In the NHL’s most unusual season ever, free agency looms large and every potential deal is a big one. As it appears Alex Pietrangelo, Taylor Hall, Torey Krug and others are headed for new homes the Vegas Golden Knights have some work of their own to do as they look to return to the Stanley Cup Final. Plus, the Marc-Andre Fleury Trade Rumors continue to swirl.
The Fleury Trade Rumor Carousel Keeps Spinning
Perhaps one of the most persistent positions for trade rumors is goaltender. We know the Pittsburgh Penguins are going to be dealing a goaltender, likely Matt Murray. Lately, there’s been a new thought swirling that Marc-Andre Fleury could be bought out by Vegas and return to the Penguins. While a source indicates it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Fleury back in a Pens uniform, a buyout doesn’t seem likely because it in no way helps the Golden Knights unless the NHL offers an amnesty buyout option this summer due to the flat cap. The chances of that happening appear to be slim and none, but you never know.
If the NHL does offer teams one buyout, Fleury is an excellent candidate for it because of his $7M cap hit this year and next. That space would be massive for Vegas when it comes to Robin Lehner’s rumored but unconfirmed 5 year/$5M per deal plus if you’re going to lure Alex Pietrangelo to Sin City it’s going to take roughly $9M a year.
At this point, any team that acquires MAF in a trade must have cap room and the need for a veteran goaltender. Enter the Ottawa Senators, who announced earlier today that they will not offer a contract to 39-year-old Craig Anderson. The Sens have 30-year-old Anders Nilsson for one more year at $2.6M and 25-year-old Marcus Hogberg for one more year at $700k before he hits RFA status.
More importantly, they have a massive $39.6M in cap room to play with. Keep in mind the Sens only have four forwards and four defensemen signed right now, but they have six forwards with RFA status meaning they won’t have to shell out a ton of money. Only Scott Sabourin and Matthew Peca up front plus Ron Hainsey on D are UFAs of note. The Senators also announced today they would move on from veteran rearguard Mark Borowiecki.
The move would also be a positive PR move for a team that has struggled to generate goodwill among the fanbase in recent years. Fleury would get to finish his career closer to home and at full value. Plus he would provide some needed leadership for Ottawa.
Also of note, the Senators own three first round picks (3, 5, 28) and an incredible 13 picks in total for the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. If Vegas doesn’t want to bring back salary in any way, there’s always the possibility of draft picks and/or prospects. This could be one of those rare hockey trades where both sides could get what they need.
The NHL Awards were given out earlier this week and VHN took a shot at predicting the winners with mixed results. I will say that Connor Hellebuyck and Roman Josi winning is well-deserved and criticizing them is ridiculous.
Also in the “dissapointing” category for VGK fans is that Golden Knights players were mostly absent from the voting. Of note, Shea Theodore did finish sixth in Norris voting with one third place vote, seven fourth place votes and 13 fifth place votes. Robin Lehner also finished sixth in Vezina voting thanks to one second place vote good for three points, but that almost ranks as a courtesy vote from his Islanders-nominated season.
In what could be considered a surprise by many Roman Josi takes the Norris as best defenseman. I had the pleasure of watching Josi play when I was calling games for the Nashville Predators. Do yourself a favor next season and when Nashville is on spend some time focusing on him. He is extremely intelligent and has tremendous vision and anticipation in all zones. Josi’s ability to read and react is among the best in the game.
Connor Helebuyck deserves this award, because in so many ways he was the glue that held the Winnipeg Jets together. If it wasn’t for his playing out of his mind Winnipeg would have been at the bottom of the heap for most of the season. Consider that from the time the Jets played their last playoff game in the spring of 2019 until opening night they lost four starting defensemen. That’s incredible to me. Throw in the circus that was the Dustin Byfuglien affair and it’s a wonder the Jets were able to produce the results they did. I know there are some who would argue a goaltender shouldn’t win MVP honors but I have no problem with calling a goalie the most important player to his team across the league. No one else plays all 60 minutes.
This past summer I had to run my brother’s fantasy hockey draft because he had to work late. Advantage Greg. As I was text updating him throughout the draft, I sent the message “Congratulations. You’ve just drafted the NHL Rookie of the Year Cale Makar.”
I covered the Frozen Four in Buffalo, NY (and that seems like another lifetime ago now) and watched the young defenseman from UMass dominate in all zones. I also remember after the Minutemen were eliminated the sad look on coach Greg Carvel’s face when I asked him about Makar. Carvel said all the right things about how incredible Makar was and the standard “we’ll see” if he comes back, but odds are his bag was being packed for Denver that night.
The reason I love Makar as the Calder winner is because he is the best all-around player in the rookie bunch. Not only does he produce offense but he’s great in his own zone as well, so rare for someone so young.
When it comes to Shea Theodore, his time will come. Theodore is among a crop of young defenseman including Calder winner Cale Makar and Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes that will dominate the defensive landscape for years to come. At some point, he’s going to win a Norris or two if his growth continues.
Leon Draisaitl showed he was the real deal when he found himself without game-breaking linemate Connor McDavid. While many expected Draisaitl’s output to drop, it did anything but. His scoring title is well-deserved as is his winning both the Hart and the Lindsay, which is the player-voted MVP. That speaks volumes about the season he had.
Oddly enough, Pittsburgh’s Tristan Jarry received one vote for fifth from TSN’s Renaud Lavoie, who spoke to PittsburghHockeyNow’s Dan Kingerski about why.
What do you think? Does Fleury end up in Ottawa? Let us know in the comments.