The hockey world exploded on Tuesday morning was the Vegas Golden Knights shook up the NHL trade market by trading Vezina-winning goalie and great human Marc-Andre Fleury to the Chicago Blackhawks for a low-level minor player. Following the best season of Fleury’s 18-year career, he was unceremoniously traded from a place where he was eminently happy and established, and Pittsburgh Penguins trade rumors appeared immediately.
The Fleury trade wasn’t just surprising for the lack of return. It was an outrage against fairness and a violation of a goodbye that the face of a franchise should receive.
Fleury’s agent Allan Walsh who isn’t shy on Twitter, poured gasoline on the situation and lit the match when he Tweeted:
“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.”
Sources have cooled the idea of a Pittsburgh Penguins trade for Fleury to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Hockey Now. Other outlets are all-in on the possibility. Such is the life of a journalist.
A Fleury trade isn’t impossible. It surely seems there are those pushing for it. Situations may change. The player may force the situation to change. But there’s still a lot that doesn’t pass the smell test, and I have questions.
If the Pittsburgh Penguins were interested, they couldn’t match or beat the price of…nothing?
In his press conference, Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon said he decided after the season that he had to move a goalie, and he didn’t believe “there would be the same appetite” for the goalies to share the net for another year. So, one had to go.
Imagine McCrimmon as an auctioneer. Fleury had a 10-team no-trade list, so McCrimmon could call 21 other teams.
If the Penguins were interested, they couldn’t beat–nothing? They couldn’t also offer–nothing?
Respect is a big thing around hockey. If McCrimmon had competing offers for–nothing–he surely would have asked Fleury which city he wanted.
Did the trade blindside Fleury?
When Walsh tweeted that Fleury was taking time to evaluate his hockey future, he essentially indicated Fleury did not want to play in Chicago.
OK, but let’s follow the trail.
Fleury and Allan Walsh knew Chicago was interested. McCrimmon was clear. On July 12, he let the Fleury camp know that Fleury was on the NHL trade block and Chicago was indeed interested.
McCrimmon acknowledged a couple of times that Fleury said, “I want to play in Vegas.”
McCrimmon also asserted that he kept the Fleury camp in the loop regarding his conversations with different teams. That’s hugely important.
“It’s not a lack of regard for players,” McCrimmon 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.”
So, Fleury was going to be traded. He was told he would be traded. However, taken at face value, Walsh’s tweet implied that Fleury was not agreeable to playing for Chicago.
Was that not communicated to Chicago before the trade or to McCrimmon before the deal in which McCrimmon traded him for…nothing?
There was no blunt moment from McCrimmon?
“Look, Marc-Andre, we can’t afford you. I have offers from X, Y, and Chicago. Chicago makes the most sense. I’m going to do it.”
Something doesn’t pass the smell test there. Either McCrimmon had a total lack of respect for the face of his franchise and the world’s best teammate, or…something doesn’t add up.
A Trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins is possible
Sure. But I have some questions, first.
1) The Penguins didn’t match the sky-high price of…nothing?
2) If the Penguins could trade salary, why haven’t they done so? Why did GM Ron Hextall sacrifice Jared McCann on the alter of expansion to clear salary if other options existed? (Answer: the other options probably did not, and do not, exist).
3) Oh, they’ll just deal Marcus Pettersson and have the cap space? Pettersson would clear $4 million, and the team does have a pretty good backup plan. If it was possible or the team felt it was feasible, why didn’t it happen when the Penguins actively hit the NHL trade market to clear cap space before the expansion draft?
Why didn’t it happen at the NHL Draft? Or since?
Also, Pettersson’s $4 million wouldn’t cover Fleury’s $7 million salary, thus reducing the Penguins’ available salary-cap space to only $4.5 million to find a right-defenseman, two bottom-six wingers, and sign Zach Aston-Reese.
Unless Hextall can put his hands over a basket of fishes and loaves to make another $10 million, that doesn’t work.
4) If the Penguins traded Jason Zucker to clear space, they would be left with only two left wings but no middle-six left wings on the roster. Zucker’s salary ($5.5 million) is still $1.5 million short of Fleury’s haul, and it would leave only $6 million to find a top-six winger, a right-side defenseman, two bottom-six wingers, a contract for Zach Aston-Reese, and two turtle doves?
5) Chicago needs a starting goalie. Why would they let this go (if this “saga” does exist) without a fight?
6) Another team could be a third party and eat half of Fleury’s salary. The Buffalo Sabres or Detroit Red Wings have tons of cap space. They could make it happen?
Sure. The going rate to “eat salary” is a first-round pick or a good prospect. A third team would have to eat $3.5 million. OK, maybe someone does right by Fleury and asks for “only” a second-round pick.
It’s possible, but do we see Hextall making that leap into the NHL trade market for Marc-Andre Fleury, thus giving up at least a second-round pick, taking on $3.5 million, and reducing his available cap space to $4 million for a right-side defenseman, two bottom-six wingers, a new contract for Zach Aston-Reese, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree?
This situation is charged with emotion. There is an innate feeling everywhere that Fleury deserves better. He absolutely does, and covering him next season would be a blast.
But the above is only the hurdles that I could think of, and I’m sure there are plenty more that I haven’t imagined for the Pittsburgh Penguins. PHN and this sometimes humble scribe are not reporting it won’t happen or that it can’t happen, but I’d be shocked. Some things don’t pass the smell test, and there are wholly implausible things, too.
Oh, and on Tuesday night, a Fanatics brand wholesaler in Chicago began advertising hand-signed Marc-Andre Fleury Chicago Blackhawks memorabilia. That doesn’t happen without someone’s permission.
Take it all for what you will. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.