If the Leafs can’t trade for Murray, should they turn attention to Fleury?

It’s no secret that the Leafs are currently one of the teams with arguably the most up-in-the-air goaltending situations league-wide. As they head into the summer, perhaps only the Flames have more question marks between the pipes than Toronto, and given that Lou Lamoriello has said as much as half this roster could be turfed in the offseason, you have to think there’s a possibility for an overhaul in net.

Lamoriello has shown in the past to put a premium on a having true starter. Considering his years with Brodeur and then fast-acting trade for his replacement in Schneider, he’s probably not sleeping much given the uncertainty surrounding the Leafs’ netminders right now. And while we know this fancy stats driven front office will always be hesitant to hand out any serious amount of term or cap hit for a goalie (as they should be), there might be some guys on the tad expensive side who can still make sense here.

A few weeks ago there were some rumours floating around that the Leafs, at some point, looked into acquiring Matt Murray from the Penguins. Murray does have some history with Toronto’s front office, as he’s a product of the Kyle Dubas led Greyhounds of the OHL. Now, of course, Murray is in the middle of a playoff run that could very well turn into him hoisting the Cup in a few weeks. He’s taken the net (at least temporarily) from M-A Fleury, and once again there’s some uncertainty about what Pittsburgh might do in net for the long term.

There’s no doubt the Leafs could, and should, go back to that well in the summer, no matter how things shake out in the Penguins’ Cup run. And they likely won’t be the only ones checking in with Rutherford to see if he might part with a young goalie on the way up. But it’ll be absurdly tough to shake Murray from that tree, as it should be.

If anything, Rutherford should entertain the idea of moving on from Marc-Andre Fleury, who’s been strong over the last couple seasons, but carries an expensive tag on a capped out team and is now 31-years-old.

But why move either of these guys, right? Why not just hold on to both until Murray gets into expensive contract territory and worry about it then? Well, there’s expansion coming.

The rules surrounding the potential 2017 expansion draft aren’t nailed down yet, but it appears as though teams will only be able to protect a single goaltender. With M-A Fleury holding a no-movement clause, it’s probable he’ll be able to exercise that to force the Penguins into protecting him, leaving Murray exposed and likely out the door for nothing in return. This means Rutherford, like Yzerman in Tampa with Vasilevskiy and Bishop, will have to think about his options this summer and into next season. Murray’s rise this postseason will make those decisions even tougher.

So Pittsburgh can be left with two options: Trade Murray before next summer in order to get something for him, or go to Fleury and ask for a list of teams (he has a limited NTC for twelve teams he can block) so they can ship him out and protect Murray. If I’m in Rutherford’s position, I’m probably leaning latter.

But is Fleury someone who makes sense for the Leafs?

‘Flower’ carries a cap hit of 5.75-million through the next three seasons (via NHLNumbers), so that’s the main item that will give everyone pause. As we mentioned up top, he’s also now on the wrong side of thirty. But his numbers have been especially strong over the last couple seasons and given his workload hasn’t really taken a step back, there’s no real reason to think he’s wearing down.

Admittedly, the first name that sprung to mind when looking at comparisons for active goalies who have had long careers was Ryan Miller, which seems like sort of a cautionary tale. But keep in mind Miller’s current contract, which pays him 6-million annually, was signed by the Canucks when he was 34, which would be Fleury’s age when his current deal expires. In terms of stages of their careers, these next three seasons of Fleury would more closely align with Miller’s final three in Buffalo.

It’s unlikely the Leafs want to tie up too much cash in net, but here they’d be getting a proven commodity in Fleury and considering the relatively short term remaining on his deal, it’s hard to believe this contract could become much of a disaster. Given the new faces the team will bring in on ELCs for the next three seasons in Matthews, Marner, and others, Fleury’s money would conveniently come off the books when they’ll need it most.

As for performance, we mentioned Fleury has put in some good work over the last couple years. This past season he ranked 13th among 49 goaltenders with 1000 minutes played in 5-on-5 sv% at 0.933, and was 11th of 50 with 1250 all-situation minutes played, with 0.921 (via HockeyAnalysis). 

The big question, given his age, is how he’ll look going forward. Is this performance about to go right over a cliff? Not likely.

While Fleury is unlikely to keep getting better with age (not many of us do), his decline shouldn’t be stark. There’s been a lot of work done attempting to see how goalies age, and the general takeaway seems to be a gradual decline through the late twenties and early thirties with things getting scarier around 35. But as most would point out, establishing much of a standard for goaltenders has proven to be quite difficult. Hence the “goalies are voodoo” phrase.

So, back to the main question from the top. If the Leafs go after Murray and are unsuccessful, should they look at Fleury as an option? Personally I’m not a strong advocate for that kind of move because I think there are better avenues out there, but given his track record and the relatively low term that aligns with Toronto’s cap timeline, he would be worth looking at. With the situation that will likely unfold for the Penguins with respect to expansion, the cost to acquire him probably wouldn’t be much, and I feel like he could be a good placeholder while the Leafs get their draft on and fill things in with some young goaltenders developing in each of the lower levels.

This summer it’ll be interesting to see how Lou and co. attempt to change over Toronto’s situation in net, and the looming expansion draft represents another key factor. We’ve talked about options like Andersen, Gibson, Murray, and even Bishop and Vasilevskiy, among others. Fleury’s name is now another worth tossing on the pile.

  • Capt.Jay

    I actually don’t think the cost for Fleury would be exorbitant. Certainly, he’s a gifted player, and likely solves most teams problems in net for a few years. I guess the question is whether the cost to acquire him outweighs the impact he would have on the rebuild.

