NHL Rumor Mill – March 4, 2017
A look ahead at possible offseason goalie moves by the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
CSNPHILLY.COM: Tim Panaccio believes goaltender Steve Mason’s future with the the Philadelphia Flyers became murky after the club re-signed Michal Neuvirth to a two-year, $5-million contract extension. Though general manager Ron Hextall didn’t rule out re-sign Mason, Panaccio believes Neuvirth’s extension pretty much closes the door on Mason’s tenure with the Flyers. The club hasn’t opened contract talks with him.
Panaccio believes Neuvirth would be a better salary-cap fit for the Flyers as they transfer to a younger goalie such as Anthony Stolarz, Alex Lyon or Carter Hart. He also suggests Neuvirth could be exposed in the June expansion draft.
PHILLY.COM: Sam Carchidi reports the Flyers could expose Neuvirth in the draft. However, they could opt to protect him and expose Stolarz, as they appear to have gone lukewarm on him since his return to their AHL farm team following his four-game stint with the Flyers earlier this season. Carchidi considers re-signing Mason a long shot.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Mason won’t be back. The Flyers re-signed Neuvirth to give themselves some flexibility for the expansion draft. I believe they’ll be in the market for a starter this summer and could push hard to sign pending UFA Ben Bishop or look toward the trade market. They have depth in promising young defensemen to dangle as trade bait.
The Flyers have nearly $60 million invested in 16 players for next season, but all their core players are under contract. Their most notable restricted free agent is defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere, who will likely get an affordable short-term bridge deal. Even with a marginal increase in next season’s cap ceiling, they have sufficient cap space to bring in a proven starter.
TRIBLIVE.COM: Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t moved at the trade deadline, but Jonathan Bombulie and Bill West believe this season could be his last in Pittsburgh. Given Fleury’s no-movement clause, they must protect him from the June expansion draft and expose current starter Matt Murray. That’s not going to happen, as Fleury could be shopped before the expansion draft or bought out of the final two years of his contract. Fleury could also waive his no-movement clause and allow himself to be exposed in the expansion draft.
EDMONTON SUN: Jim Matheson believes Fleury should waive his movement clause to join the Winnipeg Jets. Matheson doesn’t believe Connor Hellebuyck is ready to be the Jets starter. “Fleury should embrace the Jets. They score more than most teams, a boon for a goalie,” writes Matheson.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: Fleury could surprise everyone by allowing himself to be left unprotected in the expansion draft. However, I think a trade or buyout is more likely. Fleury’s handled the situation in Pittsburgh well this season, but everything I’ve read suggests he wants to be in a position where he’s the starter, not the backup.
There will be teams seeking help between the pipes this summer willing to give Fleury a serious look. The Pens might have to pick up part of his $5.75 million cap hit or they could be squeezed to add a sweetener like a draft pick or young player in the deal. Worst comes to worst, they’ll buy out Fleury before the June 17 deadline to submit their list of protected players to the league.