With the writing on the wall after the Vegas Golden Knights announced the signing of Robin Lehner to be their long-term goaltender, many have wondered what general manager Kelly McCrimmon plans to do with their former franchise goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, who still has $7MM AAV on the team’s books for the next two years. Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston reported Saturday evening on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central that they are currently looking into finding a third team that can help retain some of Fleury’s salary before finding a new home for the veteran netminder.
“I think one of the options that I think Kelly McCrimmon and the Vegas Golden Knights have at least started to explore,” said Johnston, “is whether they may be able to use an intermediary team as part of their three-way deal in which that team is the one that retains part of Fleury’s salary in order to make this kind of transaction work.”
The Golden Knights did something similar at the trade deadline in February to acquire Lehner when they had the Chicago Blackhawks first trade Lehner to Toronto for prospect Martin Dzierkals first, while retaining half of Lehner’s $5MM salary ($2.5MM). The Leafs then retained $1.1MM and received a Vegas 2020 fifth-round pick for the transaction for sending Lehner to Vegas at a much cheaper price, which came out to just a $1.4MM cap cost for the Golden Knights. Now Vegas is trying to do that once again.
Of course with a up to 20 goaltending candidates who could move to a new location this offseason, Vegas might have more of a challenge than most offseasons. Fleury, who only appeared in four games during the Golden Knights’ playoff run to the Western Conference Finals, did fare well in his limited time, suggesting he still has quite a bit to offer a team, looking for a veteran tandem goaltender. He finished the playoffs with a 2.27 GAA and a .910 save percentage. However, his regular season was a little less impressive with a 2.77 GAA and a .905 save percentage in 49 games.
What teams might be interested remains unknown, although The Athletic’s Rob Rossi reports that while it’s unlikely, the Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t given up on the possibility of bringing Fleury back as a tandem with newly signed Tristan Jarry. However, the transaction would likely require quite a bit of creativity to make a move like that work, considering the delicate state of the Penguins’ cap situation.
Vegas, of course, could still opt to buy Fleury’s contract out as the buyout window doesn’t close until Tuesday afternoon, but then would leave the Golden Knights stuck with $2.58MM in 2020-21, $3.08MM in 2021-22 and $2.08MM in 2022-23 and 2023-24, something the team would prefer to avoid.