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Why the Penguins signed Fleury deal now

Marc-Andre Fleury's contract extension will pay him $23 million over four seasons. Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY Sports

With the potential of free agency looming for one of his most high-profile clients, Allan Walsh was given pretty clear instructions from Marc-Andre Fleury. Get a deal done.

New Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford made his affinity for Fleury known publicly early, and Fleury privately reciprocated that affection in how he wanted his next deal handled.

“Do we recognize that Marc-Andre Fleury would have been the No. 1 goalie on the free-agent market in 2015? Yes, we recognize that. Is there a possibility that he could have got longer term and more money somewhere else? The way we see it, the Pittsburgh No. 1 goaltending spot is the prime spot available, or one of the prime spots in the entire league,” Walsh said when we chatted late Wednesday afternoon, after the deal was announced. “To go to another organization was never really contemplated. There was a mutual strong interest in getting the deal done.”

From Fleury’s perspective, it’s easy to see why. Yes, if he continues his strong season and wins big in the playoffs, there would have been a bigger reward in free agency.

But where? What other starting goalie position is better than playing with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for the next four seasons at an average salary of $5.75 million?

A cursory glance around the league reveals few spots more appealing. Washington is one option if the Capitals lose patience with Braden Holtby. Maybe Minnesota, if things go sideways with Darcy Kuemper, although that looks more unlikely by the day. Same thing with the situation in St. Louis. San Jose? Maybe, but GM Doug Wilson continues to stress that he’s going young. Fleury isn’t young.

Pittsburgh was the best option by a long shot. But that’s not the question people are asking. What they want to know is: If you’re Pittsburgh, why Fleury?