Pens' Fleury signs 4-year, $23 million extension
The way Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury explained it, he woke up Wednesday and a contract needing only his signature magically appeared.
General manager Jim Rutherford and Fleury's agent, Allan Walsh, didn't claim the process was much more complicated than that.
Fleury on Wednesday agreed to a four-year extension worth $23 million, keeping him under club control through 2018-19 in a deal both sides wanted to get done sooner than later.
“These are never easy because we're talking about big numbers, and we're talking about a player's career,” Rutherford said. “I don't want to suggest it's easy. But Marc made it very clear that he wants to be a Penguin.
“He laid out his guidelines. I laid out ours. Once we did that, it moved forward fairly quickly.”
The Penguins' guidelines include a $5.75 million annual cap hit, only the 13th-highest among NHL goaltenders in 2015-16, according to capgeek.com, a website that tracks salary cap-related data.
It also provides Fleury with a 12-team, no-trade clause, according to team sources.
“I'm really happy,” Fleury said. “I've spent a lot of time here. It's my home. My teammates, I've been with them for a while. The organization has been great to me all these years. The city, the fans. I couldn't be happier.”
Fleury is 7-2 this season with a 1.89 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. His three shutouts have him tied for the league lead.
He's the franchise goalie leader in regular-season wins (295), games played (540) and shutouts (31).
Playoff struggles no doubt have made Fleury a polarizing figure, but there's no denying he has been better since the Penguins hired Mike Bales to replace Gilles Meloche as goaltending coach before the 2013-14 season.
Fleury has eight shutouts in 73 games under Bales after recording 22 in his previous 467 games.
Rutherford told Trib Total Media before the season he “wasn't in a hurry” to re-sign Fleury, whose contract would have expired after this season.
The reason? Rutherford said he was busy worrying about other things.
“At that time, it wasn't on my radar,” he said. “I wasn't thinking about contract extensions because I had other things on my plate. Once I got into camp and got to know some players better, I recognized that was something I needed to start to do.”
Rutherford and Walsh met about a month ago to begin negotiations, both confirmed. In the meantime, Rutherford told the Trib, “As long as I'm the general manager, Marc-Andre Fleury will be our goalie.”
A weekend meeting with Walsh in Pittsburgh pushed negotiations forward, and a deal was finalized.
Fleury said he learned about the situation Wednesday.
“Jim made it very clear that after he settled in and got through some of the initial period of acclimation in Pittsburgh, he would be reaching out very early on, trying to get something done very early in the season,” Walsh said. “He went and did that.”
Which meant a lot to Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, one of Fleury's closest friends on the team.
“I've been teammates with him for a long time,” Crosby said. “I know how he works and how much he loves it here.
“He's had some great moments and faced some adversity, too. To see the way he has handled all of that has been amazing. You're always happy to see your teammates do well and get rewarded.”