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PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Penguins' biggest trade-deadline move may end up being the one they didn't make.
The defending Stanley Cup champions held on to goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury through Wednesday's NHL trade deadline, opting to keep the franchise leader in victories while instead trading draft picks and role players in an effort to bolster an injury-ravaged defense.
"He's an important part of our team. I know he hasn't played as much this year as maybe certainly he would like and maybe he's capable of," Rutherford said. "But now that we get past the deadline and going down the stretch here, it's going to be important to have two healthy and fresh goalies going into the playoffs."
A healthy and fresh defense too, which is why Pittsburgh sent a fourth-round pick in the 2018 draft to Tampa Bay in exchange for veteran defenseman Mark Streit, who was acquired by the Lightning earlier in the day. Pittsburgh also brought in Frankie Corrado from Toronto for forwards Eric Fehr and Steve Oleksy as well as a fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft.
The Penguins are dealing with serious injury problems along the blue line. The team put Trevor Daley on long-term injured reserve Wednesday while he recovers from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. Olli Maatta is still out a few more weeks after having hand surgery while Kris Letang is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury.
Pittsburgh picked up defenseman Ron Hainsey from Carolina last week and found another player with plenty of experience in Streit. The 39-year-old had five goals and 16 assists in 49 games with Philadelphia. The Flyers sent Streit to Tampa Bay early on Wednesday and a few hours later the Lightning flipped him to the Penguins.
"We had a lot of information on him," Rutherford said. "(We like) his character. We know what a great guy his is. He can play both sides."
Rutherford said Streit was on the his short list of defensemen, adding that he spoke to Philadelphia general manager Ron Hextall but the initial asking price from the Flyers was too high.
It wasn't until after Philadelphia sent Streit to the Lighting that he suddenly became affordable. Tampa Bay also agreed to pay a portion of Streit's remaining salary, a necessity because Pittsburgh is up right against the salary cap.
The Penguins created a little wiggle room by sending Fehr and Oleksy to Toronto for Corrado, who has two goals in 69 games across five seasons while playing for Vancouver and the Maple Leafs.
Fehr, who helped the Penguins win their fourth Stanley Cup last spring, saw his playing time decrease in recent months while Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan opted to go with younger, fresher legs. Fehr has six goals and five assists in 52 games this season. Fehr is averaging just 10:56 of ice time a game, well off the 13:03 he averaged last season.
Fleury saw his starting spot taken by Murray, who caught fire in the playoffs last spring after Fleury was diagnosed with a concussion. The two split time earlier this year but Murray has become the de facto No. 1. Fleury has made just six starts since Jan. 1.
Rutherford stressed in the run-up to the deadline that he would talk to Fleury about the 32-year-old's future. Fleury has said all the right things while receding into the background and Rutherford has maintained he believes the Penguins will need Fleury if they want to become the first team in nearly 20 years to win back-to-back Cups.
"We feel the team we have, as long as we're healthy, that we're capable of beating anybody," Rutherford said.
Freelance writer Matthew Carlson in Chicago contributed to this report.
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