Kessel, captain Sidney Crosby, and star Evgeni Malkin remains intact for at least another few seasons thanks to savvy financial work.
- The Stanley Cup runner up San Jose Sharks had a great run thanks to the solid play of Martin Jones. Jones, obtained from Boston for a first round pick last June, kept the Sharks in the Final and would have been a top pick to take the Conn Smythe Trophy had the Sharks fortunes been different. Strong goaltending was always a weakness for San Jose, but Jones’ inexpensive $3MM cap hit keeps him with the Sharks until the 2018-2019 season. Backup goalie James Reimer is an unrestricted free agent and could fetch a number of offers from teams looking for a strong goalie tandem.