Former Pens Goalie Fleury Traded to Chicago
By STEPHEN WHYNO and JOHN WAWROW
AP Hockey Writers
Marc-Andre Fleury was traded from Vegas to Chicago on Tuesday, a stunning turn of events that has the NHL’s reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender contemplating his future.
The Golden Knights traded Fleury to the Blackhawks for minor league forward Mikael Hakkarainen in a salary dump. Fleury is set to count $7 million against the cap next season, the final year of his contract.
And that’s if he reports at all. Agent Allan Walsh tweeted, “Marc-Andre will be taking time to discuss his situation with his family and seriously evaluate his hockey future at this time.”
Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon knew Fleury “wanted to play in Vegas.”
“With respect to what decisions he might make moving forward, this is a player who is at the very top of his game,” McCrimmon said during a video call with reporters. “I sure think he’ll play this year. But those are thing that I would leave he or others to speak about.”
Fleury, 36, did not have Chicago on his 10-team no-trade list but did not want to be traded at all. Chicago is certainly hoping to add him as the organization shifts from a rebuild into win-now mode.
“The opportunity to acquire a Vezina-winning goaltender is rare and one you cannot pass up,” Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said. “Marc-Andre improves our goaltending, strengthens our team defense and will have a huge impact on the overall development of the Blackhawks. Having a goaltender like this on our team will put the talent we currently have on our roster in a better position to achieve sustained success.”
Fleury released a statement through Walsh thanking Golden Knights fans and teammates and saying he will miss playing in Vegas.
McCrimmon took issue with concerns raised over how Fleury found out about the trade on social media by saying he kept the goalie apprised of discussions in the month since Vegas’ season ended. He particularly made Fleury aware of the Blackhawks’ interest as early as July 12, with the two sides last speaking about trade possibilities Saturday.
Ultimately, McCrimmon felt it was necessary to free up Fleury’s salary to provide room to improve the roster while having a starting goalie already in place with Robin Lehner, who has four years left on his contract.
“I know for a lot of people this is a day that definitely is filled with sadness, and certainly I share all of those same emotions that you do,” McCrimmon said, noting how Fleury had been the face of the franchise since Vegas’ inaugural season in 2018, and the ties the popular player had with team owner Bill Foley. “And yet I do feel I’m responsible to try to do everything I can to put the best team on the ice.”
It’s the first time in 20 years the reigning Vezina winner was traded before the next season.
Buffalo traded Dominik Hasek to Detroit on the first day of free agency in 2001.
Fleury went 26-10-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .928 save percentage last season and was voted the Vezina winner by GMs. He started 16 of the Golden Knights’ 19 playoff games over Lehner, who finished the postseason as the starter after a gaffe by Fleury late in Game 3 of the semifinals against Montreal altered the series and led coach Peter DeBoer to switch back and forth.