The Penguins Would Be Foolish To Re-Sign Marc-Andre Fleury Before The Playoffs

Marc-Andre Fleury

Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford made a bold statement when he told’s Pierre LeBrun that he wishes to tie down starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to a long-term contract.

“As long as I’m GM here, he’s my goalie,” Rutherford said. “My plan is to re-sign him when the time is right. When that is, I don’t know, if it’s during the year or after the year, but I do want to re-sign him. I believe in him.”

Fleury is in the final year a seven-year, $35 million contract that he signed back in the summer of 2008. The 29-year-old netminder has started all five of the Penguins games this season, guiding them to a 3-2-0 record, while recording a 2.81 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.

Last night, Fleury continued his struggles against the rival Philadelphia Flyers by surrendering four goals on 32 shots against in Pittsburgh’ s 5-3 home defeat.

Signing Fleury to an extension before the playoffs would be incredibly foolish given Fleury’s reputation for playoff meltdowns. You would have to be living under a rock, in a cave, on Mars with your eyes shut and your fingers in your ears not to be aware of Fleury’s playoff misery.

(Sorry to steal that living under a rock quote from you, Sideshow Cecil.)

The Flower” has wilted in recent playoffs.

2012 playoffs: 2-4 record with a 4.63 goals-against average and .834 save percentage

2013 playoffs: 2-2 record with a 3.52 goal-against average and .883 save percentage

After guiding the Penguins to a 3-1 series lead in the 2014 Eastern Conference Semifinals, Fleury surrendered five goals in Game 5. The Rangers rallied, winning three consecutive games to eliminate the Penguins in seven games.

The Penguins would be better off waiting until the offseason to decide whether Fleury is worth a lucrative, long-term pact. Between 2010 and 2013, Fleury recorded four-straight sub-.900 save percentages during the playoffs.

Rutherford and the Pens must make sure Fleury proves his playoff mettle before handing him a long-term extension. If Fleury is re-signed during the regular season and fizzles during the playoffs, they could have a cap-eating albatross on their hands. Pittsburgh would essentially be stuck with an unwanted goalie whose salary and playoff troubles scare off any interested trade partner.

Meanwhile, Penguins backup goalie Thomas Greiss is likely to make his first start of the season against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.

Greiss enjoyed a strong 2013-14 campaign in Phoenix. In 25 games, Greiss went 10-8-5 with a 2.29 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.

In a small sample size of 69 career games, Greiss boasts a stronger career numbers. The German has a lifetime goals-against average of 2.43 and a save percentage .915 during the regular season. Fleury has posted a 2.62 regular season GAA and a .910 SV% over an 11-year career.

Back to Fleury – it simply does not make sense to sign him to an extension before the playoffs. The Penguins should take a wait-and-see approach. Obviously, they should re-sign Fleury if he posts sparkling numbers during the 2015 playoffs and leads the Penguins on a deep playoff run.

But if he implodes during the playoffs, the Penguins must wash their hands of Fleury and seek an offseason upgrade between the pipes.

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Sean Hartnett
Sean Hartnett has covered the New York Rangers and the NHL for since 2011. He has covered two Stanley Cup Finals. Sean now contributes to XNSports’ NHL and general sports coverage. He devotes far too much of his free time watching Simpsons and Seinfeld reruns. Sean can be reached via Twitter @HartnettHockey.