If Blackhawks do trade Marc-Andre Fleury, which teams are possibilities?
Despite all the appealing things about Fleury, it won’t be easy for the Hawks to make a trade work.
Marc-Andre Fleury acknowledged Wednesday he has thought about the possibility of a trade this spring.
“If I move, I would love a chance to win,” he said. “That’s what I play for, and that’s what I love. But it’s still a big ‘if’ at this point.”
So if Fleury is traded by the Blackhawks, where will he go?
On one hand, answering that question is simpler in Fleury’s case than for most major trade-bait items. There are only 32 starting goalie jobs in the NHL, and an even smaller slice of teams fit the two descriptions — trying to win now, and needing goaltending help — that would make them plausible suitors.
On the other hand, goalie trades ahead of the deadline are relatively uncommon because there are so few jobs available. Goalie movement around the league often happens in musical chairs-like fashion, such as it did during free agency last summer, rather than in one-off transactions.
That’s why, even with the Hawks presumably eager to recoup value for a pending unrestricted free agent like Fleury, and even with Fleury seemingly open to the idea, it’s far from guaranteed to happen. Fleury’s $7 million cap hit, even though it can (and likely will) be reduced to $3.5 million with retention, also poses an obstacle.
If Fleury is dealt, though, these teams make the most sense as possible destinations.
The Capitals’ .905 team save percentage ranks 17th in the NHL this season and their two regular goalies, Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek, boast zero combined NHL postseason wins in their careers.
Vanecek is on injured reserve, too, and the Capitals — whose old core and sparse -prospect pipeline necessitate an intense win-now approach — entered Thursday with a subpar 13-12-4 record since Nov. 30.
The Capitals were once considered the clear Fleury frontrunner. Although that buzz has cooled somewhat, they still make a lot of sense.
The Oilers’ .901 team save percentage ranks 23rd. Mike Smith, at age 39, hasn’t been able to stay healthy much and has looked shaky when healthy. Without him, the Oilers have only Mikko Koskinen and rookie Stuart Skinner, who boast one combined -career playoff win.
Even outside of the goaltending position, the Oilers have been a mess the last few months, wasting another season of dominance from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. Fleury’s stability and leadership, even beyond his talent, would help tremendously.
But the biggest question is whether Fleury would be willing to go to Edmonton — or any Canadian team — considering the tighter COVID-19 restrictions. Those restrictions are expected to significantly affect deadline movement.
The Penguins’ .916 team save percentage ranks fourth. But Tristan Jarry’s meltdown in the playoffs last year — posting an .888 save percentage laden with several inexcusable goals against in a first-round loss to the Islanders — hasn’t been forgotten.
A Fleury homecoming to Pittsburgh would be one of the NHL’s biggest stories of the spring.
The Avalanche seem like a logical destination — they’re the outright Cup frontrunners, after all. But Darcy Kuemper is having a career year, and it sounds like the Avs aren’t particularly interested in Fleury.
The Maple Leafs also fit the bill as an elite team conceivably just one piece away from the Cup. Their team save percentage ranks 10th, but they’ve been almost completely dependent on Jack Campbell, who boasts just three career playoff wins.
There’s a debate over whether the Golden Knights, with Robin Lehner now injured, might be interested in bringing back Fleury. Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli made waves earlier this week by reporting they were looking into it; Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon quickly refuted that.
The Wild could try to outmaneuver the Avs and Knights by landing Fleury themselves. He would be an upgrade over Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen, even though they’re a perfectly solid duo.