Marc-Andre Fleury said he expects to be the backup goalie behind Robin Lehner this season but is happy to remain with the Vegas Golden Knights, according to a report.
“I don’t have a lot of years left ahead of me. I know that Lehner is their goalie,” Fleury told Le Journal de Montreal in comments published Thursday and translated by NHL.com. “They placed their trust in Lehner. I don’t think I’ll be able to regain the starter job, but I will nevertheless compete to win it back.”
Fleury’s future with Vegas was in question after Lehner signed a five-year, $25 million contract ($5 million average annual value) on Oct. 3, but general manager Kelly McCrimmon said Oct. 12 the Golden Knights would not trade Fleury, who has two seasons remaining on a three-year, $21 million contract ($7 million AAV) he signed with them July 13, 2018.
“I thought it was a surprising outcome,” the 35-year-old said of staying with Vegas. “My name was out there in the trade rumors. But I’m happy. I’ll have the chance to stay in Vegas. I’ll still play for a good team. I won’t have to move, so that’s a good thing too.
“It would’ve been disappointing to leave that place. But I also understand the reality of hockey. It’s a business. There is now a lot of money invested in two goalies.”
Lehner had shoulder surgery this week but is expected to be ready for this season, which is targeted to begin Jan. 1, 2021.
“I’m ready to share (the net),” Fleury said. “I expect this season to be a bit strange. There will probably be several games in a few days, there will be a condensed schedule. I think all teams will have no other choice than to use their two goaltenders.”
Selected by the Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, Fleury helped them reach the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season of 2017-18. When Vegas acquired Lehner on Feb. 24 in a trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs, who had acquired him earlier that day in a trade from the Chicago Blackhawks, the plan was for Lehner to back up Fleury.
Lehner took over as the No. 1 goalie in the postseason, starting 16 of 20 games during the Golden Knights’ run to the Western Conference Final, when they lost to the Dallas Stars in five games. The 29-year-old was 9-7-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and four shutouts in the postseason.
Fleury was 3-1-0 with a 2.27 GAA and .910 save percentage in four postseason games after he was 27-16-5 with a 2.77 GAA, a .905 save percentage and five shutouts during the regular season.
“I don’t have any problem with Robin,” Fleury said. “At the rink, we get along pretty well, I have fun with him. There is no frustration between us. We play for the same team, and we both try to do our job. He wants to play, and so do I. We have the same mentality. But there is no bad blood between us. He’s a great guy.”
Prior to last season, Fleury started all 27 Stanley Cup Playoff games in Golden Knights history. A three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Pittsburgh Penguins (2009, 2016, 2017), Fleury is fifth in NHL history with 466 wins over 16 NHL seasons with Pittsburgh and Vegas.
“For this season, it’ll be a good thing to count on two competitive goalies,” he said. “It’ll give our team a good chance.”