Marc-Andre Fleury is the biggest goaltender in the rumor mill right now. With the trade deadline less than a week away, we will soon find out if the 37-year-old will find a new home. It’s hard not to picture the Pittsburgh Penguins as a potential landing spot for him, as he is one the biggest legends in their entire history. Furthermore, when they won their back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017, they utilized him as their extremely effective backup goaltender. He still played a key role when Matt Murray was the starter and could do the same thing with Tristan Jarry.
Most hockey fans would love to see Fleury back with the Penguins because it’s where he ultimately belongs. Elliotte Friedman also reported that there’s a chance that the future Hall of Famer also wanted to finish his career with them. With all of this, the Blackhawks should view them as a potential trading partner. They also have a few players who could be very appealing to them. Let’s discuss them now.
For this blockbuster to come to fruition with the Penguins, it would likely mean that the Blackhawks would have to take Casey DeSmith back the other way. Overall, the 30-year-old has had some rough moments as the team’s backup this season. In 16 appearances, he sports a 6-4-3 record, 2.99 goals-against average (GAA), and a .904 save percentage (SV%). With this, there have been concerns about him holding this role, but Fleury certainly would be able. In 44 appearances on a much weaker team, he has a 19-20-5 record, 2.90 GAA, and .909 SV%.
DeSmith is in the final year of his contract which carries a $1.25 million cap hit. Therefore, if he were acquired by the Blackhawks, his time with the team could be very short. Yet, they also could consider signing him to an extension if they are confident that he can bounce back. Keep in mind, he is a goaltender who sported over a .910 SV% in each of his first three NHL seasons.
Pierre LeBrun reported earlier this week that the Blackhawks wanted a pretty large return in any trade centering around Fleury. They are seeking a first-round pick or first-round level prospect and potentially a mid-round pick. If the Penguins were against trading away their first, one prospect who immediately stands out is Samuel Poulin. Keep in mind, he was the 21st overall pick of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. With that, he would be a very appealing option for the Blackhawks, as many believe he could blossom into a top-six winger.
What I think an asking price would look like from Chicago in a Fleury trade: 1st RD pick (or 1st RD level prospect) and maybe a mid-round pick. The second pick likely depends on whether the Hawks need to take back a contract and how bad that contract is.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) March 14, 2022
But key is: 1st RD pick.
After a strong stint in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) between the Sherbrooke Phoenix and Val-d’Or Foreurs, Poulin has been off to a decent start in the American Hockey League (AHL) this season. In 52 games thus far, he has 10 goals, 16 assists, 43 penalty minutes. Overall, the 21-year-old is not only producing fairly well but also is playing a very heavy game. These elements certainly could interest the Blackhawks in a potential swap.
The other prospect who the Blackhawks could find intriguing is Pierre-Olivier Joseph. At 22 years old, he still hasn’t been able to secure himself a permanent spot in the NHL. This is because the team possesses a strong defensive group, so it’s been hard for the youngster to get into the lineup. In 20 career games over the last two seasons, he has one goal, four assists, and a minus-1 rating. However, only four of those games played occurred during this campaign.
Even with his limited NHL action, Joseph is still viewed as having a lot of potential, and it’s easy to understand why. He has the tools to blossom into a top-four offensive defenseman because of his strong passing and puck-moving ability. He is making that clear with the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins this campaign, too, as he has nine goals to go along with 20 assists. That kind of production at any level from a defenseman is nothing to scoff at.
With the Blackhawks ready to rebuild, they should be looking at improving their prospect pool. The left side of their defense could certainly use a bit of help and when viewing Joseph’s numbers in the minors, he could be an immediate fit on the blue line right now. Being traded to a weaker team could open the door for him to finally become a full-time NHL player.
Although Marcus Pettersson isn’t a prospect anymore, he is still young enough to mesh well in a rebuild. With that, he has found himself in the rumor mill, as the Penguins are trying to gain more cap flexibility moving forward. The 25-year-old defenseman has a $4,025,175 million cap hit until the end of the 2024-25 campaign, so he would be a long-term investment for the Blackhawks if acquired. Furthermore, if they retained half of Fleury’s $7 million cap hit in a move with the Penguins, he would help offset the costs. This, in turn, would allow them to make other moves at the deadline, too.
Pettersson would also likely be open to a change of scenery, as he has seen himself as a healthy scratch as of late. Even with this being the case, he is still a serviceable top-four defenseman when he is playing at his best. In 55 games this season, he has one goal, 13 assists, and a plus-5 rating. With that, he also has 101 hits and only needs six more to set a new career high. Overall, he could be a good target for the Blackhawks, as he would immediately become their top left-handed defenseman.
Nevertheless, it would be a very nice sight to see Fleury back with the Penguins. 2021-22 could be the reigning Vezina Trophy’s winner last season in the NHL, so it feels right for him to finish his career with the team he is remembered most for playing with. However, if they want to successfully acquire him, they will have to send the Blackhawks a decent return. It will be interesting to see if it comes to fruition.