Fleury calls Blackhawks very appealing after trade from Golden Knights

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Marc-Andre Fleury is ready to continue his NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks, and the goalie said he appreciated getting to think about his future after being traded there last week.

“There’s a lot that goes into it,” Fleury said Wednesday. “I was very fortunate that [general manager Stan Bowman] gave me some time to reflect on what I wanted to do, what was best for me and my family.”

Fleury, acquired in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights for forward prospect Mikael Hakkarainen on July 27, won the Vezina Trophy voted as the best goalie in the NHL for the first time last season. He was 26-10-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .928 save percentage, was third in the NHL with six shutouts behind Semyon Varlamov of the New York Islanders and Philipp Grubauer of the Colorado Avalanche (seven each), and reached third in NHL history with 492 wins.

The 36-year-old has one season remaining on a three-year, $21 million contract ($7 million average annual value) he signed with the Golden Knights on July 13, 2018.

Fleury said he found out he was traded from his agent, Allan Walsh, who told him the news was on Twitter. Following the trade, Walsh said Fleury was not made aware of it and might be considering retirement.

“I never had anything against Chicago, the organization,” Fleury said. “It was just me personally, what I wanted to do. I’ve talked to a bunch of guys and I keep hearing so many great things about the team, how they treat players and families. I thought Stan did a great job to gain some players over the summer, trying to make this team competitive right away, and that’s also very appealing.”

Video: Expectations for Blackhawks in 2021-2022

The Blackhawks acquired defenseman Seth Jones from the Columbus Blue Jackets on July 23 in a trade for defenseman Adam Boqvist and three draft picks. Jones, who signed an eight-year, $76 million contract extension ($9.5 million AAV) on July 28, scored 28 points (five goals, 23 assists) in 56 games with the Blue Jackets last season. Chicago acquired Caleb Jones, Seth’s brother who also is a defenseman, and a conditional pick in the 2022 NHL Draft in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers for defenseman Duncan Keith and minor league forward Tim Soderlund on July 12. 

The Blackhawks also acquired forward Tyler Johnson and a second-round pick in the 2023 NHL Draft in a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenseman Brent Seabrook on July 28. Johnson scored 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 55 regular-season games last season and seven points (four goals, three assists) in 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games to help the Lightning win the Cup for the second straight season. 

And Chicago agreed to a four-year, $16 million contract ($4 million AAV) with unrestricted free agent defenseman Jake McCabe on July 28. McCabe injured his knee last season and scored three points (one goal, two assists) in 13 games with the Buffalo Sabres. He expects to be ready for this season.

Fleury said he is looking forward to playing with Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, a center Chicago hopes to have back at some point this season after he missed last season with what is being called chronic immune response syndrome, and forward Patrick Kane, who led Chicago with 66 points (15 goals, 51 assists) in 56 games last season.

“Kane is one of the guys who gave me the most trouble in shootouts during my career,” said Fleury, who has allowed three goals to Kane in four attempts. “So, looking forward to [getting] to practice with him every day and have some good battles with him.”

Bowman said Monday he’s expecting Fleury and Kevin Lankinen to provide solid goaltending. Lankinen, 26, was 17-4-5 with a 3.01 GAA, .909 save percentage and two shutouts last season, his first in the NHL.

“I haven’t spoken to [Lankinen] yet,” Fleury said. “I’ve watched him play the past season, and to me, he’s a very talented goalie, and still young, and hopefully I can help him in his development. It’s going to be a crazy schedule, so I think you’ll need both guys to play, and that’s a good thing. Good thing both of us can play, and hopefully I can help him.” 

Selected No. 1 by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2003 NHL Draft, Fleury is 492-276-80 with two ties in 883 regular-season games (858 starts) with the Penguins and Golden Knights, and 90-70 in 162 playoff games. He is a three-time Cup winner with Pittsburgh (2009, 2016, 2017).

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