Fleury’s Achievement, Potential Deadline Deals and Free Agent Landing Spots
What’s Happening: In his first return to Vegas since being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks last offseason, goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made history. With the Blackhawks beating the Golden Knights 2-1 on Jan. 8, Fleury became the first goalie to win a game against all 32 teams in the league. While he has fond memories of his time in Vegas, equally, we’re sure he’s happy to “stick it” to a team that didn’t have him as the number one. But wouldn’t it be even better if he could do it again these playoffs?
Trade Deadline Landing Spots: If Fleury could face his former team in the playoffs—or make a deep playoff push with any team for that matter—just imagine the drive he would have to outperform the Golden Knights. With his expiring $7 million contract, the Blackhawks mediocre record, and his value to a playoff team, it seems very likely that Chicago will look to get a return on a trade this Trade Deadline.
The list of potential landing spots for Fleury is largely determined by whether or not the Blackhawks would retain some or all of his salary. Adding to that his 10-team no trade list clause and many teams already having capable starters that are healthy, the options to trade Fleury will probably be limited.
Given this scenario, a team on the bubble with cap space is probably the most logical fit. With $7,617,776 current cap space, James Reimer (temporarily) on IR, and an opportunity in the Pacific Division, the San Jose Sharks seems to be the best fit.
Beyond that, any other trade would require salary retention, cap gymnastics, and/or would put Fleury as an “insurance policy” 1b or backup. It’s not to say that any of these scenarios are impossible, but instead that they would then mean any team could theoretically pick him up. So, San Jose might be the best fit to move Fleury, but don’t be surprised if you see him on almost any one of this year’s playoff teams.
Free Agent Landing Spots: What’s most interesting is trying to figure out what will happen with Fleury in the offseason. Having mulled over retirement after the trade to Chicago, at 37, he certainly might decide it’s time to hang up his skates. However, with a respectable .910 Save Percentage and 2.88 Goals Against Average on the struggling Blackhawks, he appears to have plenty left in the tank for at least another season. Therefore, if our money was on it, we’d expect to see Fleury back next season.
As a caveat, our guess is that Fleury would only come back if he’s with a team that is certain to compete for the Cup. Likewise, given the previously discussed availability of cap space and roster spots, the potential destinations start to narrow.
Having earned plenty of money throughout his career, salary likely won’t be a priority for Fleury—as it wasn’t for Tuukka Rask just yesterday. Instead, expect winning and ice time to be his two main priorities. Thus, assuming they don’t win the Cup this year, with both Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz’s contracts expiring, Fleury would be an awesome fit with the Colorado Avalanche.
Similarly, in desperate need of quality goaltending and Mikko Koskinen’s contract expiring, the Edmonton Oilers are another great option. Moreover, the Dallas Stars have the same characteristics, with Braden Holtby’s contract expiring this offseason. Furthermore, if he does end up in San Jose this Trade Deadline, he could theoretically extend there as well. And finally, with a new General Manager—Ron Hextall—and Casey DeSmith’s contract expiring, could we see Fleury make another attempt at a Cup and retire with the Pittsburgh Penguins?
Altogether, assuming he doesn’t opt for retirement, Fleury’s options and opportunities to win another Cup will be numerous. Where exactly will he end up? Well, that’s anyone’s guess at this point.