The Vegas Golden Knights are betting on Marc-Andre Fleury building off a strong 2017-18 season after handing the goaltender a three-year, $21 million extension on Friday.
“I’m really excited about it. My family and I really love Vegas, the organization, my teammates,” Fleury said in a Twitter video announcing the extension. “I feel very blessed to have the support to keep playing in front of you guys for a few more years. Thanks for the support. Thanks to my team for trusting me and we’ll see you guys in September.”
Fleury, who will be 34 in November, became the face of the expansion franchise this season — one that ended with a trip to the Stanley Cup Final.
After missing two months of the season due to a concussion, Fleury finished with .931 even strength save percentage and four shutouts in 46 starts. In the postseason, he played a huge role in their run to the Final, posting four shutouts and a .927 ESSV%. It didn’t take long for him to become a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate, and there were many that had him pegged through three rounds as the winner even in a losing effort. (He did receive two third-place votes in the final voting.)
Before heading to Vegas, Fleury averaged a .923 ESSV% in his final five seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. This past season everything went right for the Golden Knights, including the play of their goaltending, led by Fleury. So if you’re expecting some regression, this, along with his injury history, is why this contract is a risky one.
Fleury’s extension, which features a modified no-trade clause and has no signing bonuses, doesn’t kick in until the 2019-20 season (he has one year at $5.75 million left on his current deal). His play has been up and down the last few seasons and he’s also suffered several concussions. The odds aren’t in favor of improvement as goaltenders age, especially when they reach their mid-thirties. General manager George McPhee certainly has the cap space to play with and many of the potential goaltending options in future free agency summers will be locked up before even getting close to unrestricted status.
If you’re McPhee, you see that the cap ceiling has been rising annually and you’re trying to establish a foundation for a new franchise after a successful inaugural year. You don’t think of the Golden Knights without thinking of Fleury and the GM is willing to gamble that even if there is some regression to his goaltender’s game it’s not enough of a hindrance to the team’s goals. There’s also the hope that one of Malcolm Subban or Oscar Dansk becomes “The Next One” in net, or at the very least a “1B” option over the length of this deal.