Marc-Andre Fleury tolerating Blackhawks trade rumors: ‘If I move, I would love a chance to win’
“But it’s still a big ‘if’ at this point,” Fleury added Wednesday, emphasizing how much he has enjoyed his time with the Hawks so far.
Marc-Andre Fleury arrived at Blackhawks practice Wednesday with a black eye. Naturally, he also brought a healthy dose of humor along with it.
“A raccoon jumped me during the night, and I bit back,” Fleury said afterward. “Don’t worry, he took it worse.”
Then, after a laugh, came the truth — worth another laugh in itself.
“No, it was a stupid story,” he added. “My car trunk came down at the wrong time. I wish I had a good story.”
It’s a testament to Fleury that his ability to spread happiness to everyone around him hasn’t diminished even in these times. His team is far out of the playoff race, he’s facing unrestricted free agency and he’s one of the biggest names in trade rumors around the NHL, yet he’s still full of earnest positivity.
That’s why, no matter how much longer his Chicago tenure lasts, he has already made a lasting impression — and another few dozen lifelong friends — in this organization.
“I’m almost like a borderline super-fan with him,” interim coach Derek King said. “He’s just an excellent human being. He’s great in the locker room. He has a great sense of humor. He’s focused, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He plays the game the right way, and he’s a competitor.
“And we’re going to miss that, if it comes to the point where he is moved. That’s just the beast, right? That’s what we chose as a profession. Sometimes they move players. You’re not happy about it, but he has to think of himself, too. For selfish reasons, hopefully he stays.”
The Hawks need to recoup assets to jumpstart their rebuild, with a replacement first-round pick the highest priority of all, and Fleury is their most valuable asset.
And although he controls his fate — the Hawks won’t move him against his wishes — it increasingly seems like he is at least theoretically willing to be traded, as long as he sees the destination as an agreeable fit.
“If I move, I would love a chance to win,” he said after taking a moment to digest the topic. “That’s what I play for, and that’s what I love. But it’s still a big ‘if’ at this point.”
He hasn’t talked personally with the Hawks about trade possibilities, but he believes his agent — the ever-outspoken Allan Walsh — has.
“It’s part of the game,” Fleury said. “Every trade-deadline season, you always hear a lot, especially [about] guys whose deals are coming up to an end. It’s OK. Obviously, I hear about it. I don’t have social media, so I don’t see everything, but people tell me about it. I’ve just got to not worry too much about it. [I’ll] play the games here and try to win games here. We’ll see what happens.”
Fleury certainly has been playing plenty of games, having started 16 of the Hawks’ last 17 since returning from COVID-19 on Jan. 4. He’s now 16-17-3 with a .910 save percentage this season.
He’ll finally get a break Thursday, with Arvid Soderblom slated to make his second career NHL start when the Hawks host the Blue Jackets. But King plans to turn back to Fleury on Friday and Sunday against the Stars and Panthers, respectively.
And all of this talk solely concerns 2021-22. Fleury said he’s leaning towards playing one more year, and he’ll have his pick of landing spots as a UFA come July. Even another season with the Hawks isn’t impossible, given how much he has enjoyed himself.
“I wish we would be winning more; I wish we would be higher in that playoff race, definitely,” he said. “But I love my teammates. [It’s a] great bunch of guys — great staff, locker room. The fans have been good, the people around town have been good to me. [I have] only positive things to say about this place.”