Vegas Golden Knights fans got dealt a shock with the surprising news that star goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was being traded to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Tuesday’s move came less than a month after Fleury was named the league’s best goalie for last season, which saw the Golden Knights reach the Western Conference finals.
Known as “Flower,” Fleury helped bring hockey to the desert as an original member of the Golden Knights. The 36-year-old became a fan favorite and locker room leader during his four years with the team, which included a trip to the Stanely Cup finals in its inaugural season.
"This is the guy who Golden Knights fans love, and it's heartbreaking to see him leave," said Las Vegas Sun sportswriter Justin Emerson.“He was beloved in this community for a lot of different reasons.”
Emerson told State of Nevada that Fleury played an important role in the team winning the hearts of Las Vegas, particularly after the mass shooting of Oct. 1, 2017, which took place nine days before the Golden Knights first game.
“He was connecting with Las Vegas out of blood drives, out at food banks,” Emerson said. “He's just genuinely a nice person.”
A published report said Fleury was “totally shocked” by trade and that he is reluctant to uproot his family and move to Chicago. The future hall of famer is reportedly considering retiring or forcing a trade to Pittsburgh, where he played for 13 seasons before being selected by the Golden Knights in the 2017 expansion draft.
Emerson, who said the trade is “part of the business,” predicted it’s unlikely Fleury retires, and not just because he would be giving up the $7 million he is due to earn next season.
“He's as competitive as they come and he believes that he can still play hockey at this level,” Emerson said. “I would personally be surprised if he does call it quits.”
The trade with Chicago gives Vegas more room under the NHL salary cap and clears the way for Robin Lehner to take over in the net.
The Golden Knights continued their roster moves on Wednesday by extending the contract of defenseman Alec Martinez, signing likely backup goalie Laurent Brossoit, and trading for forward Evgenii Dadonov of the Ottawa Senators in exchange for defenseman Nick Holden and a draft pick.
In the Fleury trade, Vegas received 23-year-old prospect Mikael Hakkarainen, a minor leaguer who Emerson said might never make it to the Golden Knights.
Justin Emerson, sportswriter, Las Vegas Sun
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