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MOCK trade: how the Pens could get Marc-Andre Fleury back

It hasn’t happened — but a hypothetical look at how the Pens could get Fleury from Vegas

NHL: JAN 07 Penguins at Golden Knights Photo by: Marc Sanchez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Let’s start off with this disclaimer — I don’t think what you’re about to see reality-based at all. The odds right now that Pittsburgh Penguins will get Marc-Andre Fleury back are very, very remote.

For starters, the Vegas owner Bill Foley said in February, “[Fleury] never came really close being part of a deal, and I would’ve had a big problem with it if that had been presented to me”. Foley has also called Fleury the “face of the franchise” and vowed the goalie will retire as a member of the Golden Knights. Tough to trade for a guy when the owner says that.

Vegas knew when they re-signed Robin Lehner that they have a lot of money invested in their goalie position. It’s worked out well for them though, with some deep playoff runs requiring use of both goalies. Fleury just won the Vezina. It’s really believed Vegas is going to trade a goalie (that they love) right after he’s named the NHL’s best goalie?

It doesn’t add up.

But as long as Fleury is still an active player, the desire and interest will remain in some quarters that the Pens should attempt to re-acquire him. It’s understandable. It would make a great story, which is why I was involved in a mock trade (that means fake!) to make it happen. So why did I do it?

Well, when you write about the Penguins and there are mock drafts, you feel left out more often than not. The SBN 2021 first round draft has been going on and again the Pens are out in the cold. I could have sat back inactive and let the moment pass, but what’s the fun in that? So when our Vegas blog Knights On Ice was willing to consider a Fleury trade, I figured, hey, let’s show what it could look like.

And here’s what it looks like!

One of many problems in the “Fleury reunion” idea is that Vegas has little salary cap space, and Pittsburgh has even less. We needed a clearinghouse for a third team to jump in and eat half of Fleury’s $7.0 million cap hit. Detroit was interested in stepping up and helping, but not out of the goodness of their hearts.

The price was a 2022 first round pick. That’s a hefty price, but not totally out-of-bounds from reality— Toronto passed a first rounder to Carolina for the $6.25 million cap hit of Patrick Marleau in 2019. The Red Wings got a first + a second round pick from Washington in part for taking Richard Panik’s cap hit that would have been $1.7 million for two years if the Capitals had buried him in the minors. Fleury’s hit to Detroit would be less than Marleau’s, but about on par with Panik’s total cap impact. Markets change and evolve and that price wasn’t budging, so my choice was to meet it or not conclude the deal.

In real life, maybe that’s a bridge too far. But for this purpose, I met the price, because really, what does a 2022 first round pick mean to the Pens right now? It’s not really all that important to take a player with probably a 50%ish percent chance of making an impact, in what would take, on average about three years.

If you could get a Vezina-winning goalie who also stood on his head and willed the Pens past the Capitals in 2017 in exchange for an asset that won’t be ready to make an impact until likely 2025, why not? Pittsburgh needs goaltending to make a playoff run, and they need Fleury’s cap hit to be down to acquire him.

The other factor in this trade was shipping Tristan Jarry to Vegas. Surely in this fantasy-world, I now imagine that Jarry lives up to his potential and ends up being a solid goalie for the future, because that would just be so fitting for how the Pittsburgh netminding decisions have gone in the past few years. Alas, Jarry was so poor in the playoffs that, to me, it’s not worth the risk of watching him sink the Pens’ chances yet again in another playoff series.

I also chipped in Zach Aston-Reese for some value to Vegas, and because it looks unlikely that he is destined to have a long-term future in Pittsburgh now that he is arbitration eligible this summer, and a potential unrestricted free agent next year. Aston-Reese is a solid player, but the Pens already have their share of generously paid lower line players, and some point they can’t fit market rate for them all.

This trade is likely to not happen, though former GM Jim Rutherford allegedly tried to get Fleury back last off-season. Had he still be at the helm of the Pens, it would still be mighty unlikely Vegas is interested, but would appear to be at least slightly based in realism.

I don’t think this trade will happen, and probably wouldn’t advocate or be impressed with it if it did somehow come to fruition, but this is a mock draft and the other option was to sit it out. Again, there’s the fun in that.

So there you have it, a look at the mechanisms on how it could be feasible for the Penguins to get Marc-Andre Fleury back in Pittsburgh for next season. You would probably need some incriminating evidence on Mr. Foley to reverse his strong feelings and intentions on the matter, a third team to eat salary, and a willingness to surrender Jarry plus multiple other assets. All of that is extremely unlikely to coalesce and work out, which might be for the best.

But at least we had some fun and got to be indirectly involved with the 2021 SBN Mock draft this year.