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.”
Fleury, 36, did not have Chicago on his 10-team no-trade list but did not want to play for any team other than Vegas. 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 president of hockey operations and general manager 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.”
Golden Knights GM Kelly 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 on 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 close ties the goalie 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. ... We work hard to make good decisions and give you a team that you’re gonna be proud of."
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. He started 16 of the Golden Knights’ 19 playoff games over Robin Lehner, who is signed for four more seasons.
Lehner finished the postseason as the starter after a gaffe by Fleury late in Game 3 of the semifinals altered the series against Montreal and led coach Peter DeBoer to switch back and forth between his two goalies.
The Golden Knights tweeted: “This organization, this city and this fanbase will forever be grateful to Marc-Andre Fleury for the impact he’s made on and off the ice in just four years. We wish Marc-Andre and his family the best in this new chapter of their lives.”
The Fleury trade was one of several moves around the league, including the Washington Capitals getting captain Alex Ovechkin under contract for five more years, the St. Louis Blues agreeing to terms with winger Pavel Buchnevich and three players going on buyout waivers.
Ovechkin signed for $47.5 million, giving him five seasons to chase down Wayne Gretzky’s career goals record. There was no real doubt about Ovechkin returning — just the question of how much and for how long.
The Blues were confident they’d be able to get a deal done with Buchnevich after acquiring him from the New York Rangers last week for forward Sammy Blais and a 2022 second-round pick. It’s a $23.4 million, four-year deal that carries an annual cap hit of $5.8 million.
Vancouver put Braden Holtby and San Jose put Martin Jones on unconditional waivers for the purposes of buying out the remainder of the goalies’ contracts. Holtby struggled last season with the Canucks but is only three years removed from winning the Cup with Washington.
Jones backstopped the Sharks to the 2017 Cup Final but has had a sub-.900 save percentage each of the past three seasons and was signed for three more at a cap hit of $5.75 million.
“We knew change was needed,” GM Doug Wilson said. “This was not a decision we made lightly. It’s never enjoyable to part with someone that, to me, has been such a big part of our franchise for the past six years.”
In other goalie news, a person with direct knowledge of talks between the Buffalo Sabres and Linus Ullmark said negotiations are continuing with the hopes of reaching a deal by Wednesday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private.
Veteran defenseman Keith Yandle is signing a $900,000, one-year deal with the Philadelphia Flyers that includes a no-trade clause, according to a person with knowledge of the move who spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity because the contract cannot be signed until noon EDT Wednesday.
The Colorado Avalanche gave up a 2023 fourth-round draft pick to acquire Kurtis McDermid in a trade with Seattle a week after the Kraken selected the 27-year-old defenseman from Los Angeles in the expansion draft.
AP Hockey Writer John Wawrow contributed.
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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press