Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury should probably stop going by “Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.” The 32-year-old has reportedly waived his no-movement clause for purposes of being exposed in the NHL Expansion Draft, and it’s almost certain that his career with our cross-Commonwealth rivals is over.
So, what next for him? There’s a solid chance that the Vegas Golden Knights take him as one of their goaltenders in the Expansion Draft -- they need to take at least three — but will they keep him? There’s no reason that the Golden Knights couldn’t trade him away at 8 a.m. the morning after the Expansion Draft when rosters unfreeze.
And that’s why we’re talking about this on this Philadelphia-based website. Sportsnet wrote a piece yesterday entitled “Five intriguing destinations for Marc-Andre Fleury,” and guess which team was mentioned?
The Flyers could use a steady hand in net, but it’s highly unlikely that Pittsburgh would deal a veteran fan-favourite [sic] to their worst enemy. That’s where that Vegas flip idea could come in.
(For an example, see what the Tampa Bay Lightning did at the deadline with Mark Streit, acquiring him from the Flyers and then dealing him immediately to Pittsburgh.)
Steve Mason will be a free agent on July 1, leaving just Michal Neuvirth—who Vegas GM George McPhee has spoken highly of in the past.
From a play perspective, I think I would be fine with Fleury. Yes, we’ve made our fair share of jokes about him over the years, and the 2012 playoff series in which he was utterly embarrassed by the Flyers will never cease to be funny.
But he’s a solid goalie. His contract is a bit high, however I think he would be a step up over Michal Neuvirth or most goaltenders the Flyers could acquire in free agency this summer. (Steve Mason is not really under consideration here, since I am mostly convinced he’s gone.) Fleury’s .909 save percentage this past season wasn’t great, and his career averages really are pretty ... average.
But it’d be a short-term option — there are just two years left on his contract, and as we mentioned he is 32 — and a decent little stop gap before one of the many prospects in the organization takes on a larger role. He’s known as a solid team guy, and I think I would take some sick pleasure in the conflicting feelings it would give to every Penguins fan on earth.
With all that said, I don’t think the chances of this happening are all that strong. I do think that Vegas could take him and move him, depending of course on who they wind up taking otherwise. But let’s think through the logistics of this:
- From a cap perspective, the Flyers probably can’t afford Fleury’s $5.75 million cap hit. That’s a lot of money.
- Even if the Flyers could make it work, they’d almost certainly have to lose Michal Neuvirth to do it. I don’t see a world in which a Neuvirth-Fleury tandem is ever a thing. They’d be spending $8.2 million just on goaltenders each of the next two seasons. Not workable.
- The only way they are losing Michal Neuvirth is if he gets taken in the Expansion Draft. That’s an unlikely scenario for a lot of reasons, even if you think that the relationship between Neuvirth and Vegas general manager George McPhee is enough to make it happen.
- Let’s just assume that happens, though. It would mean that the Golden Knights take Neuvirth and Fleury in the Expansion Draft. Then, they’d decide to keep Neuvirth and trade Fleury to Philadelphia. That means they think Neuvirth is a better option for them than Fleury. I can’t see that happening.
That’s the only way this really happens. It’s a lot of moving parts. Even in the best-case scenario, I just can’t imagine that the Golden Knights would ever think Neuvirth is a better option than Fleury.
He’s cheaper, but that’s not a concern for a team that will surely be nowhere near the salary cap in their first few seasons. He’s younger, but only by three years. He’s a journeyman who was traded away by the very same guy picking the expansion team in Las Vegas. His career has been up-and-down, and I’m sorry for making you vomit, but Fleury has three more Stanley Cup wins than Neuvirth does. That matters, whether or not it really should.
Make that argument on top of the unlikely chance that Vegas takes Neuvirth at all, or that Vegas wants to trade Fleury to Philadelphia, or that Philadelphia can even afford Fleury. It’s all very doubtful.