There’s nothing flowery anymore about the Blackhawks’ ambitions for 2021-22.
Reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has told the Hawks he will play for them this coming season, a source confirmed.
“Hey, Chicago . . . I’m in,” Fleury said in a brief video posted on social media Sunday. “Let’s get to work.”
Fleury’s decision comes after four days of contemplating whether to continue his career. He was blindsided Wednesday when the Golden Knights, his team for the last four seasons, traded him to the Hawks after he’d settled down in Las Vegas with his wife and three young kids.
But Fleury, 36, will honor the final year of his contract after all instead of retiring or forcing a trade to the Penguins, his team for his first 13 years.
Fleury went 26-10-0 for the Knights last season, ranking third in the NHL with a .928 save percentage and fourth with 20.2 goals-saved-above-average. He’s a three-time Stanley Cup champion and one of the most accomplished goalies of his generation, although his numbers had been tailing off in recent years until his explosive 2020 resurgence.
He will instantly form one of the league’s better goalie duos alongside Kevin Lankinen. Fleury will presumably operate as the “1A” and Lankinen the “1B” rather than a traditional starter-backup divide, keeping Fleury’s workload manageable for his age and Lankinen’s workload manageable for his lack of experience.
The Hawks’ once-cautious rebuilding plans have been thrown out the window this summer by the acquisitions of Fleury, Seth Jones, Jake McCabe and others, indicating the team intends to contend immediately.
With Brandon Hagel and Alex Nylander still needing new contracts, general manager Stan Bowman will need to be creative — and possibly active again in the trade market — to fit Fleury’s $7 million cap hit.
The odds of a trade involving Calvin de Haan or Dylan Strome instantly increase, even with Andrew Shaw bound for long-term injured reserve. The Hawks might be able to make everything work just by burying Brett Connolly in the AHL, but that would cut it close and be less than ideal for Connolly.
Goalie Malcolm Subban likely will be shopped, too.