After beating the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round, all things seemed to be going smoothly for the Vegas Golden Knights as they prepared to take on the Vancouver Canucks. Top players had recovered from injuries, depth players were producing at high levels, and they seemed to figure out their goalie situation. However, they did not think the latter would cause problems off the ice. On Saturday, Aug. 22, Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent, Allan Walsh, posted a picture that expressed his frustrations with the current Vegas goalie situation.
Although Vegas has dealt with the hard task of choosing who to start in net for the playoffs, it had seemed as if both goalies would be willing to do whatever was in the best interest of the team. Based off of head coach Peter DeBoer’s decision making against the Blackhawks, it would appear that Robin Lehner would be the Golden Knights’ number one for the rest of their stay in Edmonton. There was some backlash surrounding this move as both fans and journalists thought Fleury’s experience would outweigh Lehner’s hot hand. As it turned out, Lehner has been solid for the Golden Knights and did not seem to struggle against the explosive Blackhawks.
Related: Penguins’ 2012 Draft Revisited
With the decision to stick with Lehner as the main goalie, it did create a problem off the ice. Walsh, in a now deleted tweet, posted a picture of Fleury being impaled by a sword with the name “DeBoer” written on it. Followers were able to screenshot the tweet before it was deleted.
Another shocking aspect of the tweet was that this is not the first time Fleury has seen the bench during the playoffs. When the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2016, Fleury relinquished the net to then-rookie, Matt Murray. Walsh did not post anything of this nature during that stretch.
This tweet stunned the Golden Knights as it came out of nowhere. Fleury is one of the leaders in the Vegas locker room, as well as a player that people look up to. After Lehner got traded to the Golden Knights, he commented on what it would be like to play with a goalie with Fleury’s accolades.
“Marc-Andre is obviously one of the best goalies in the league and he’s been for his whole career, very impressive career. I got to spend time with Corey Crawford this year, which was great and get to finish out the year with Marc and it’s a good opportunity for me,” Lehner said in an article by Scott King.
Lehner came to Vegas thinking he had escaped another goalie controversy in Chicago, as he claimed he did not receive what he was promised in his time there. In Vegas, he has earned his keep and his current role with the team. So far he has only lost one game between the pipes for the Golden Knights and has kept his save percentage over .900. Fleury, on the other hand, has not been his normal self during the playoffs. Although he has not lost, his save percentage is at .886.
The Golden Knights have met with Fleury and have said that they do not see any problems going forward this year. He also claimed that Walsh was just looking out for him as Fleury has known him since he was 15 years old. However, this has the possibility to linger around throughout playoffs and into the offseason. Lehner may feel like there is some hostility towards him from his partner for coming in and doing his job. Taking the net from another goalie is not an easy feat, and this added drama could affect how Lehner plays going forward.
Lehner is also an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. There is a chance that this could hurt Vegas’ chance to re-sign their new star. Fleury will be 36 years old next season and carry a cap hit of $7 million for the next two seasons. The Golden Knights do not have that much freedom in cap space either, so if Lehner wants to stay some trades might have to be made. However, given his age and contract it will be hard to shop Fleury around and it could turn into a situation similar to Henrik Lundqvist.
All in all, this situation most likely was taken overboard due to the vast accomplishments of Fleury. He is one of the best modern goalies and does have three Stanley Cups, but he is headed towards the end of his career. Lehner is a rising star in the NHL and is coming off a season where he was a Vezina Trophy finalist. Fleury and Lehner are also friends and the acts of an agent looking out for his client should not cause a rift between the duo.
During his media availability Fleury said, “We all want to win, that’s why we’re here. I really like Robin. We have a good friendship and I think he’s a really good goalie also. There are no hard feelings.”
Related: NHL 600-Goal Club
Vegas still has arguably the best goalie duo in the playoffs, and their ability to play both seriously improves their chances of a long run this postseason. The Golden Knights seem to be able to rally around both of their netminders and put their best foot forward each time they are on the ice. This incident could be seen as something the players can rally behind and show how committed their group is to each other, but only time will tell.