Now that the Penguins have been crowned champions for the second straight year, it’s officially open season on rumours—and at the top of that list is Marc-Andre Fleury.
Earlier on Monday, Renaud Lavoie reported that Fleury waived his no-move when asked back in February, but only for Vegas.
This means the Penguins can protect Matt Murray, as Fleury will be exposed to the Golden Knights.
Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup champion, also has a partial no-trade clause that allows him to list 18 teams to which he could be dealt. There’s no word on whether the Penguins have asked for any such list. The 32-year-old has two years remaining on his four-year, $23-million contract carrying a $5.75-million cap hit.
So, on that note, we’re going with some full-on speculation here as we take a look at a few other teams that could be an intriguing fit for Fleury’s services should he waive his no-trade.
This one seems like a bit of a foregone conclusion, doesn’t it? Fleury checks just about all the boxes—skill, age, character, cap cost, availability—for a brand new franchise that will no doubt go through its share of growing pains, and we now know that he waived his no-move clause ahead of the expansion draft.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos has believed for some time now that Fleury will be Vegas’ expansion choice, but it’s possible that if he does get picked up by the new club, it won’t be his final destination.
Elliotte Friedman said in his latest edition of 30 Thoughts that Fleury could be a prime candidate for a flip.
And as Sportsnet’s Luke Fox pointed out, there’s a good chance the Golden Knights are selecting some players based purely on the idea of collecting assets to later trade away—a point that works both in favour and against the idea that Fleury could be Vegas-bound.
Of all the teams on our list not named Vegas, the Calgary Flames make the most sense as they’re a post-season team just one man shy of being a legitimate contender. Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson took turns in the crease in 2016-17, and while both netminders did, at times, grab that No. 1 job, neither truly excelled enough to be a long-term solution. Both are slated to be unrestricted free agents on July 1, leaving the Flames goalie-less once again.
Fleury’s name has been linked to Calgary all season, with the club reportedly “kicking tires” on the goalie prior to this year’s trade deadline.
“We haven’t closed the doors on any options relative to our goaltending,” Flames GM Brad Treliving said during a Sportsnet radio interview last week. “I haven’t ruled out anything with the goaltending.”
The Calgary Flames have several promising goalie prospects coming down the pipeline (we see you, Jon Gillies), but Treliving’s patient approach in that department means they need a starter, stat.
(And if the Flames do decide to bring up a younger goalie for some backup experience down the road, there are few goalies who set a better example to follow than Fleury.)
As we saw this past season, the Jets are in need of some goaltending help. They’ve got two young netminders on the payroll come July 1 (Ondrej Pavelec will be a UFA by then), but both struggled through 2016-17.
Similar to the Flames, the Winnipeg Jets are getting close to contention. With a young core and a few dynamic scorers, a steady crease presence from someone like Fleury could make the difference between another lottery number and a trip to the post-season.
The Flyers could use a steady hand in net, but it’s highly unlikely that Pittsburgh would deal a veteran fan-favourite to their worst enemy. That’s where that Vegas flip idea could come in.
(For an example, see what the Tampa Bay Lightning did at the deadline with Mark Streit, acquiring him from the Flyers and then dealing him immediately to Pittsburgh.)
Steve Mason will be a free agent on July 1, leaving just Michal Neuvirth—who Vegas GM George McPhee has spoken highly of in the past.
The Islanders are another team on the brink of serious contention. With the future of 2018 UFA-to-be John Tavares potentially up the air, adding a veteran presence like Fleury could help solidify the squad—even if just for one run at the Cup.
We should note that the Islanders haven’t said they’re in the market, but with a rotating crease in 2016-17 and two affordable netminders (Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak) on the payroll after July 1, it’s worth putting them on our list just for a fun “what if.”
They don’t call it the silly season for nothing. Let the speculation begin.