The trade deadline has come and gone and Marc-Andre Fleury will be staying with the Pittsburgh Penguins for the rest of the 2016-17 season. Believe it or not, we're trying not to jump at writing up every single rumor and report about Fleury, but Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos had some interesting information about the Pens netminder.
"A lot of people, speaking of goaltenders, believe that George McPhee [GM in Las Vegas] is targeting Marc-Andre Fleury," said Kypreos on Hockey Night in Canada during intermission. "Let's face it he's the best goalie out there that is available, he can be a franchise type of player and might be the guy that ends up being the face of that franchise in the very near future."
It makes some sense on the surface- Fleury is a two-time Stanley Cup champion. He's a former #1 overall pick. He's a flashy goalie on the ice with his athletic style. He's got a great smile and personality off the ice. You could do worse to attract transients and Vegas locals alike with a billboard of Fleury to sell Golden Knights hockey with his resume and playing style.
From the perspective of building a franchise, Fleury's been good playing 60+ games for most the past decade. He's only got two seasons after this one on his contract, he could be enough to be "the guy" in the early days of the expansion team as they get their feet under themselves but not be too burdensome with the term left for the team to have an aging player for too long.
How would it work?
Well, it could work in a lot of ways. By virtue of his no movement clause, Fleury is set to be automatically protected for the expansion draft per league rules. However, it's possible that the player could voluntarily waive that NMC for this draft, which would allow the Penguins their preference to protect starter Matt Murray and have Fleury available for Vegas to pick, Pittsburgh would get no compensation but lose no other player if the Golden Knights took Fleury.
It's important to note that's a hypothetical situation though, because it's very much an unknown if Fleury would waive his NMC in order to go to Las Vegas. On one hand, many close observers believe he would be accommodating in changing teams, as he desires to play more than Pittsburgh has played him in the last 11 months in the emergence of Murray. On the other hand, Las Vegas is an expansion team that probably won't be playoff caliber in the first few years, and is isolated and far from Fleury (and his wife's) extended family. Las Vegas may not be an attractive market for him, personally or professionally, which may mean a pass for the player. To be honest, waiving a NMC to go to an expansion team seems really far-fetched.
There's also the possibility of a trade. Through his contract, Fleury can block a trade to 12 NHL teams. But those lists are submitted once a year, usually in the off-season. The NHL "trade deadline" sounds like it carries some finality, but it really does not. Teams can make trades after the deadline, just players aren't eligible for the playoffs. Vegas can acquire professional level players after their seasons are completed.
Most don't expect the Penguins to trade Fleury (a good guy and great teammate in a tough situation) to a place he doesn't want to go. But remember- Fleury wants to play. Vegas might not be perfect, but if it's his best (or only) chance to be a starter, it becomes more attractive for a competitor.
All of this is possibly much ado about nothing, but this Fleury saga has played out for the past year with a lot of interest, so this new report and development is worth thinking about and sharing now. with the new information. Pittsburgh's now focused on the impending playoff run, but we all know the goalie situation will come to a conclusion in the very near future. If Las Vegas wants Fleury (and more importantly Fleury is open to the challenge) that could be an interesting scenario to move on for Fleury and not to lose a skater in the expansion draft.
That said, it's always nice to be wanted. If Kypreos's report is true and the Vegas franchise is sweet on Fleury, they may well be able to send feelers to him (through his agent, I would presume) that he would be their starter and one of the biggest pieces of their first team. That could be an interesting prospect for a guy who's had to sit a lot lately to be the star of the show again.
One way or another, most expect the Penguins and Fleury to split by June. Either they could trade him to a team that may be looking for a goaltending upgrade. Dallas, Winnipeg, Calgary, Buffalo, Carolina and Vancouver all have free agent goalies or are in obvious need of a starting caliber player. If one of those places are preferable for Fleury, he could easily end up there, assuming they have interest.
But if would be very intriguing if the expansion team wants him. As noted, this would be dependent on his interest in them as well, which remains unknown and speculative. At this point it might be ideal for the Penguins if it does work out like that and Fleury is the player they lose to LV and not a skater that would likely be exposed like Bryan Rust, Ian Cole, Oskar Sundqvist or Derrick Pouliot, among others.