Marc-Andre Fleury commerce grades: Blackhawks change into reigning Vezina Trophy winners, Golden Knights obtain cap
It was expected that many trades and postponements would take place in the NHL over the course of the 2021 off-season.
But it’s probably fair to say that no one saw this coming: The Golden Knights traded Marc-Andre Fleury, the team said on Tuesday.
Yeah, the guy who just carried her on his back to the Stanley Cup semi-finals. Yes, the guy who just won the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goalkeeper, his first at the age of 36.
Oh, and it wasn’t traded for anything.
Blackhawks received from Vegas:
Marc-Andre Fleury (D)
Golden Knights received from Chicago:
Mikael Hakkarainen (F), cap room
Golden Knights Degree: F.
Before the start of the 2021 season, back in October 2020, owner Bill Foley emphasized in an interview with a local radio station the importance of keeping Fleury and Robin Lehner on the Vegas edge. Despite the cost, with the compact schedule ahead, Foley knew having two of the best in the game was crucial for the season.
Less than a year later, when the schedule returned to normal, plans have changed. Yes, Cap Space is a hot commodity in the NHL these days. Fleury scored a $ 7 million cap hit in the upcoming season in the final year of his three-year deal. And yes, the Golden Knights have Lehner, who is a more than qualified 1A goalkeeper. In fact, the duo won the William M. Jennings Trophy as they scored the fewest goals in the league.
But here’s the thing: Fleury just won the Vezina Trophy. The Vezina Trophy! At the age of 36, he set a 26-10-0 record of 1.98 goals against average, 0.928 goals and 20.1 goals above average. Only four guys in the league had a GSAA over 20 and only seven (with over 30 games played) were double digits. By Hockey Reference, he had 26 quality starts, which was good for a quality start percentage of 0.722 – the second best in the league among the guys who went into the colors for at least 20 games.
His overall wins, GAA and savings rate were the third best in the league among guys who started at least 20 games and he had six shutouts. Six. In 36 starts. In other words, every sixth start he hid the other team. Impressive. And don’t forget his post-season work with a 9-7 record, 2.04 ATMs and 0.918 savings rate. A slight drop, but solid nonetheless, considering Vegas slumped into the postseason as well.
Yes, it was a hockey trade. Pure and simple. Understandable. And while the Golden Knights didn’t trade the Vezina Trophy winner for a lot of money – no disrespect for Mikael Hakkarainen, but the 23-year-old Centerman has never played an NHL game – they had to take a step. They needed the cap as they kissed the $ 81.5 million cap.
Got it. That justifies a D. Maybe a C. But not better, because you swapped the reigning Vezina Trophy winner away.
But also, according to Jesse Granger of The Athletic, Fleury – also a three-time Stanley Cup champion with the penguins – found out on Twitter that he was being traded.
A source close to Marc-Andre Fleury says the deal is closed and that the Vezina Trophy winner found out about it on Twitter. #VegasBorn
– Jesse Granger (@JesseGranger_) July 27, 2021
Fleury’s agent Allan Walsh, he of knife-through-the-back fame, confirmed that no one in the organization had contacted Fleury. His tweet came about half an hour after TSN’s Darren Dreger broke the news.
While Marc-Andre Fleury has still not heard from anyone at the Vegas Golden Knights, he was apparently traded to Chicago. Marc-Andre will take the time to discuss his situation with his family and seriously consider his hockey future at this point.
– Allan Walsh (@walsha) July 27, 2021
Here’s the thing: yes, the deal might still be in the works and / or not officially official. Fine. Understandable. But considering it’s all over social media and featured by Dreger and his agent, you should probably at least text Fleury. And how can you not warn him, a man who has (literally) been the heart and soul of your organization since day 1, that something could happen?
Aside from the poor handling by the Golden Knights front office, you have to think that this opens the ground for a big trade – see: Jack Eichel and his $ 10 million cap hit – or some free agent -Signatures. After all, Vegas now needs a quality backup for Lehner.
“The rumors hit Twitter before I spoke to Marc-Andre Fleury,” said GM Kelly McCrimmon on a Zoom call with reporters. “We hadn’t even completed the trade call. We hadn’t started the trade call with the NHL Central Registry. We would never speak to a player until you reached the trade call if things didn’t work out.”
This is great and a little understandable as it might fail; But considering the news was getting all over Twitter – and as described below, the thought of him changing jerseys wasn’t a new thing – how not to shoot Fleury a text alerting him that something was close is?
McCrimmon noted that during the exit interviews on June 29, he told Fleury that the future of the team’s goalkeeping situation was fluid. He said he spoke to him several times about rumors and news. On July 12, he said he spoke to Fleury three times about Chicago’s interest and only informed him last Saturday of a new, unnamed team that contacted him that day.
The GM also confirmed that the team will be looking to recruit Lehner over the next few weeks.
Blackhawks class: A-
As mentioned earlier, they have just got one of the best goalkeepers in the league. They also have one of the best people in the league. It’s been a long time since the Blackhawks had superstar talent between the pipes, maybe back to Corey Crawford’s heyday. (Yes, Lehner was there before it was dealt to Vegas, but it was a short 33-game clip.)
The only reason this grade isn’t an A or A + is because there are some rumors that Fleury may refuse to go to the Windy City and retire. When that happens, the Blackhawks haven’t given up much.
One thing to watch out for here: There have been rumors that Marc-Andre Fleury might choose to retire if traded out of Vegas – for family reasons. Not sure how this will all turn out.
– Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 27, 2021
Is that the end of Fleury? As recently as last Friday, he appeared on 105.9 The X’s “Mark Madden Show” and said that while his body holds up and he’s had fun, he has no plans to retreat. He certainly didn’t see that wrinkle coming.
If that’s the end, it’s been a wild ride: 17 NHL seasons, three Stanley Cups, a Vezina, third on the NHL all-time winners list (492), and way too many smiles to count.