NHL Trade Deadline Primer: Marc-Andre Fleury is the deadline’s wild card

NHL Trade Deadline
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The 2022 NHL Trade Deadline is Monday, March 21 at 3 p.m. ET. As we get closer to the deadline we will take a look at some individual players who could be on the move. We continue today with Chicago Blackhawks goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

It was a bit of a shock when the Chicago Blackhawks acquired Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights this past offseason for a variety of reasons. For starters, Fleury was the face of the Golden Knights’ franchise from the very beginning, its most popular player, and the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Given the salary cap situation it seemed possible that a move would have to be made involving one of their goalies, but dumping Fleury after the season he had for nothing but salary cap space was definitely an eye-opener.

Especially when it was Chicago, a team that has been on the outside of the playoff picture for several years and did not seem to have much prospects for returning this season, that was making the acquisition. Not only did the Blackhawks seem to be a long-shot to make the playoffs, but Fleury had just one year remaining on his contract and does not figure to be a long-term piece.

Things have gone about as expected for everybody involved.

Fleury has been very good, though not quite as good as he was a year ago, while the Blackhawks have lost a lot of games and sink closer and closer to an all out rebuild.

That could have Fleury back on the trade market.

There are two main obstacles for that to happen: Fleury has some control over whether or not he gets traded and where he goes, and teams actually needing a goalie.

What the return might look like

Probably not a huge return. Again, the market is probably very limited, and while Fleury can be a difference-maker he is in his late 30s and in the final year of his contract. He is a pure rental, and goalies in general do not seem to bring major returns. Maybe they could squeeze a first-round pick out of somebody? Maybe a second-round pick and a couple of prospects? Expecting more than that is probably expecting too much.

The most logical landing spots

• Washington Capitals, Edmonton Oilers, Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto might have some concerns in net right now as Jack Campbell struggles, but do they have the salary cap space to add Fleury? We say it every year only to watch them lose in the first round, but this Maple Leafs team looks really good with the potential to go far if they can get some stops in the playoffs. Fleury is the best available option, but he is also the most expensive (both in terms of salary cap number and assets).

The Capitals might have bigger problems than goalie right now, but that is probably the easiest issue to fix with just a single move. It would also set up the potential for an epic playoff matchup at some point between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Fleury and the Capitals. Talk about adding some intrigue to that rivalry.

Then there is Edmonton. The Oilers look much better since the coaching change, but goaltending is crushing them. Mike Smith can not be counted on, and while he has played good at different times this season how much do you trust Mikko Koskinen? Going for Fleury would require Ken Holland to make a bold move, but he really seems reluctant to do that every year, which is really baffling when you consider how much of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl‘s career this team has already wasted.

Wild Card team: Colorado Avalanche

This would have been more of an option earlier this season when Darcy Kuemper was still struggling and Pavel Francouz was injured. This team has, quite literally, everything you could want a Stanley Cup contender to have. The question is going to be that X-factor of goaltending. When Kuemper is on his game he is very good, and they paid a significant price for him this offseason from the Arizona Coyotes so it might be a stretch to see them go after another big name goalie. Especially now that he has been great since the start of December.

Spot I want to see just for fun: Vegas Golden Knights

This would be amazing just for the drama. Over the past two years the Golden Knights traded for Robin Lehner, gave Lehner the starting job over Fleury for the playoffs and causing chaos, watching Fleury reclaim the starting job and win the Vezina Trophy, and then still ended up trading him. Lehner is injured, the Golden Knights are on the playoff bubble, and as long as Lehner’s health is a question that is going to be a potential issue. There was a report that the Golden Knights looked into re-acquiring Fleury, which was quickly and harshly refuted by the Golden Knights. But we can still dream just for laughs.

NHL Trade Deadline prediction

As much sense as it would make for the Blackhawks to trade Fleury, it seems a little more complicated than just dealing him. There has to be a buyer willing to pay the asking price, and there just does not seem to be a major market of teams with that desire and the salary cap space to make it happen, while Fleury himself does not seem in a rush for a trade. The prediction here is he stays.