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Did the Penguins protect the wrong goalie from the expansion draft?

The Matt Murray/Marc-Andre Fleury decision has been pored over for the past year and will continue to be analyzed in the next few to come. Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

In one of their easier decisions last offseason, the Vegas Golden Knights selected Marc-Andre Fleury from the Pittsburgh Penguins in the expansion draft, and he became one of the keys to their Cinderella season. Fleury improved from a .909 save percentage in 2016-17 to a career high of .927 in the regular season, which he matched in the postseason. Meanwhile, Matt Murray tumbled from .923 to a career-low .907 and fell from an NHL-high .937 in the 2017 playoffs to .908 in 2018.

Driven by Fleury's success, the Golden Knights bested the Penguins, with 109 points to 100 in the regular-season standings, and reached the Stanley Cup Final against the Washington Capitals, who had earlier dispatched the Penguins in the second round. The Golden Knights lost 4-1 in the best-of-seven series.

While there are too many factors at play to be sure, it can reasonably be argued that having Fleury in goal instead of Murray might have been enough for an otherwise superior team like the Penguins to compete for the Presidents' Trophy in the regular season, secure home-ice advantage in the playoffs, get past the Capitals in the second round and ultimately win the Stanley Cup for the third consecutive season. Could exposing Fleury to the expansion draft have been a mistake?

When preparing their protection list on June 18, 2017, the Penguins were faced with a difficult choice. Behind door No. 1 was two seasons of Fleury before he becomes a free agent in 2019, after which he might play one or two more seasons. Behind door No. 2 was three seasons of Murray, plus whatever extension is negotiated before he becomes a restricted free agent on July 1, 2020.