The Vegas Golden Knights trade rumors appear to be true and the writing on the wall for Marc-Andre Fleury and the Golden Knights goaltending situation. It makes more sense for them to move him and his $7M cap hit for the next two years now, especially if the word about Robin Lehner signing a five-year deal is true.
Keep in mind Fleury does have a limited No Movement Clause. His list of ten teams he would not accept a trade to was due this week, and we’ve seen players like Phil Kessel orchestrate those blocks in a way that forces the team’s hand. Not that Fleury would do this, but after the whole DeBoer sword cartoon episode, it’s clear there is some type of divide.
The actual cash out in the deal is $6.5M this season and $6M in the 2021-22 season. While it’s not a major difference, it does mean that a team with more cap room than actual cash might welcome an extra million dollars on the cap register.
Some of these teams would have to make room for Fleury. All five listed need a goalie who can win now and make them better over the next two seasons before his contract expires.
Note: I’m assuming the NHL does not grant compliance buyouts this summer, but it is possible they do because of the pandemic and the cap remaining flat. If that happens, expect buyouts on goalies like Corey Schneider (NJD) and Martin Jones (SJS). Any team that does buy out a goalie gets to move rapidly towards the front of the line for Fleury. Also, teams like Buffalo, Ottawa and Detroit were omitted because they were not likely places Fleury would allow himself to end up, but stranger things have happened.
Top 5 Potential Vegas Trade Partners for Fleury
Honorable Mention: Chicago Blackhawks
I think Chicago needs to move on from Corey Crawford, who is a UFA this summer. Will they? Probably not. The Hawks showed they still have some life left in the potential runs for Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith et. al. But for whatever reason when Chicago had a choice between a superior Robin Lehner and Crawford, they picked the latter. We know now the fallout from that as Lehner landed in Vegas and I’m writing an article about where Marc-Andre Fleury will end up. Can you imagine if Lehner had stayed in Chicago? They might have made a seriously deep run. If the Hawks come to their senses and dump Crawford my opinion would change. But don’t bet on it.
5. Ottawa Senators
Could Fleury finish his career close to home? The Ottawa Senators are one of several teams looking for a starting goalie and they have enough assets and prospects to fill a bowl of poutine, twice over, including a few first-round picks.
Ottawa has young Marcus Hogberg, but he did not excel in his first NHL stint this season. Hogberg, 25, is a big Swedish goalie but it took the 2013 third-round pick forever to get to the NHL. He was 5-8-8 with only a .904 save percentage.
Ottawa was a scrappy, competitive team, even if they had the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference. What could they accomplish with Fleury in net and Fleury in the room, perhaps contend for the playoffs and that playoff revenue?
Ottawa could well be on Fleury’s no-trade list since they will not soon contend for a Stanley Cup, but Fleury might also be the perfect fit.
4) Edmonton Oilers
I’ve never been a believer in Mike Smith’s ability to take a team to a Stanley Cup. He’s too injury prone and too streaky. But I also don’t think Mikko Koskinen is that guy either. Smith is UFA this summer and at 38 I don’t see why Edmonton would bring him back. Koskinen is more of a concern because $4.5M is a lot to pay a guy in a backup role, but a Fleury trade would definitely give the Oilers a shot in the arm immediately. Edmonton doesn’t have any immediately scary decisions to make about the roster, and currently carries $10.5M in cap room.
This is a team so loaded upfront we often wonder why they don’t do more damage, but it’s pretty plain to see they’ve never had the defense and goaltending to complement the forwards. Until that day comes, Edmonton will be the team that looks dangerous but can’t make it over the hump. Getting Fleury in net would be a major upgrade.
3. Calgary Flames
Oh, what could have been for Calgary. They were close to being a contender in the Western Conference bubble, but then it was gone in a week. While Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau took a lion share of the blame, Calgary could use a bonafide No. 1 goalie, too.
Cam Talbot will move on to other pastures, and David Rittich has not locked down the job. Perhaps Rittich would be the perfect 1A for Fleury, who could invigorate the young Calgary lineup.
Rittich is signed for one more year at a manageable $2.75 million. Calgary has about $17 million to ink a few defensemen, but Fleury’s salary fits here.
2) Carolina Hurricanes
Carolina is one of those teams I look at and think they should always be battling it out for the division title and threatening to make noise in the playoffs. Yet neither James Reimer nor Petr Mrazek has clearly run away with the starting mantle. While Mrazek was the starter for the Canes in these playoffs, we did see Reimer a few times and he looked good for the most part. Both goalies are signed for just over $3M this upcoming season and both will be UFAs come next summer.
If one of those salaries were removed from the books (and in this case, I think if the VGK take back either one of these two guys as a backup to Lehner for one year it makes perfect sense) then a Fleury trade can easily fit under the cap on a team with $7.7M of current projected space. With only three UFAs who figure to be relatively inexpensive to retain if they so choose Carolina does have some flexibility. Five of the six defensive spots are set as well. Now the question is will Carolina make the move to shift things around in net? Stay tuned.
1) Minnesota Wild
The Wild hit the top spot on this list as a team that is so close to putting it all together, but ended up with Alex Staylock as its playoff starter after the confidence in Devan Dubnyk evaporated. While Dubnyk is due one more year at $4.33M, moving him or possibly buying him out isn’t the worst option for a team with almost $12M in current cap space.
There’s also the GM Bill Guerin-Fleury connection from their time together in Pittsburgh. Guerin knows full well what Fleury means inside the locker room and on the ice.
Minnesota just locked up Jonas Brodin long-term, which means the defense has been addressed for the foreseeable future. The real problem for Minnesota would be the 2021-22 season, when they would then have seven players under contract for $6M or more per year and facing UFA deals for forwards Marcus Johansson, Marcus Foligno, and Nick Bjugstad. Then add a potential whopper of a raise for RFA Kevin Fiala if he continues his upward rise. Defensively the Wild’s top four is set unless they try to move the $6M cap hit of Matt Dumba, which seems more likely with the signing of Brodin.
The Wild could make a Fleury trade for next season and see how things go before making a decision. Either way, Minnesota is retooling, not rebuilding. They showed that with some quality goaltending they may have been capable of much more.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments for what team you think a Fleury trade makes the most sense!