Coming off one of his best, albeit with a difficult end, playoff performances, Marc-Andre Fleury’s season was a redemption story of its own.
After more than a decade as the Penguins’ workhorse, the 2003 first overall pick was demoted to No. 2 behind prized prospect on the rise Matt Murray. Even after Murray missed a couple rounds of last year’s playoffs to injury and Fleury playing well in relief, the youngster stepped right back between the pipes when he was healthy. Fleury was destined to join the Golden Knights via the expansion draft as a once central piece cast-off.
Of course, Vegas and Fleury’s first season together was fantastic, with the goalie setting a new career high save percentage at .927 and career low GAA at 2.24, though injuries limited him to 46 games. His playoff numbers were better than they’d been since the 2007-08 season, and he was so good that heading into the final, Fleury had Conn Smythe backers even if he lost.
Now, just one year away from unrestricted free agency, Fleury can sign an extension as soon as July 1. He’ll turn 34 in November and suggested he didn’t want to change teams again.
“It’s weird, a couple of years ago I was told I was getting too old to play. I still love it,” Fleury told reporters on Friday. “Vegas gave me an opportunity to continue doing what I love and I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else. I hope I finish my career here.”
Fleury: "A couple years ago I was getting told I was too old to play. I still love it, still have a lot of fun.
Certainly Vegas has given me this opportunity to do what I love and I wouldn't want to go anywhere else. Hopefully I can finish my career here." pic.twitter.com/vI6N1d4xay
As soon as he arrived in Vegas, Fleury was the face of the franchise and became an instant fan favourite. A leader on the team and respected in the locker room, Fleury was the steady hand that gave confidence to an unproven roster of players in front of him.
His numbers dipped in the Stanley Cup Final, but can be explained by looking at the kind of high quality chances the Golden Knights were giving up. After coming into the final with some of the best numbers in playoff history, he posted an .853 save percentage in five games against Washington and didn’t allow less than three goals in any game.
After losing Game 5, he showed why he’s both a leader in the room and beloved in the city.
“Thank you (fans) for all the support through the season. From Day 1 they’ve been incredible and…I’m sorry we couldn’t bring it home.”