At 36 years old, Marc-Andre Fleury put together one of his best seasons in the abbreviated 2020-21 campaign. A 1.98 GAA and .928 save percentage, Fleury led the Vegas Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Playoff semifinal and then earned the first Vezina Trophy of his career.
But with the Golden Knights in a cap pinch, Fleury and his $7 million cap hit were traded to Chicago. It was a shocking decision to move on from the face of the franchise since Day 1 and rumours percolated that he was considering retirement instead of relocating again.
"I needed time," Fleury told Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek during a recording of 31 Thoughts: The Podcast. "I've been lucky to do what I love for so long and my family was very comfortable in Vegas with the schools, the kids, their friends, our house. You start to think about retiring there and stuff.
"I didn't want to be overly selfish about it and think about me playing another hockey season and moving everybody around. But I still love the game, I still love to play."
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Now in Chicago with the Blackhawks, Fleury joins a team that hasn't qualified for the playoffs in an 82-game season since 2017, but they've made strides to improve this off-season. On top of Fleury, the Hawks added Seth and Caleb Jones to the blue line and Tyler Johnson up front. And they hope to have Jonathan Toews back after he took last season off to recover from chronic immune response syndrome.
Fleury arrives here with just one season remaining on his contract and his 37th birthday on the horizon in November. So while he's coming off an award-winning season, Father Time remains undefeated and the topic of his retirement won't be going away.
"The day will come. I'm not sure when. I'm not sure how, why," Fleury said. "I'm getting older right? The body feels it some days. A lot of days... but when I get out there I still feel like a young guy.
"I know it will come. I'm not sure when, but I'm sure soon. So I just try to enjoy what I have right now and go one year at a time."
One year at a time? Is there a chance this is Fleury's last season in the NHL?
"Could be," he said with a laugh.
"I still want to be good. I want to battle, I want to feel good, I want to win. I want to help a team."
He will surely help the Blackhawks, who return to a Central Division loaded with questions and opportunity. Chicago's first game of the season will be on the road in Colorado on Oct. 13, with the home opener coming Oct. 19 against the Islanders.
Fleury's full interview will be featured on an upcoming episode of 31 Thoughts: The Podcast.