CHICAGO – On the surface, it’s quite a move for the team that comes just few days after making waves with a blockbuster trade to acquire defenseman Seth Jones from the Blue Jackets.
Looking for a true No. 1 goaltender after the job was split primarily between Kevin Lankinen and Malcolm Subban in 2021, the Blackhawks acquired reigning Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury on Tuesday morning in a trade with Vegas.
This immediately would give the team a starting goalie who is coming off a career year at the age of 36, when he had a 1.98 goals-against average in helping the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Semifinals. While the team would have to pick up his $7 million cap hit for the upcoming season, the Blackhawks would only give up forward Mikael Hakkarainen, who played for the Indy Fuel (ECHL) and Rockford IceHogs (AHL) last season.
“The opportunity to acquire a Vezina-winning goaltender is rare and one you cannot pass up,” said Bowman in a statement released by the team. “Marc-Andre improves our goaltending, strengthens our team defense and will have a huge impact on the overall development of the Blackhawks. Having a goaltender like this on our team will put the talent we currently have on our roster in a better position to achieve sustained success.
“The entire organization is thrilled to have this future Hall of Famer on our team and his reputation of being an excellent teammate on and off the ice precedes him.”
But here’s the catch – Fleury may just decide to hang it up.
His agent Allan Walsh took to Twitter to say that the goalie will be taking time to discuss his current situation with his family and will evaluate his hockey future now.
Retirement isn’t out of the question for Fleury, who has been in the NHL 17 season and has reached the highest levels of the sport. He had 13 successful seasons in Pittsburgh where he made two All-Star Games and won three Stanley Cups before being picked up in the expansion draft by the Golden Knights in 2017.
There he made two more mid-season classics and led the team to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season of 2018. In the shortened 2021 campaign, he was superb, posting a 26-10 record with a .928 save percentage, the highest of his career.
Fleury reportedly desired to say in Vegas, where he was splitting time in the net with Robin Lehner, who was traded to the Golden Knights by the Blackhawks in February, 2020.
Now he has the chance to play in Chicago for an 18th season, hoping to add another chapter to his strong NHL career. But the choice is his, with the Blackhawks left to hope that he’ll decide to join them this fall after a second major trade in the last week.