With the Golden Knights trading goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to the Chicago Blackhawks, it’s a big blow to Vegas as they now have to find a new starting goaltender.
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Marc-Andre Fleury has been the face of the Vegas Golden Knights since the team’s expansion draft in 2017, whether on the ice, on billboards, in the media, or in the community. And now, in an unceremonious manner, his time with the club seems to be coming to an end.
The Golden Knights and the Chicago Blackhawks agreed to trade Fleury for minor league forward Mikael Hakkarainen on Tuesday.
It was a startling revelation, prompting concerns about Fleury’s trade procedure as well as his NHL future. While that debate will continue, it’s time to give both GMs a grade on this trade:
Last October, the minute Robin Lehner signed a five-year, $25 million contract deal with Marc-Andre Fleury, his time in Las Vegas was done. Fleury was gone, whether it was last offseason, this offseason, or next offseason, when he would be an unrestricted free agency.
Spending $12 million on goalie was unsustainable; nevertheless, Lehner’s deal was a clear statement of preference. Towards the six-year younger goaltender, the goalie whose agent wasn’t a social media thorn in the side during the Stanley Cup playoffs, and the goalie with much less clout in the locker room.
It’s like what Jonathan Marchessault just told me: “When you have a guy like Fleury around, I mean, he’s been there for a while. He has the makings of a future Hall of Famer. ‘Hey Flower, is this OK for you?’ we’d ask every time we did anything. If he says no, we’re going to have to alter it. As a result, we were fortunate to have that much expertise and so many Cup rings. It’s difficult to argue with someone like that.”
Do you believe there were no members of the team’s management who objected to such influence?
It didn’t matter whether he won the Vezina Trophy last season. The decision had been taken, and it was bolstered by the necessity to generate the cap space required for this club to finally win a Stanley Cup after a vampiric desire for one since its first taste of the Final in its first season.
This is a good decision for the Golden Knights from a cold, harsh, heartless perspective. They erased a $7 million cap hit entirely from their books. There is no added sugar. There are no plans for the future. They identified a club that wasn’t on Fleury’s no-trade list and had the cap room to send him to, and he was sent on his way.
The following stages are crucial to the business. With the cap room available, the Golden Knights are expected to seek the No. 1 center position that the club has lacked in its four years of existence. Vegas began with a great goaltender (Fleury), then added star wingers (Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty), a second star goalie (Lehner), and finally a star defender (Steven Stamkos) (Alex Pietrangelo). Three of those four years, the club advanced to the third round, but never to the Stanley Cup final. A center is the logical next step.
The first idea is to go after Buffalo Sabres forward Jack Eichel. It isn’t a terrible film. The Golden Knights have draft picks, young players like Alex Tuch on the roster, and prospects in the pipeline. Eichel, on the other hand, has a $10 million cap hit through 2025-26, a crooked neck, and has yet to participate in a playoff game. There will be alternative centers to pursue for a Vegas team that is solely concerned with playoff success, with less injury uncertainty and cap space taken, but not with his skills.
Then there’s the matter of finding a new goalkeeper. The financial commitment to Fleury and Lehner was once again too much for a competing club that needed to acquire players and improve in certain areas. But it was also the foundation for back-to-back regular-season first-place finishes and third-round playoff appearances. To be fair, it was a luxury the Golden Knights couldn’t afford, but it was one that likely saved their season when Fleury put up Vezina Trophy-winning statistics without Lehner in the lineup. The safety net is gone since no one knows who will be added to the mix.
Again, this is Marc-Andre Fleury’s cold, harsh, emotionless response to the trade… which is the polar opposite of who he is.
His warmth as a person and as a player made him the franchise’s disguised face. Flower’s role as the Golden Knights’ standard-bearer may be attributed in part for Vegas’ current status as one of the country’s burgeoning hockey cities.
It’s obvious that they didn’t inform him of the deal before it was made. The trade channels were left open and unhindered, according to one theory, since the transaction was completed before notifying the athlete or his agent. Another viewpoint is that treating a player of this status and history to the organization and its supporters with such callous disdain is simply, totally disgusting.
It’s a business victory, but it’s also a personal defeat. And that’s a question that owner Bill Foley should address — he of the “I would’ve had a major issue with it” if Fleury was moved lip service.
The Blackhawks do not know whether Fleury will play for them next season when we evaluate this deal. Which is strange, since reports of a Fleury trade between the Blackhawks and the Golden Knights have been circulating around the NHL for the better part of a month.
Allan Walsh, his agent, tweeted: “Marc-Andre Fleury has reportedly been dealt to Chicago, despite the fact that he has yet to hear from anybody from the Vegas Golden Knights. Marc-Andre will take some time to talk with his family about his predicament and carefully consider his hockey future at this time.”
Walsh immediately announced that his client may or might not be playing in Chicago. As a result, the Blackhawks are $594,953 under the salary limit at the outset of free agency, with $7 million committed to a goaltender who may never wear his jersey. That’s despite the fact that three restricted free agents remain to be signed.
They acquired a player who reduces a conference rival’s salary-cap figure by $7 million, enabling that club to improve in other areas. With Seth Jones joining the defense and Jonathan Toews returning, it’s reasonable to believe that the club acquired a 36-year-old goaltender with one year remaining on his contract in order to compete this season. However, Chicago let Vegas off the hook without a single dollar in retained pay or any compensation for the financial rescue. Is it truly the best thing you could do for a team that’s preventing you from winning the Stanley Cup?
The possibility of Fleury playing with them next season raises this to at least a C. He’s the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, and despite Kevin Lankinen’s best efforts, goaltending was the team’s weakest point. Obviously, if he joins the Blackhawks, they will be a better team as a result. However, the bailout and the timing bring this rating down.
One last thought: What’s going on in the front office of the Pittsburgh Penguins today? What’s the over/under on messages from “Crosby, S.” asking about the Blackhawks’ new goaltender’s availability?
Frequently Asked Questions
Who did the Golden Knights trade Fleury for?
The Golden Knights traded Fleury to the Calgary Flames for a second round pick in 2020 and a conditional fifth round pick in 2020.
Why did Fleury go to Chicago?
Fleury went to Chicago because the team needs a change of scenery.
Does Marc-Andre Fleury still play for the Golden Knights?
Marc-Andre Fleury is still playing for the Golden Knights.
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