General manager Kelly McCrimmon announced Tuesday that their face of the franchise, Marc-Andre Fleury, had been traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. The former Vezina Trophy winner was traded for prospect Mikael Hakkarainen and no salary retained - a pure cap dump by the Golden Knights front office.
“I'd like to thank Marc-Andre Fleury for his time in Vegas,” McCrimmon said. “It's incredible the moments we shared with him in our organization. He's the most popular player I've ever seen in sports.”
Fleury was due to make $7 million this season. Moving him to Chicago gives the Golden Knights much needed cap relief to improve their roster. With the rumors swirling around Alec Martinez and a potential 3 year, $5 million deal, the Golden Knights will have just over $6 million in cap space.
The trade on paper makes a ton of sense. Fleury is 36 and not getting any younger. They also have a goaltender in Robin Lehner that is not only younger, but cheaper and equal to Fleury in terms of pure talent. Fleury’s $7 million cap hit allows the team to address other needs on the roster without breaking up the core.
While the trade was unfolding, multiple members of the media, including the Athletic’s Jesse Granger, reported that not only did Fleury not receive any sort of communication from the Golden Knights front office, but he also found out via Twitter when the news broke. Allan Walsh, Fleury’s agent, confirmed this with a tweet shortly after the news broke this morning. He also added that Fleury is now contemplating retirement in lieu of playing for Chicago.
“While Marc-Andre Fleury still hasn’t heard from anybody with the Vegas Golden Knights, he has apparently been traded to Chicago. Marc-Andre will be taking time to discuss his situation with his family and seriously evaluate his hockey future at this time.” Walsh said in the tweet.
In his media availability Tuesday afternoon, McCrimmon addressed these rumors. He said the team did not contact Fleury right away, because the trade call had not been completed yet. He added that he and Fleury had been in talks since their exit meeting, and had been in contact with him every step of the way. McCrimmon informed Fleury of Chicago’s interest on July 24.
“I said to him that I want to treat him professionally and have open lines of communication.,” McCrimmon said. “I wanted him to be completely comfortable if he heard rumors. We spoke many times from [the exiting meetings on June 29] up until this Saturday. I think communication was good.”
Fleury’s departure will now give rise to Robin Lehner as the undisputed starter between the pipes for the VGK. McCrimmon did add that the team will be looking to add another backup goalie in the coming weeks of free agency.
Regardless of who is right or wrong in the trade drama, Fleury will be sorely missed in Vegas. He led the team to a Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. Not only was he important to the team’s success on the ice, but he was arguably the most popular and well-liked player on the team by fans.