CHICAGO – The choice itself was simple but the decision was not.
Marc-Andre Fleury could either accept his trade from the Golden Knights to the Blackhawks that was made as free agency began, or he could decide to end a very successful 17-year career in the National Hockey League.
“A little bit crazy, right?” said the goaltender about time period following his trade from Vegas to Chicago, as he weighed this very difficult decision.
But on August 1st, he made his decision, and one more stop in the National Hockey League was in order for the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and three-time Stanley Cup champion.
Fleury will take the ice in the 2021-22 season for the Blackhawks, which will be his 18th in the NHL for the 36-year old who has produced in both Pittsburgh and Vegas. HIs 1.98 goals-against average in 2021 season was the best of his career, and immediately give his new club a No. 1 goaltender.
During his first news conference as a member of the club last week, Fleury said that he was appreciative of president of hockey operations Stan Bowman for giving him some time to make his decision. The goaltender consulted with a number of players around the league and received good feedback about the Blackhawks.
It was a combination of those factors, not just a single moment, that convinced Fleury to join the team this season.
“I think just talking with different guys, talking with the staff, talking to family also to see what was good for everyone, and thinking things through. I think it just adds up,” said Fleury of the decision-making process. “I think it’s worth it, it’s exciting. So I don’t think it was one thing and everything changed.”
One thing that will be different for Fleury in Chicago is the situation to which he enters since the Blackhawks are reshaping their team on the ice. While Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews remain on the team from the 2010s dynasty and veteran defenseman Seth Jones joins the team, the roster still has a number of young players. The team has only made the playoffs once since 2017, and that was by getting into the Edmonton bubble in the summer of 2020 as the 12th seed in the Western Conference.
Fleury will try to help that cause as he likely splits time in net with Kevin Lankinen, who made his Blackhawks debut last season in net in 37 games.
“I think they still have a lot of young guys, but they’ve also gained some experience in the past few seasons here,” said Fleury when asked about the roster. “They still got some guys who won that won Cup, and they get Johnson who won a couple with Tampa, McCabe, who has been around a while, Seth Jones on ‘D.’
“So guys have been around for a little while who bring new experience, hopefully, all of us together we can contribute every night and on a daily basis, helping the young guys too, making us a good team.”
He’ll help that cause next season, choosing to do so after a few weeks of self-reflection.