Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero said during his press conference Wednesday that he was hoping to get a deal done with restricted free agent goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in the "next couple of days."
Less than 24 hours after announcing the re-signings of both center Evgeni Malkin and defenseman Brooks Orpik, Shero came within one contract of completing his stated summer goal of keeping the Penguins young core of players intact by reaching a seven-year deal with Fleury, the goalie who backstopped Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup Final.
The only young, core player Shero still wants to get under a long-term deal is center Jordan Staal, but it's not as if that deal has to get done this summer considering Staal isn't scheduled to be a restricted free agent until next summer.
Fleury was scheduled to be a restricted free agent starting Tuesday, but the Penguins essentially took him off the market by offering him salary arbitration. The two sides were scheduled to go to an arbitration hearing later this month, but Shero indicated Wednesday that negotiations would never reach that point because a deal was not far off.
He was dead on, and Thursday it became evident that Fleury wants to remain a Penguin until he's at least 30 years old. He's 23 now and has already played in 173 NHL games over four seasons as well as 25 playoff games.
Fleury was limited to 35 games this past season due to a high ankle sprain, but upon his return to the lineup for the stretch run he turned into the elite goalie the Penguins figured he would be when they drafted him first overall in 2003.
Fleury went 10-2-1 from March 2 through the end of the regular season, and then stormed through Eastern Conference Playoffs. He posted a 1.70 goals against average and .938 save percentage, helping the Penguins to a 12-2 record entering the Stanley Cup Final, where Fleury and the Penguins ran into the Detroit Red Wings.
Despite being ousted in six games, Fleury finished the playoffs with a 14-6 record and a remarkable 1.97 GAA, which was second behind only Chris Osgood's 1.55 GAA. His .933 save percentage was the best of any goalie that played beyond the first round.