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Past Fantasy Outlooks
While 2017-18 could be considered a down year for Murray compared to his rookie campaign, he still managed to rack up 27 wins in just 49 contests. Health will continue to be the biggest concern for the man who holds an NHL record for winning the Stanley Cup twice as a rookie. Last year was supposed to be Murray's chance to step out of Marc-Andre Fleury's shadow, but instead, he struggled for consistency and watched Flower make it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals with the Golden Knights. Regardless, this is Murray's team through and through, so if he can shake off the injury bug, he could log upwards of 60 appearances between the pipes in 2018-19. The lanky backstop owns a 2.58 GAA and .917 save percentage in 111 career contests, leaving room for improvement in his fourth season at the top level.
The Pittsburgh net officially belongs to Murray after Marc-Andre Fleury was selected by the Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft. The 23-year-old will face several new challenges as a true No. 1 backstop, including taking on a full workload for the first time, but he hasn't shown any signs of being overwhelmed at hockey’s highest level over the last two seasons. Fantasy owners should expect him to make 50-plus starts -- possibly pushing over 60 -- which is something he hasn't done since he was with Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL. The Thunder Bay native is a significantly different type of keeper than his predecessor, preferring to use solid positioning and technique as opposed to the pure athleticism and flash Pens fans had been accustomed to seeing from the Flower. If he can handle the load, Murray could very well contend for the Vezina Trophy, and it certainly doesn't hurt that he'll get bailed out of the occasional rough outing by Pittsburgh’s high-octane offense.
Last year was quite a whirlwind for Murray. First, he tore through the AHL with a 2.10 GAA and .930 save percentage. Then, he replaced a starting goalie (Marc-Andre Fleury) with 12 years of NHL experience at the end of March. The rookie responded by backstopping his squad to a Stanley Cup Championship, never once looking overwhelmed. The big question entering 2016-17 is whether he can do it again. Was last year just an unbelievable ride with a fairy-tale ending or does Murray’s excellence have legs for a full season? We’ve seen rookies win Cups under GM Jim Rutherford, only to end up becoming middling NHL netminders – see Cam Ward. Is Murray different? His prior AHL experience says so, as he starred in the minors for two seasons. Rutherford has gone on record stating he’s happy splitting up time between his top goalies, but that may be trade gesturing as much as anything else. Fleury has a $5.75 million cap hit remaining for another three seasons while Murray will make $628,000 in 2016-17. For now, fantasy owners have to assume that the two will occupy a timeshare at minimum, with Murray seemingly the favorite to take a majority of the starts.
Ranked second of three goaltending prospects, between Tristan Jarry and Eric Hartzell respectively, Murray compiled a 32-11-6 record for OHL Sault Ste. Marie last year, fashioning a 2.57 GAA and .921 save percentage. The 20-year-old will get his first taste of pro action in the fall with Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh's AHL affiliate. Given that starter Marc-Andre Fleury is in the final season of a five-year contract, there could be a goaltending opening in the next couple seasons. A strong start in the AHL could push Murray up the depth charts in a hurry, though it's still a long shot he sees time inside Consol Energy Center in 2014-15.