After another third-round exit, the Vegas Golden Knights know they must make changes this offseason. Their terrible power-play was a big part of what cost them another chance at the Stanley Cup this summer, as was their near-complete lack of center depth. As such, their primary targets will be someone to fix their power play and at least one top-tier center. With just $6 million to spend this offseason and a few players to re-sign, that means a trade will happen. From the sounds of it, one player out the door will be one of their prized goaltenders. Regardless of whether or not it should be, it seems increasingly likely that it will be Marc-Andre Fleury who has to say goodbye to Vegas.
There’s Only One Reason Marc-Andre Fleury Is Still A Knight
Last offseason, Marc-Andre Fleury’s name was heavily involved in trade rumors. The Pittsburgh Penguins were reportedly in hot pursuit of him. It got to the point where it seemed as though a trade back to Pittsburgh was all but a guarantee. But then, owner Bill Foley stepped in. He wanted his face of the franchise to stay and retire as a Knight, and so a trade never materialized. Foley is the seemingly sole reason Fleury wasn’t traded last offseason. But, as he grows more and more anxious to win the Cup, his opinion could change.
The Knights absolutely have to get a number one center. Practically the only way for them to do so is to trade a goalie. Fleury has the higher cap hit, and if the Knights are truly interested in a player like Jack Eichel, they’re going to need all the cap space they can get. So, as much as Foley loves Fleury, his desire for a Cup could soon outweigh his desire to keep him in Vegas, if it hasn’t already.
Something Feels Off About DeBoer and Fleury’s Relationship
Another thing that I think could play into the decision to trade Marc-Andre Fleury over Robin Lehner is his relationship with Peter DeBoer. To be clear, I have no inside knowledge, and no one has ever publicly spoken of this. But, it sure seems as though there’s some friction in their relationship. Fleury’s numbers dipped last season when DeBoer took over the bench, and then he was benched for the playoffs. Had it not been for Lehner’s concussion early in the season, I’m not confident Fleury ever would’ve been given the chance to be the starter in Vegas again. But, he took it and ran with it all the way to the Vezina and William M. Jennings Trophies, and DeBoer chose to start him in the playoffs.
However, the second Fleury made a big, costly mistake (looking at you, Game 3 vs Montreal), DeBoer started rotating him and Lehner again, to the apparent detriment of the team. All of that screams to me that there’s something going on behind the scenes. Despite all Fleury did this year, and all he has done for the Knights since their inaugural season, he has been on a very short leash with DeBoer. If my theory is true, I can see that playing a big part in him being over Lehner.
Where Could Marc-Andre Fleury Go?
Due to Fleury having a full no-move clause, he has complete control over his destiny. Given his age and love for the places he’s played, there are not many places I think he’ll be willing to go to. But, here are a few, in order of decreasing likeliness.
The most obvious and seemingly most likely destination is Pittsburgh. It is absolutely no secret that Fleury loves Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh loves him. The Penguins are also desperate for a reliable, veteran goalie. It would be a perfect fit. The only obstacles to a reunion are Pittsburgh’s limited cap space and the fact that Vegas won’t get the center they want in exchange. However, I can see a three-team trade working out, and possibly with the Sabres if the Knights are truly in on Eichel. So, keep your eyes on the Penguins.
Another place I can see Fleury going is to the Seattle Kraken. This feels less likely for a lot of reasons. But, I still think it’s possible. They need a player to build around and a number one goalie. Vegas had a LOT of success with making both of those guys Fleury due to his incredibly likable nature as well as his Hall-of-Fame skill. So, there’s no reason to believe the same wouldn’t happen in Seattle.
However, it will likely be a bit of a tough sell for Fleury, who probably doesn’t want to relocate his family to a new, far away city again. In addition to that, while I think the Kraken will be good, the odds of them having the success of Vegas so quickly probably aren’t great. If Fleury is going to leave Vegas, he’s going to go somewhere he can still have a chance to win. He is 36 years old after all. So, it’s possible that he goes to Seattle. But, it’s certainly not as probable as Pittsburgh.
This is probably wishful thinking on my part, but a third team I could see Fleury going to is the Boston Bruins. It is by far the least likely destination of the three. But, I also don’t think it’s completely crazy. The Bruins need a veteran goaltender while Rask recovers from surgery. Fleury is by far the best one on the market. Then, once Rask recovers, they could be 1A/1B just like Fleury and Lehner were. That would be huge not only for Rask in the long run, but for Fleury too.
However, just like with Pittsburgh, cap space (which, while the Bruins have it in spades right now, will begin to disappear quickly if they re-sign all their UFAs and RFAs) and the fact that Vegas won’t get who they want back will be issues. It would likely necessitate a three-team trade just like Pittsburgh. If Fleury and the Knights are going to accept one of those, it’ll be back to Pittsburgh. So, it’s a pipe dream. But, since it’s only about 90% crazy I felt the need to bring it up.
As much as I hate to say it, it certainly seems like Marc-Andre Fleury is done in Vegas. I don’t think it’s smart for the Knights to trade him, nor is it the right thing to do. But, it seems like a foregone conclusion that it will happen.
I truly feel bad for Fleury, because he gives everything he has to teams and is great in the locker room and community, yet he somehow keeps getting the short end of the stick. I hope for his sake, that if the Knights do trade him, he at least goes back to Pittsburgh. He never should’ve been forced out of there in the first place, so it’s only right that if he can’t retire as a Knight, he is able to retire as a Penguin. It feels like there’s a good chance of it happening, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how everything unfolds over the rest of the summer. Where do you think Fleury will play next season? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter!
-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)
Featured image courtesy of John Locher/Pool Photo-USA Today.
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