PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The Pittsburgh Penguins cleaned out their lockers today, marking the end to another incredible season.
For some of the players, it also marked the likely end of their time as a member of the Penguins. One of those players is Marc-Andre Fleury.
The Penguins will be unable to protect both Fleury and Matt Murray in the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft. In February, Fleury waived his no movement clause so that the Penguins could protect Murray.
Despite knowing this is likely the end for him, Fleury reflected on his time in Pittsburgh.
“It’s been such a long time, great memories. I’ve met a lot of great people. It feels like home for me,” Fleury said.
The Penguins selected Fleury with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. The team he initially backstopped wasn’t exactly great and endured plenty of growing pains.
It’s a similar situation to what he could see in Las Vegas, should they select him.
“I think it will be a fresh start for me and for everybody else on the team. Everybody has to start from scratch, but we’ll see what happens in the next week or so,” Fleury said.
The charismatic goaltender continued to flash his trademark smile, but fought back tears as he thought about the future.
“I love to play, I love the game, I love to be in there to compete, the challenge of it. I like everything about it. Obviously, [Murray is] the guy here and he will be for many years,” Fleury said.
Beyond his importance on the ice, Fleury was widely loved by his teammates. That makes his likely departure especially difficult.
“It’ll be tough. It’s something that I don’t even like having to talk about it. I think playing with someone that long, going through what we did is pretty special. We’ve got some great memories and we’ll see what happens with things in the future,” Sidney Crosby said.
“He’s probably the best teammate you can have. He’s always positive and he’s just a great guy in general, I don’t think you’ll find a better personality in sports when it comes to being a good friend and being a supportive, positive teammate,” Carl Hagelin said.
“There’s not much you can say about Flower that isn’t great. He’s awesome. He’s one of the best teammates you can ask for. He’s always having a good time, he’s always welcoming guys, he’s always playing little pranks, but I think that helps build chemistry. Having a guy like that on your team is special and makes everyone a little bit closer,” Bryan Rust said.
Of course, should Fleury suit up in a different jersey next season it sets up an interesting scenario of facing his friends and former teammates. It’s a challenge both sides will embrace.
“That’s going to be a lot of fun. I still haven’t scored on him before. Hopefully, that changes,” Crosby said.
“I don’t want to think about [giving up goals to them],” Fleury joked. “I’m sure they’ll give it to me if they score.”