Trade Marc-Andre Fleury at your peril. The Pittsburgh Penguins and Vegas Golden Knights did so, and the teams suffered the consequences immediately, and the following goalies also dealt with the curse. The Chicago Blackhawks traded Fleury and proceeded into a summer of self-immolation on the NHL trade market.
It’s the Fleury curse.
Now, the division rival New York Islanders may be the beneficiary. And it all might have a direct on the Penguins.
**Editor’s note: To address several comments and replies, the Penguins traded a second-round pick to the Vegas Golden Knights to ensure the selection of Fleury in the 2017 Expansion Draft, constituting a trade.
Here’s how the Fleury curse first affected the Penguins: Matt Murray.
In his first season as the unquestioned No. 1 starter, he played only 49 games, suffered a first-half swoon, and finished with a well below expected .907 save percentage.
Murray struggled through another season before injuries limited him, and Tristan Jarry muscled past him on the depth chart.
On Tuesday, Shelly Anderson opined the Penguins’ core should still include Marc-Andre Fleury. The Penguins are 1-4 in playoff series since Fleury left.
Vega Golden Knights:
The Fleury curse, Chapter 2.
Technically, the Penguins traded Fleury to the Vegas Golden Knights for a second-round pick. The Fleury playoff magic, which fueled the engine of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ second-straight Stanley Cup in 2017, followed Fleury to Vegas as the perpetually smiling netminder backstopped the inaugural Golden Knights to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
Fleury helmed the Golden Knights for two seasons unfettered before they acquired Robin Lehner.
Anyway, Fleury won the competition with Lehner, including holding the net on the run to the 2021 Final Four (COVID restrictions negated the Eastern and Western Conference Finals).
Yet Vegas traded Fleury and his $7 million salary to the Chicago Blackhawks for a low-level minor leaguer and gave the starter’s net to Lehner.
Cue the curse.
Last season, Lehner suffered a knee injury that hampered him for most of the campaign. It was later revealed to be a should injury that required season-ending surgery in April. There are conflicting reports on the injuries, but ultimately the Vegas Golden Knights missed the playoffs.
The Vegas trade seemed to be a particularly salty betrayal by Vegas owner Bill Foley, whom Fleury believed promised never to trade him. Fleury pondered his future for several days before agreeing to report to Chicago.
On Thursday, the Golden Knights announced that Lehner would miss the upcoming season after hip surgery.
How it Affects the Pittsburgh Penguins
Our colleague Owen Krepps quickly reported the news, then quickly turned to three emergency grabs on the NHL trade block. One of those options, and perhaps the most logical, is New York Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov.
On Wednesday, the percolating NHL rumors about the Islanders and center Nazem Kadri bubbled a little more as national analyst Kevin Weekes warned that as many as four transactions were coming. Weekes’ report dovetailed with the primary reporting of Stefen Rosner and NYI Hockey Now that Kadri and the Islanders are circling an un-signed deal.
The Islanders need to clear salary before making the rumored deal with a $7 million AAV happen.
Varlamov carries a $5 million AAV for one more season. If the Islanders could move him, they would be more than halfway to clearing the necessary space for Kadri and not cripple their primary lineup.
Rumors are that Kadri’s reps are still chatting with other teams, but the apparent connection is lining up a secondary option.
With Kadri’s deal pending, Vegas needing a goalie, and Varlamov being the presumed second goalie of the Islanders, the stars may well align. The Fleury curse might come full circle, and the Pittsburgh Penguins will have a more formidable Metro Division opponent.
Last month, Minnesota Wild GM Bill Guerin traded 1A goalie Cam Talbot to the Ottawa Senators so that Ottawa could replace Matt Murray. Perhaps Guerin closed the loop.
It’s a good thing Minnesota didn’t trade Fleury.
That never turns out well.