    It is no secret this team still has a long way to go. We are getting Matthews, but it is anyone’s guess how long it would take for the system to continue replenishing afterwards because not everyone is going to pan out, nor will everything go to plan — we’re riding the wave of 24 amazing months of Shanaplan and there’s probably going to be a speed bump at some points. I think I’d rather give the reins to Bernier / Sparks (or whoever to back up), and wait another year for more prospects to mature, more players to cut their teeth at the pro level before we move assets.

  • Pass. why use up assets acquiring a goalie who’s prime years ultimately won’t line up with the rest of the team.

    If the leafs are acquiring a goalie he should be young and have a high potential. So he can grow with all of the other prospects.

    Sometimes the best move is no move.

    Wait a year and then all these teams will be desperate not to lose an asset for nothing in an expansion draft. Thats when you’ll have leverage.

  • Oilers Rule

    Fleury is over rated, old and overpaid. I would so no to Fleury, unless it was just a stop-gap measure to fill role for a year or two while star goalie sought. Plus, assuming Pittsburg willing to cover half his salary and float some draft picks to the Leafs for helping them out of cap hell.

    Pens have only won one cup with him as their goalie and his stats during most his career don’t necessarily show him as being a top notch goalie. Definitely not in same conversation among like of Brodeur, Lunquisit, Price, etc….. But rather the goalie lucky to be the starter on one of the most offensively gifted teams in the modern era of the NHL.

    I trust Lou will eventually get a young star NHL goalie even if it take him a year or two to find his guy. Lou more than any GM in NHL history has a demonstrated track record of building his winning NHL teams with star Vezina calibre goalies. I suspect this will be one of the legacies he will leave Toronto with by the time he retires from GM in a few years and transitions into a senior advisory role.

    When does Price’s contract wit the Habs expire? Perhaps Leafs should wait until he hits UFA lol

  • JB#1

    According to General Fanager, Price goes UFA at the end of the 2017/18 season (2 more years).

    At the beginning of the 2018/19 season he will be 31 years old.

    So, he would be 31, with a bit of a history with injuries, and just finishing up a contract with an AAV of $6.5 million.

    Even though I would loooove to steal the ScHabs starting goalie, I think I would have to give Price a hard-pass.

  • Matt Murray is a young goaltender who has led his team to a final four appearance. Pittsburgh will not give him up cheap and it will cost a kings’s ransome. Don’t do it.

    Fleury on the other hand seems ideal for the Leafs. Pittsburgh needs the cap space (they have $0) and dealing Fleury could help free up the cap room to keep Malkin, so it might take only a lesser asset to send in trade (not Timshov or Leivo), maybe with some later picks.

    Fleury could take some weight off Bernier, Sparks and Bibeau, so that the last two are not rushed and continue to develop properly.

    Fleury has always seemed like a good locker room guy who has won a Cup and might be very good as a mentor for our young goaltending prospects. Bernier can’t come close in this respect.

    Finally Fleury might help our other forward and defensive prospects. If Fleury can cover up some mistakes of all our young guys, he can prevent too many loses, keep confidence high and help speed development of our guys coming into the NHL.

    As long as the price isn’t too high, I think Fleury could be a great trade. We can keep drafting other goalies and give them time. Fleury even looks a bit like Felix Potvin, so it feels like the right thing to do.

  • Give them back their first round pick but have them retain salary equal to what the leafs are retaining on Kessel. If they don’t want to retain salary than give them a second and a b level prospect like loov. Sounds fair and sets the table for a more stable leafs team next year

  • glgbill

    You make a really good Case Ryan. I would settle for this as our Plan B.

    I think chasing Bishop or Vasilevskiy is still preferred. Those are two very solid, very big goalies. The cost for either will be high but I think we have enough prospects in the cupboard to make it work. PLUS Tyler Bozak 😀

  • glgbill

    The thing is I’m sure Fleury will put the leafs and flames and anyone else who might want a goalie on this no trade list.

    That will turn his contract into a full no trade. Which means unless they bought out Fleury (unlikely) they’ll be forced to trade Murray! So plan A is more likely than plan B.

  • CMpuck

    Fleury…..No!
    I remember a very short time ago a majority of Leaf fans were saying Bernier was a definitive #1.

    I never thought that and I always thought Reimer
    was the better choice but I think we just got rid of all our burdensome contracts.
    Taking on overpaid players is not in the Shanaplan.

    I think some economical, short term options will be available before next year.
    Let’s see if Bernier can regain his form before committing to a mistake.

  • Gary Empey

    Typically there are only about 10 elite goalies in the league at any one time. All thirty teams want one. In the past one had to wait for one to become a UFA and had to pay top price to sign.

    If one comes available in the trade market, it will cost an arm and a leg to get him.

    I think we should wait for the expansion, and to see how the new goalies equipment rules will affect the goalie rankings.

    In the meantime if a good deal for an elite goalie pops up…. take it.

  • magesticRAGE

    I think both Bernier and Sparks are gone. Bernier has one year left, and another GM would be willing to take a chance on him (Calgary, Dallas). I think that Sparks may have squandered his chance, and it will be Bibeau’s turn. Both Sparks and Bernier haven’t worked, so a different approach must be taken.
    Murray and Vasilevski are too valuable and expensive, Lou might go off the board and give Massa an AHL contract, and have him backup Kaskisou, while Bibeau back stops a free-agent signing (Like Reimer). Massa played great when called upon, worth another look.