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Rutherford: Mental game used to be difficult for Fleury, but he’s improved

Jun 8, 2014, 2:10 PM EDT

Marc-Andre Fleury Getty Images

Before the 2013-14 campaign started, Pittsburgh Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury had taken a lot of heat for his recent performances in the playoffs. Former GM Ray Shero backed the goaltender and Fleury rewarded him with a solid showing in the 2014 postseason, even if it wasn’t enough to save the Penguins or, for that matter, Shero.

Now that Jim Rutherford has taken over as the team’s general manager, he’ll have to decide what to do with the future of the Penguins’ goaltending as the 29-year-old netminder only has one season left on his seven-year, $35 million contract.

“The one thing I’ll say about Fleury is this past season was the best season, the most consistent season he’s had over several seasons, probably over three or four seasons,” Rutherford said, per NHL.com. “Other than a couple of goals in the Columbus series, I thought his playoff series performance was fine, his regular season was fine and from an ability point of view he’s a very, very good goalie.

“Going back a couple years, I think the mental part of the game was difficult for him, and certainly it seems that whatever he did in last offseason has strengthened his position, and I see him as a guy that’ll build off of last season and be as good or better next year.”

Publicly praising one of your players is one thing, but will Rutherford throw his full support behind Fleury by inking him to a contract extension over the summer? Or would he rather wait to see how Fleury does in the 2015 playoffs before attempting to re-sign him?

One obvious factor is what Fleury will demand. He currently comes with a $5 million annual cap hit, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he seeks a raise given that he’s set to rank 14th among goalies in 2014-15 from a cap perspective and he’ll slip further once Ryan Miller signs.

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