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Marc-Andre Fleury unlikely to get contract extension before season

By Chris Peters | Hockey Writer

Marc-Andre Fleury is unlikely to get an extension from the Pens this offseason. (USATSI)
Marc-Andre Fleury is unlikely to get an extension from the Pens this offseason. (USATSI)

Marc-Andre Fleury just completed his 10th season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the only organization he has ever known since being selected first overall by the club in 2003. As he enters his 11th season, he'll do so with it representing the last year remaining on his current contract.

Though Fleury will head into the season as the team's primary starter with few options looking ready to take over for him on the club's depth chart, general manager Jim Rutherford told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he's in no rush to work out an extension with the 29-year-old netminder.

More from the Tribune-Review's Josh Yohe:

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is almost certain to enter the 2014-15 season without a new contract, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford said.

Fleury's agent, Allan Walsh, is fine with the arrangement.

Rutherford on Monday told the Tribune-Review that signing Fleury, who could become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2015, isn't on his immediate agenda.

“I'm not in a hurry to do a contract with him,” Rutherford said.

Walsh isn't offended by Rutherford's decision.

“We're actually on the same page,” Walsh said. “It's of no consequence at all.”

It's actually not a bad spot for Fleury to be in even though a little job security never hurts. The fact that he'll be in a contract year is going to give him some options if nothing gets worked out with the Penguins and also offers a little extra motivation.

If Fleury manages to have a strong season as he did for much of last year, he could see his value shoot up as a pending unrestricted free agent and also gets some more leverage to get a more desirable deal from the Pens.

Meanwhile, the Penguins can let this one play out. Though Fleury has been a longtime member of the franchise, his effectiveness has often come into question, especially in recent years as the Penguins have struggled to make an impact in the postseason.

Fleury has a career .910 save percentage, which would be considered below average among primary starters. His career numbers are worse in the postseason despite the fact that he does have his name on the Stanley Cup.

By allowing next season to play out, the Pens are also giving themselves a little flexibility. A strong campaign from the veteran goaltender might make the team a little more anxious to get a deal done and not fret over spending the money to do it. A poor season or another postseason disappointment and the team can decide just how much they'll need Fleury going forward.

Rutherford did offer praise to the goaltender and it sounds like Fleury remains in the team's plans for the foreseeable future.

Fleury's last two regular-season showings have been better than his career norms with a .916 save percentage in 2012-13 and a .915 mark in 2013-14. He also had his best postseason performance statistically since 2007-08 when he registered a .915 save percentage and 2.40 goals-against average in 13 appearances.

What makes the Fleury situation a bit more challenging is the Penguins don't have a suitable Plan B at this point. Prospects Jeff Zatkoff, Matthew Murray, Eric Hartzell and Tristan Jarry all have some promise, but are unlikely to be ready for that kind of role in the near future at the NHL level.

Additionally, the pending UFA market for goaltenders in 2015 is quite thin, which is why it's not the worst idea in the world for Fleury to not push the issue on an extension just yet. His agent did say that the goaltender would like to remain in Pittsburgh for the rest of his career, though.

In all likelihood, Fleury remains a Penguin for several more years. He'll turn 30 in November and appears to be improving some at a stage in his career where most goalies start to show signs of decline. He's not among the elite netminders in the league by any stretch, but he's adequate for the Penguins in comparison to other options down the line.

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