Vegas Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon didn’t express regret over the firestorm, which resulted in traded Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury finding out about the trade via Twitter. He did explain the Golden Knights process and took the heat. McCrimmon jolted the NHL trade market on Tuesday when he dealt Fleury to the Chicago Blackhawks for a little-used minor leaguer, Mikael Hakkarainen.
Hakkarainen will be no more than the answer to a trivia question in 10 years. But that’s not the important part of the story.
Though McCrimmon admitted details leaked before the Golden Knights trade was official (and thus he had not yet called Fleury), he seemed to contradict the perception that Fleury and his agent Allan Walsh were blindsided. McCrimmon specifically detailed dates of conversations, including July 12 when he informed Fleury that Chicago was interested.
“It was more important for me to be open and transparent with Marc-Andre than any potential risks there might be by making that circle (of information) bigger than what you might ordinarily,” McCrimmon said. “I’m really comfortable with the way we chose to do it, and it was a conscious decision I made immediately following the season.”
“…As a team, you can’t speak to things or announce moves that your team has made until they’re final…We can’t contact a player and tell that player he’s been traded if we haven’t completed a trade call…”
Fleury won the Vezina Trophy last season, the first of his career. Fleury was given the Golden Knights net because Robin Lehner suffered an upper-body injury, and Fleury was dominant. Head coach Pete DeBoer simply rode Fleury as far as he could go, including as the starting goalie in the playoffs.
McCrimmon expressed doubt that type of situation would be as peaceful or harmonious a second time around. In short, two starting goalies, one net.
McCrimmon felt he had to make the call. It certainly didn’t help the cause when the $5 million AAV contract for Alec Martinez, which the team and player signed on Monday, put the Vegas Golden Knights over the salary cap.
But Fleury’s agent, Allan Walsh, had a little salt to sprinkle, too. Walsh tweeted the quote, “While Marc-Andre Fleury still hasn’t heard from anybody with the Vegas Golden Knights, he has apparently been traded to Chicago. Marc-Andre will be taking time to discuss his situation with his family and seriously evaluate his hockey future at this time.”
Walsh isn’t shy about going to bat for his clients. You’ll recall the famous back-stabbing tweet during the 2020 bubble playoffs when DeBoer chose Robin Lehner as the starting goalie.
NHL Trade Surprise?
McCrimmon subtly but firmly refuted notions of a blindside.
“It’s not a lack of regard for players,” the GM said. “Again, in this situation, Marc-Andre was fully abreast of discussions all the way through, not just in relation to the team that he ended up being traded to–the Chicago Blackhawks–but any other conversations that I had previously.”
That’s a bit of a sledgehammer to criticisms that the goalie or his camp were blindsided.
McCrimmon knew the decision would not be popular, either with his owner or the fans. While owner Bill Foley will remain close with Fleury, McCrimmon acknowledged Fleury’s impact on Las Vegas beyond the ice.
“I’d like to thank Marc-Andre Fleury for his time in Vegas. It’s incredible the moments we shared with him as part of our organization. He’s the most popular player I’ve ever seen in sports. He was the face of the franchise,” McCrimmon said. “I know for a lot of people this is a day that is filled with sadness. I share those same emotions that you do, and yet I do feel responsible to do everything I can to put the best team on the ice possible. That’s what I’m doing as well as our whole hockey operations group.”
And so it goes. The Vegas Golden Knight shook up the NHL trade market and the city. They essentially received nothing but salary cap space. Within this environment is Vegas gold.