Penguins goalie Murray signs 3-year contract extension
Matt Murray needed his hat. The assembled media in front of him after Thursday's morning skate at PPG Paints Arena eagerly wanted to ask questions about the goaltender's new three-year contract extension, but Murray paused the scrum until he received the Penguins cap that holds back his sweat-soaked hair when he speaks in front of the cameras.
Apparently neither an ongoing recovery from a hand injury nor a set financial future will cause the 22-year-old to break from his habits.
Consistency and reliability are two of the attributes that put Murray, a 2012 third-round pick, in such good position to receive his new deal, which comes with an average annual value of $3.75 million and begins with the 2017-18 season.
He proved his worth as a rookie during the 2016 playoffs to the point that little doubt existed about the Penguins' plan to offer an extension before Murray's entry-level contract expired at the end of this season.
The question that loomed during the summer and training camp simply was when the sides would come to an agreement.
“I didn't really know when it was going to happen,” Murray said. “Neither side was in a big rush. But no, I wasn't really surprised (by the deal). I just took things day by day, like I always do. It was a bit of a stressful situation. I'm glad it's over with.”
Talks between the Penguins and Murray's agent began at the start of training camp, general manager Jim Rutherford said.
Murray's hand injury, suffered Sept. 19 in a World Cup of Hockey game against Russia, made it challenging for the goalie to rush back to camp and remind team officials of his talents.
But Rutherford and his lieutenants trusted Murray's body of work, which included a .923 save percentage in 21 playoff appearances, a .930 save percentage in 13 regular-season starts and a slew of American Hockey League performances that netted him the league's Goaltender of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors in 2015.
“We have a young goalie that's had a very good career,” Rutherford said. “He's won a Stanley Cup and played extremely well. We feel he has a bright future ahead and a long future ahead. Getting him on a bridge contract at that number does help us going forward with the cap.”
How the Penguins plan to handle their goalie-related finances and the depth chart at that position becomes the pressing question. Marc-Andre Fleury comes with a $5.75 million cap hit through the 2018-19 season.
Speculation about Fleury's place with the Penguins likely won't soon fade, but Rutherford did his best to quell any concerns about the organization pushing out their longtime franchise netminder.
He indicated even the expansion draft in 2017 might not force the Penguins to choose one or the other, though the rules stipulate only one can be protected from Las Vegas' selection, and unless Fleury waives his no-movement clause, he must go on the team's protected list.
“Let's not just presume that Marc is automatically out,” Rutherford said. “He is a terrific person. He's a terrific player.
“I think with that assumption (about Fleury leaving the organization), we're getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. Let's let the two guys play it out. We'll see where that goes. If it has to be a decision on Marc-Andre, there are several options of dealing with that, as far as the expansion draft goes.”