From the very moment the Pittsburgh Penguins sent Marc-Andre Fleury to the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL expansion draft there has been a significant portion of the fan base that has been hoping that he would find his way back here. Some way. Some how. Those dreams have been dashed on more than one occasion over the years as Fleury and the Golden Knights found immediate success, he grew to love the area, and the owner seemed to love him and having him as the face of the franchise.
Even as Fleury found his way into trade rumors over the past year due to the addition and re-signing of Robin Lehner it still seemed like a dream.
Would Vegas actually trade Fleury?
Could the Penguins create enough salary cap space for a $7 million salary cap hit goalie?
Would they be able to meet whatever price in a trade that Vegas would ask for if they were willing to trade him?
It just seemed like a lot of moving parts and a lot of significant questions that would keep getting in the way. Because of that it all just seemed like a fairytale to me and I never really took any of the talk or speculation seriously (even if former Jim Rutherford did try to re-acquire Fleury a year ago).
Then all of that started to change on Tuesday when the Golden Knights made the shocking decision to trade Fleury to the Chicago Blackhawks in a clear salary dump trade that only saw them bring back a minor league forward that will not even play for their AHL franchise, He will stay with Chicago’s AHL team. It was all part of a chaotic day were everybody tried to make sense of Vegas’ move, while also speculating at what move is next for them and marveling at how they did not even tell Fleury he was traded before the news got out. It was another bizarre chapter in what has been a fascinatingly bizarre (and also great) career for the goalie.
What made it so bizarre is that he clearly did not want to be traded to Chicago (or anywhere) and seems to be contemplating his future.
The fact about Chicago is where the Penguins get involved.
Well, actually all of it gets the Penguins involved in some way if you really wanted to try to figure it out.
That the Golden Knights even traded him for any reason suggests that the Penguins could have, theoretically, been a potential destination.
Because if Fleury threatens retirement, it might force the Blackhawks into making another move to ship Fleury somewhere he might want to be. It could also make them a team that eats some salary to help facilitate a trade to the Penguins and make it work against the salary cap.
The funny thing about all of this is I have finally come around to the idea of a reunion actually working.
Over the past couple of years it just seemed to be wishful thinking by people that could not let go and turn the page.
Knowing that Fleury actually was available this offseason, and that it literally cost nothing to get him, makes it all seem like something that was — or is — worth pursuing. There is not a goalie available this offseason that has a higher ceiling than him, and the Penguins’ are very clearly in a win-now mode right now over the next couple of years. Sure, a long-term solution in goal is going to have to be figured out at at some point, but a high level goal this season could be the difference between another first round exit and a run toward the Stanley Cup.
The most fascinating thing though is just the simple fact we are even having this discussion. Any of it.
How do the NHL’s general managers vote a guy as the Vezina Trophy winner in a season, and then two months later decide that none of them are even willing to trade anything of value for him and the one year remaining on his contract? How does Vegas keep treating players like this?
Not sure what the next step is for Fleury or the Penguins, but if he really does not want to play in Chicago, can force the team to trade him, and if the Penguins can figure out a way to make it work, that reunion seems like it is as close as it ever could have been.