With the Vegas Golden Knights now officially out of the 2020-21 NHL playoff picture, expect there to be a lot of talk about change coming to that roster. They weren’t “supposed” to lose to the Montreal Canadiens, the Golden Knights are virtually in on almost every big name in free agency and trade talks, and the team has $12 million tied up in two goaltenders — goaltenders whose playing time stories caused quite the controversy during the Semi Final.
Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oilers have a need to improve their long-term goaltending outlook. It’s likely Mike Smith will be back between the pipes as Oilers general manager Ken Holland has publicly stated he’d like to extend him, but the combination of Smith and Mikko Koskinen is questionable. The tandem could be strong or it could struggle, but either way, neither are under contract come the end of the 2021-22 season.
So, if the Vegas Golden Knights are looking at big changes and possibly moving a goaltender, and the Oilers are looking at potentially adding a goalie, is there a fit here?
Which Goalie Would Vegas Move?
The chatter today seems to be that the Golden Knights would consider trading Marc-Andre Fleury over Robin Lehner. Fleury is 36, he’s a Vezina Trophy Finalist, and he’s the more expensive of the two netminders. His $7 million cap hit might normally be an obstacle — it certainly was rumored to be last offseason — but with only one year left and with how well he played, there will be takers.
Either way, the Golden Knights will get calls if they put either Fleury or Lehner on the trade block. While both have modified no-trade clauses in their deals, should word become either is available, the Oilers might kick tires.
The Pros Of Adding Fleury
As well as Smith played last season, Fleury is easily an upgrade. He’s a lot more costly, but he’s going to give the Oilers the stable goaltending they know they’ll need if their plan is to do more than simply make the playoffs next season. He’s a three-time Stanley Cup winner, he was one of the main reasons the Golden Knights got as far as they did this season and, by all accounts, he’s a tremendous person.
Fleury finished this past season with a 1.98 goals against average and he’s had an average over 3.00 only twice in his entire 16-season career. Had had a 2.04 GAA in 16 playoff games. He’d be a stabilizing presence, a proven winner and he’s three years younger than the starter Edmonton is likely to lean on next season. The Oilers could do a lot worse.
The Cons of Adding Fleury
While younger than Smith, Fleury still isn’t young. What the Oilers really need is a goaltender who can grow with this young core and become part of the leadership group every season. At best, Fleury plays well for you, then signs one or two year contracts to finish out his NHL career (assuming he stays). In that way, he’s not much different than Smith.
He’s also a lot more expensive. The Golden Knights are only moving Fleury if they think they can shed his entire $7 million salary. While the Oilers have money to spend this offseason, much of it will be allocated to finding two left-wingers, a third-line center and a left-side top-four defenseman. Spending $7 million on Fleury poses challenges to getting all of that done.
Final Take: Should the Oilers Be In On Fleury?
If the Golden Knights do move Fleury, the Oilers should pass. As nice an upgrade as it would be, Edmonton’s biggest problem isn’t just winning next season, it’s winning when it counts for the next five seasons and beyond. If Fleury had Lehner’s salary, I’d say go for it. But, because he’s $7 million, 36 and require an extension after the 2021-22 season, he’s not much more than a short-term fix.
Fleury plays well enough that the Oilers should give it some real thought if the option is presented to them. But, the dominos that would fall as a result also need to be taken into account. Trading for Fleury means having to move Koskinen (not an easy thing to do and might require a buy out). Trading for Fleury means not signing one of the two left-wingers the team badly needs. Trading for Fleury means sticking with Kyle Turris or forcing Ryan McLeod into the third-line center spot before he’s potentially ready.
Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”