When Marc-André Fleury committed to the Blackhawks last summer after being traded to Chicago from the Vegas Golden Knights for essentially nothing, there was a sense of optimism around the organization and the fan base that maybe, just maybe, the Blackhawks could really jump-start their “rebuilding” process and become contenders just one year after saying they were committing to a “youth movement.”
But by the time December rolled around, the Blackhawks wouldn’t be contending for anything this season and rumors of Fleury’s eventual departure began.
Here’s what we know for sure: Fleury has a 10-team no-trade clause on his contract this season. What is understood to be true is that when Fleury joined the Blackhawks, then-GM Stan Bowman assured Fleury he would not be traded in-season so as to avoid moving his family again or being away from them at any point this year.
Here’s what we don’t know: Did Fleury ask now-GM Kyle Davidson to not pursue a trade in the next 10 days as the NHL Trade Deadline approaches.
What is clear to me is that the Blackhawks have to trade Fleury in the next 10 days for the commitment to the rebuild and the future of the organization to feel genuine.
Let me start by saying that I can be sensitive to Fleury’s wishes to not want to be away from his family, or move them again if he doesn’t want to.
At the same time, that decision hurts the Blackhawks more than it helps them. As we talked about extensively on the latest CHGO Blackhawks Podcast, Fleury is the biggest trade piece the team has on the market right now, unless you are considering Brandon Hagel “on the market,” which I am not. With Chicago not having a first-round pick in this summer’s draft and a huge need to replenish their prospect pool, moving Fleury presents the biggest opportunity to get both of those needs filled.
Fleury is one of the most well-respected and liked players in the league. He came to Chicago and the city embraced him immediately. His No. 29 Blackhawks sweater sold the third-most of any player in the NHL in the year of 2021, and he was only with the team for four months of the year. No one can take back those sweaters, the memories of him earning his 500th career win while playing with Chicago, or all of the post rubs this season. But fond memories and warm feelings only go so far. The Blackhawks need to be aggressive in their rebuilding plans to be successful in them. That means making hard decisions.
Hard decisions like going to Fleury and point-blank asking him to accept a trade to a contending team, regardless of whatever kind of agreement he and Bowman had come to. If Kyle Davidson wants to make his mark on being GM of the Chicago Blackhawks and pointing the team back in the right direction to once again contend for Stanley Cups, trading Fleury with the intention of getting back into the first-round of this summer’s draft and rebuilding their prospect pool should be the first big move he makes.
A rebuild does not solely happen by getting mid-round picks for Calvin de Haan, Dominik Kubalík, and Ryan Carpenter.
The Blackhawks are clearly team in need of help at the goaltender position as they fight down the stretch of the season, heading towards the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs have been a rumored destination for Fleury and they are without a reliable, proven starter in net. If ever there was a year for the Maple Leafs to go for it, this would be the year. The Vegas Golden Knights look like they will be without Robin Lehner for an extended period of time and they would be wise to let bygones be bygones and have a reunion with Fleury to contend for a Cup. Although the Colorado Avalanche don’t have much draft capital to work with, improving in net with a Marc-André Fleury deal would make an already scary team, even scarier to deal with in the postseason.
Fleury’s $7 million cap hit is a hurdle in any trade. The Hawks will end up retaining likely half of that in any deal. Some teams might require a third team to be involved to make the money work, but that’s not unheard of even though it becomes a bit more complicated. Plus, Fleury is contemplating whether or not to play another season beyond this one. If he’s in Chicago, what is the point of him playing one more season when he won’t be contending for a Stanley Cup and making less money?
The reasons to keep Fleury in Chicago, on a team that will not be contending this year or next, are flimsy at best. The Blackhawks don’t have a need for Fleury beyond this season. In all honesty, they don’t have a need for him beyond the next 10 days. I’ve loved having Marc-André Fleury be a part of the Chicago Blackhawks and I wish he could’ve been with the team longer, but it’s time to move forward.