Marc-Andre Fleury, one of the most popular players in Penguins history, was traded by the Vegas Golden Knights to the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday. His agent, Allen Walsh, tweeted shortly thereafter that the goalie will take time to “discuss his situation with his family and seriously evaluate his hockey future.”
Ensuing reports said that Fleury was not thrilled with the idea of moving his family to a new city, leading to speculation that he may return to a familiar one.
But a source told the Post-Gazette on Tuesday evening that the Penguins are not looking to reacquire Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup winner here, and that he is not part of their plans with free agency set to begin Wednesday at noon.
The Penguins are still interested in upgrading the goaltending position after Tristan Jarry struggled mightily in their first-round playoff loss to the New York Islanders. And Fleury, the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, remains a fan favorite.
But he is 36 and has a salary cap hit of $7 million in the final year of his deal. The Penguins, with limited cap space, are expected to go in another direction at that pivotal position, the source said. And it makes sense. If they coveted Fleury, why weren’t they the ones acquiring him for next to nothing from Vegas?
The Golden Knights, one of many NHL teams that are dealing with cap issues after the pandemic, decided to roll with Robin Lehner as their No. 1 goalie and give away Fleury to the Blackhawks for minor league forward Mikael Hakkarainen.
The Penguins have just $7.4 million in projected cap space, per Capfriendly, and have both Jarry and Casey DeSmith under contract heading into next season. They will continue to explore other options between the pipes but are also expected to pursue a bruising defenseman and a power forward in free agency.
The top free agent goalies as of Tuesday night included Philipp Grubauer, Frederik Andersen, Tuukka Rask and Petr Mrazek. Former Cup winner Braden Holtby is also available. Darcy Kuemper and Jonathan Quick may be available via trade.
Penguins fans and sports talk radio hosts will surely keep debating whether bringing back Fleury would be Pittsburgh’s best option after he went 26-10-6 in 2021 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .928 save percentage to win his first Vezina.
But on the eve of free agency, the new front office had already made its mind up.©2021 PG Publishing Co. Visit at post-gazette.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.