The Chicago Blackhawks made huge moves this summer in an attempt to improve their team, which included acquiring goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights. Fresh off winning the Vezina Trophy, Fleury was added to provide stability for the Blackhawks in net. But while he has done his part, Chicago remains well outside the playoff picture.
So as we get closer to the trade deadline, you have to think the team will explore trading the netminder to recoup some assets.
Fleury is now 37 years old and is on an expiring contract. While his $7 million cap hit is certainly high, the Blackhawks would likely be able to retain salary to get back the best possible return. That said, Fleury does have a partial no-trade clause and you have to think he has a good amount of influence in any potential trade. If Chicago does end up dealing the netminder ahead of the deadline though, here are four potential destinations.
Marc-Andre Fleury Trade Destinations
Of any team in the league, the Oilers might be the best fit for Fleury. Looking to compete right now, the Oilers made moves to improve over the summer and it's no secret they were looking for an upgrade in goal. However, Edmonton's goaltending situation remains the same, with a tandem of Mikko Koskinen and Mike Smith, while Stuart Skinner presses for a spot as well. Koskinen holds just a .902 save percentage in 19 games and has a year remaining on his contract, while Smith has played in just five games with underwhelming results.
It's safe to say that if the Oilers hope to contend, they desperately need to improve their goaltending situation and picking up a veteran in Fleury for a playoff run would make sense. While Chicago fetching a first-round pick for Fleury is definitely unlikely, the Oilers sending a second or third-round pick and potentially Mikko Koskinen the other way (to offset some of Fleury's cap hit) is more plausible. Given the fact that both Fleury and Koskinen are on expiring contracts anyways, it means the move still gives both Chicago and Edmonton the opportunity to look for a long-term solution over the offseason, while the Oilers get a playoff run with Fleury.
3. Minnesota Wild
While Cam Talbot's run with the Wild so far can generally be categorized as a success, there's still room for improvement for Minnesota in goal. Minnesota has been a very competitive team in the Western Conference this year, but both Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen have managed below a .910 save percentage this year.
If the Wild legitimately wish to compete this year, adding Fleury would be both a statement move and a step towards a deep playoff run. Kahkonen doesn't seem to have as high of a ceiling as projected a couple years ago and with Jesper Wallstedt in the system as well, the Wild don't necessarily need to figure out how to factor Kahkonen into long-term plans. Acquiring Fleury to use in a tandem with Talbot could make sense and would instantly bolster the team's chances for playoff success.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
Fleury heading back to the organization where he spent most of his career is obviously a nice story, but more importantly, look at the position the Penguins are in. They have an aging roster and are likely running out of time to contend with their core group–though they still look set to be a playoff team once again this year.
If Pittsburgh is in a position to compete like they are now, they need to capitalize on what could be one of the team's final playoff runs with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang before they slip out of playoff contention.
While Tristan Jarry's excellent start to the year potentially makes a move less likely, the fact that trading for Fleury means only a half-season commitment could be appealing. Casey DeSmith has posted just an .894 save percentage in seven games with Pittsburgh this year and if the Penguins wanted some insurance in case Jarry stumbles, bringing back Fleury could make for the perfect fit.
1. Washington Capitals
Rather than the Penguins, what if Fleury ended up with his long-time rival in the Washington Capitals?
Similar to the Penguins, the Capitals need to put forward the most competitive team possible as they aim to remain a contender with their aging core. One area that's been somewhat unstable for the team over recent years, however, has been their situation in goal.
While the Capitals are using a tandem of Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek and both are still fairly young, they've only been able to provide average goaltending. Samsonov has managed a .908 save percentage in 19 games, while Vanecek has posted a .910 save percentage in 16 games. As Washington prepares for another playoff run, Fleury would be an upgrade in goal.
Making a trade work would be somewhat more difficult than with other teams, as again, Samsonov and Vanecek are still both fairly young. Additionally, even if neither was included as part of a return, it would still mean one ends up on the sidelines and the team potentially has to carry three goalies.
Furthermore, considering the Capitals moved a second-round pick just to get Vanecek back from the Seattle Kraken this offseason, they clearly value their current netminders.
That said, Fleury would still be an upgrade, as the Capitals look to remain a contender in the Eastern Conference.