NEW YORK – Marc-Andre Fleury can admit now he was preparing for the possibility of becoming a Calgary Flame.
He’ll even go as far as to say that had Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford crafted a deal to send Fleury to the Flames at last season’s trade deadline, the 32-year-old goaltender would likely have waived the no-trade clause he has in his contract.
“I think so,” said Fleury while in New York for league meetings.
“I think Calgary is a great town and a great hockey team too. I think they’ll be very good again this year. But here I am.”
“I heard all the rumours – Winnipeg, Calgary and Vegas,” said Fleury of the trade deadline talk.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen. At the trade deadline I couldn’t sleep that night, wondering, ‘where am I going?’”
The longtime Penguins goalie had informed Rutherford he wanted to stay in Pittsburgh for the remainder of the season.
However, his limited no-trade clause kept the door open for Rutherford to peddle him.
Fleury knew he could be asked to go to a team he didn’t have listed, and shrugged off such parameters as if to say they could easily be overcome if a deal was put in place and management wanted him to move on.
“(On deadline day) Mr. Rutherford said, ‘go take a nap, you’re not going anywhere,’” said Fleury, flashing the grin that will be plastered all over Vegas as their cornerstone player.
“I’m fine with the decision.”
Fact is, while many saw Fleury as a logical fit for the Flames in the off-season, the club was happy with a surging Brian Elliott at the trade deadline and weren’t embroiled in serious trade talks with the Penguins at the time.
It was only after Elliott’s playoff performance the Flames became a logical fit for Fleury. By that time it had essentially been predetermined Fleury was Vegas bound, as per an agreement between the Pens and the Golden Knights.
Given the reality the Penguins would be using Matt Murray as their netminder this year and would risk losing Fleury in the Vegas expansion draft, did the veteran figure the odds favoured him to become a Golden Knight?
“I kind of knew I was coming here,” he said.
“I didn’t want to just leave midway through the season. I thought we had a great team in Pittsburgh again and the team was fine with the cap.
“I thought, it’s another shot at winning and I’d rather leave at the end of the season than midway. I’ve been there 14 years and I wanted to make it right. It was a big decision.”
The right one too, given the fact his last time on skates as a Penguin he skated around Bridgestone Arena in Nashville hoisting his third Stanley Cup.
Asked if he was comfortable being the ambassador and face of the Vegas franchise, the soft-spoken first pick overall in 2003 chuckled.
“Usually Sid does all that stuff – maybe I should ask him,” laughed Fleury.
“It’s not something I asked for or something I even had to think about.
“I just want to play the game. I love this game still. I want to share my passion with the kids around town and teach them hockey. I want to try to help grow the game in that area, but my focus will be the team and winning games.
“It’s just another good challenge. I don’t think I’m the most vocal guy, but I can show how to be a professional on and off the ice and how to act. I think we have a good group of veterans who can lead all together.”
Fleury moved into his Vegas home earlier this month and said he’s already being recognized.
“It’s all so crazy because you wouldn’t expect much hockey knowledge but the Uber drivers, the movers and the car rental guy all wanted to talk about the team,” he said.
“They’re excited about it.”