The Minnesota Wild acquired goaltender Marc-André Fleury ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline. In return, the Chicago Blackhawks received a conditional second-round draft pick that can become a first round pick if the Wild make the Conference Final and Fleury accounts for at least four of the Wild’s wins along the way to the Conference Final.
A veteran of 18 seasons in the NHL, Fleury is a three-time Stanley Cup champion, all with the Pittsburgh Penguins who drafted him first overall back in 2003. The 37-year-old ranks third behind Martin Brodeur and Patrick Roy in terms of career wins in the NHL with 511. After 13 seasons with the Penguins, he was selected in the Vegas Expansion Draft, becoming the face of the franchise for the Golden Knights. In his four seasons in Sin City, he led the team to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season, and he captured his first Vezina Trophy in his fourth and final season.
Nicknamed “Flower”, he was traded by the Golden Knights to the Blackhawks due to salary cap constraints. While he hasn’t had a Vezina-worthy season this year with the Blackhawks, that is much to do with the team in front him. With him now manning the crease for a contender, he’ll look to showcase his abilities as a top-notch goaltender and a top-notch teammate.
Fleury’s Fit with the Wild
The Wild have had uneven goaltending this season between veteran Cam Talbot and 25-year-old Kappo Kähkönen (who is getting moved in a separate move.) By adding the reigning Vezina winner, Fleury adds legitimacy to the Wild’s crease in a way that they haven’t had since Niklas Backstrom. Fleury likely assumes the starting position with the Wild; at worst, he assumes a “1B” role with Talbot.
Fleury is one of the most popular players in the NHL, and he is heralded for how good of a teammate he is wherever he has gone. He is fiercely competitive, and he was the pseudo-captain of the Golden Knights in their first couple of seasons in the NHL. He always seems upbeat when he speaks to the media, and that kind of energy can be infectious, especially for a team that is looking to establish themselves as a legitimate threat in the Central Division.
With Fleury and Talbot in place, the Wild can now feel comfortable that they have good enough goaltending to go head-to-head with whoever they’ll face in the playoffs (assuming they get there). While Fleury’s 2.95 goals-against average and .908 save-percentage (SV%) won’t jump out at you, it’s important to note that the Blackhawks have been porous defensively all season, and his SV% can be spun as a good thing given the team he played behind this season.
What the Blackhawks Get
The Blackhawks have not had the season they anticipated having after bringing in Fleury, Seth Jones and others. After trying to push for the playoffs this season, they instead find themselves without a first round pick while sitting in the bottom 10 of the standings in the league. After trading Brandon Hagel to the Tampa Bay Lightning, this move is the next in what projects to be a busy day for Blackhawks general manager Kyle Davidson as he aims to rebuild the Blackhawks through the draft.
The move gives them two picks in the second round of this year’s draft, though Minnesota’s pick could turn into a first round pick. Beyond that, they have six more picks in the 2022 draft, including three picks in the third round. While Fleury seemed to have enjoyed his time in the Windy City, he did not fit the long-term picture for the Blackhawks, and this move makes that long-term picture look just a little bit brighter.
Stay tuned to The Hockey Writers for all things trade deadline as deals continue to come through.