Marc-Andre Fleury is one of the nicest guys in the entire NHL. Ask any of his teammates or anyone in general who has crossed paths with him and they will all say the same thing – an amazing goalie and an even better person. On Tuesday, less than a month after winning the Vezina Trophy, Fleury was traded from the Vegas Golden Knights to the Chicago Blackhawks. Getting dealt is tough enough, but it was made worse by the fact Fleury found out about the deal from Twitter, not from the organization. The veteran netminder has been done wrong by the Golden Knights and it’s time for the Penguins to step in and bring home the Flower.
Fleury spent over a decade with the Penguins and left one of the best legacies of any player to put on the jersey. From his Stanley Cup performances where some of his saves leave fans scratching their heads to his bubbly personality that can take over a room and brings nothing but joy. It’s always felt like he would eventually return and after a failed attempt by ex-general manager Jim Rutherford, it’s time for Ron Hextall and Brian Burke to make it happen.
Penguins Have Pieces to Make the Hockey Aspect Make Sense
Tristan Jarry would likely be the piece being moved to Chicago in any deal for Fleury. The Blackhawks currently only have $2.4 million in cap space and they still have a few outstanding free agents to lock up. While they would love to have the veteran netminder in the windy city, if Fleury really doesn’t want to play there, perhaps they will consider the move. Jarry makes half on the cap as Fleury at $3.5 million and at 26 years old, with two years left on his deal, he still has lots of upside. They would head into next season stronger in net than they were last with Jarry and more financially flexible. Not the worst plan B, especially if Fleury never reports.
Calling Fleury a Fan Favorite in Pittsburgh Is an Understatment
If Hextall and Burke are looking for some serious street cred, they can be known as the executives who reunited the Beatles in Pittsburgh. Ok, not those Beatles as we don’t need to hear anyone sing, but the ones who grew up as Penguins together and won three Stanley Cups. The chemistry and bond the likes of Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, and Fleury have is what friendships are made of.
The business side of the deal makes it tough, regardless of how hard this is pulling on our all heartstrings. The Penguins don’t have enough cap space to roster both Fleury and Jarry, and they will need to get creative if they want to make this deal work. The goalie market has never been hotter, so even if the Penguins have to complete two deals, Jarry could head to another team in need.
As free agency opens, Hextall has $7.4 million in cap space to work with, needing some help on the left wing and a depth defenseman to likely replace Cody Ceci. Moving one of Michael Matheson, Jason Zucker, or Marcus Pettersson for some inexpensive assets would be ideal. It would allow the team to bring back Fleury and have space to pull off another reasonable acquisition. A rugged defenseman and a scoring winger not named Zucker appear to be on the wish list, however with Fleury coming available potentially, the top spot on the list should be taken over.
Retirement Needs to Be Avoided
After the trade had surfaced, some chatter began about Fleury’s future and if he was even going to show up in Chicago. It would be a complete shame if the reigning Vezina Trophy winner hung up his skates a month later. Vegas decided it was Robin Lehner who they would move forward with and he’s a very capable netminder. Considering his production, age, and contract, you can’t blame the Golden Knights for moving in this direction. But you can blame them for dropping the ball on the human side of the game.
Imagine your job was being relocated to the other side of the country and your boss never told you. They just let you hear it through the grapevine. Basically, what happened here and this isn’t how Fleury can go out. His legacy still has plenty of hockey to be added to it and it should include another stint in Pittsburgh. Sure, there would be a certain level of risk involved here for Hextall and Burke, but it’s worth it. The move would be welcomed by ownership, the team, the fan base and all the Fleury fans around the game. Now we all wait and see if they can pull it off.