CHICAGO – For around a week, they were left to sit and wait.
Marc-Andre Fleury was a member of the Blackhawks after they acquired him in a trade from Vegas on July 27th, but whether he would play was an issue. The 36-year old goaltender announced through is agent that he would take some time to talk with family before announcing whether he’d go to Chicago or retire after a 17-year career.
On Sunday, the Blackhawks got their answer, and it was the one they were hoping for.
Fleury made it official that he will play for the Blackhawks in the 2021-2022 season as he’ll play on the final year of his Vegas contract worth $7 million against the salary cap.
“When talking with him, he was really excited for the year to come,” said president of hockey operations Stan Bowman of Fleury’s mindset as he decided to play for his third team in his career.
By deciding to play, the team gets the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and a No. 1 goaltender after the job was split between Kevin Lankinen and Malcolm Subban in 2021. But waiting for the decision brought about an interesting time for Bowman, who had to start free agency without an answer from Fleury or wondering if his cap hit would be on the books for next season.
Bowman didn’t rush his decision during the whole process, giving space to the goalie as he decided the next move of his career.
“He said ‘Look, thanks so much for the call.’ He said ‘I just need a little time to get through these things, so if you could have a little patience, that would be great,'” said Bowman of his talks with Fleury. “I said, ‘Not a problem at all.'”
That patience paid off, and now the Blackhawks have a goaltender who allowed just 1.98 goals per game in 36 contests with the Golden Knights last season, but also a strong teammate for a team that features a number of young players.
“The one thing I will say about Marc-Andre Fleury is that, some people in media probably know this, it’s really incredible how when you talk to people around the league, he is the most beloved teammate on every team he’s ever played on,” said Bowman. “Just a fantastic person and I can see why.”
Now he’ll get to see him on the ice with his club this upcoming season.