Blackhawks trade buzz: Marc-Andre Fleury situation remains a conundrum
The goalie trade market is heating up, but Fleury’s own intentions remain unclear. Plus, the latest on Dominik Kubalik, Calvin de Haan and Ryan Carpenter’s trade fates.
BOSTON — Ten days away from the NHL trade deadline, the Blackhawks’ Marc-Andre Fleury situation remains a conundrum.
The most important factor, obviously, is whether Fleury is willing to be traded — and if so, which teams he’s willing to be traded to. He does hold all the cards here, with a 10-team no-trade clause officially in his contract and a total no-trade clause unofficially promised to him.
But the 37-year-old goaltender’s exact thoughts are hard to nail down. He’s clearly more hesitant about the trade possibility than most players are, but he did say publicly on Feb. 16 he would “love a chance to win” another Stanley Cup if he does change teams.
General manager Kyle Davidson echoed that on March 2 but also seemed to lay groundwork he might later use to justify Fleury not being traded.
“If he’s here on the last day of the season, I’m fine with that, because we have a lot of young players...who are learning a heck of a lot from someone that’s one of the best people in the game,” Davidson said. “That has its own value. So if he sticks here, I’m fine with it.”
All outcomes remain viable, but planning for next season does seem to be an increasingly significant part of Fleury’s decision-making process. Preserving stability for his family, who have settled comfortably in Chicago, is clearly important.
His current contract expires in July, and retirement is a slight possibility. But if he doesn’t retire, Fleury would prefer to either re-sign with the Hawks or with the team he’s traded to this spring, per sources.
Understandably, moving from Las Vegas to Chicago last summer, from Chicago to another city this spring, and then from that city to yet another city this summer wouldn’t exactly fulfill the stability objective.
The other critical factor is which teams are interested in acquiring a No. 1 goalie, have the cap space to fit at least $3.5 million — Fleury’s cap hit if the Hawks retain the maximum 50% — and are willing to pay the price the Hawks will demand.
The goalie trade market is encouragingly trending in a positive direction for the Hawks’ interests.
The Oilers and Capitals, long considered the most logical suitors for Fleury, aren’t seeing any improvement from their shaky Mike Smith-Mikko Koskinen and Ilya Samsonov-Vitek Vanacek duos, respectively.
The Wild have dropped into the tier of contenders experiencing goalie anxiety, too, with Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen both slumping lately.
The Maple Leafs, who’d already been linked to Fleury recently via tenuous rumors trickling out of Toronto, on Wednesday ruled struggling starter Jack Campbell out for at least two weeks with a rib injury. And the Golden Knights have similar injury concerns with their own struggling starter, Robin Lehner, although a Fleury return to Vegas feels unlikely.
But would Fleury accept a trade across the border to the Oilers or Leafs, considering Canada’s tighter remaining COVID restrictions, or to the Capitals, knowing his road to a Cup there would almost certainly involve facing the Penguins? Perhaps not. TSN’s Pierre LeBrun reported Thursday he believes the Leafs and Capitals specifically are not on Fleury’s preferred teams list.
It’s easier to envision Fleury embracing a trade to the Wild, Avalanche, Bruins or Penguins themselves, but those teams seem less likely to want him than the Oilers, Capitals and Leafs.
The Hawks can’t completely ignore their own goalie situation, either, considering prospect Arvid Soderblom is the only guy they currently have signed for next season. Kevin Lankinen is a pending unrestricted free agent like Fleury, and the Hawks may be gauging the trade market for him, too.
The final significant factor is Fleury’s in-game performance, which has slipped in recent months.
Since Jan. 20, he has gone 5-9-1 with a poor .893 save percentage. His season-long save percentage now stands at .908, quietly marking the third time in the last six years it has been below .910. Among 69 regular goalies across the NHL this season, Fleury ranks an unremarkable 31st in the holistic analytic of goals saved above average.
There’s no doubt Fleury is still an excellent goalie, and his irresistible personality, unmatched competitiveness and vast experience add even more to his resume than his pure goaltending skill.
But his recent downturn might’ve eaten into his trade value slightly, and the Hawks might be less inclined to painstakingly work out a trade with all involved parties if the return isn’t as substantial as they once hoped it’d be.
More trade buzz
Dominik Kubalik is probably the most likely Hawks player to be traded before the deadline. The Hawks don’t see him as part of their future, but a change of scenery could revive him. The Ducks have been interested in Kubalik for a while, per sources. He has also been linked to the Oilers.
Calvin de Haan is probably the second-most likely Hawk to be traded. Gritty, experienced, pending-UFA defensemen like him seem desired every deadline season. The Leafs, Hurricanes and Panthers are three teams searching for defensive depth that might make sense.
Davidson appears eager to recoup whatever he can for some of the Hawks’ bottom-of-the-lineup pieces, as well. Ryan Carpenter, as a pending UFA with some appealing grittiness and penalty-killing experience, makes total sense to trade. He fits the Predators’ team identity perfectly, and the Predators have indeed inquired about him, per sources.
Henrik Borgstrom and Erik Gustafsson, both regular scratches lately, could also move if a team shows interest.