Marc-Andre Fleury spent his first day with the Chicago Blackhawks touring their practice facility with general manager Stan Bowman and meeting a few of his new teammates.
“Certainly, it’s a huge addition to our team,” Bowman said Monday of acquiring the goalie in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights on July 27. “We’re thrilled with what he brings to the table.
“It’s not too often you get a chance to add a Vezina Trophy-winning goalie to your team in the offseason, but that’s the situation we were in and couldn’t be more excited to have him here with us in Chicago. I know in talking to him, he was really excited for the year to come.”
Fleury will speak to the media for the first time since the trade Wednesday.
The 36-year-old won the Vezina voted the best goalie in the NHL for the first time in his career after going 26-10-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .928 save percentage with the Golden Knights last season. He was third in the NHL with six shutouts, behind Semyon Varlamov of the New York Islanders and Philipp Grubauer of the Colorado Avalanche, who each had seven, and got his 490th win May 5 against the Minnesota Wild to tie Roberto Luongo for third in NHL history.
He was 9-7 with a 2.04 GAA and .918 save percentage in 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games, helping Vegas reach the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Semifinals, when they lost to the Montreal Canadiens in six games.
Fleury has one season remaining on the three-year, $21 million contract extension ($7 million average annual value) he signed with the Golden Knights on July 13, 2018.
Following the trade, Fleury’s agent, Allan Walsh, said Fleury was not made aware of it and would be “taking time to discuss his situation with family and seriously evaluate his hockey future.”
Bowman said he was not nervous that Fleury needed some time after the trade.
“He has (three) young children, I have kids as well and it’s a tough life to be a player and I think it’s probably obvious that it was a surprise for him when the trade went down,” Bowman said. “From my first conversation with him, I think it was consistent. He said, ‘Look, thanks so much for the call,’ (and) he just talked about how, ‘I just need time to get through these things. If you can have a little patience, that’d be great,’ and I said, ‘Not a problem at all.’ I put myself in his shoes. Once we had that conversation, we were willing to give him the time he needed to process through everything.”
Fleury confirmed he will join the Blackhawks in a video posted on their Twitter account Sunday.
“Hey Chicago, it’s Marc. I just want to let you know I’m in,” Fleury said. “Let’s get to work.”
Selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins with the No. 1 pick in the 2003 NHL Draft, Fleury is 492-276-80 with two ties and a 2.55 GAA, a .913 save percentage and 67 shutouts in 883 NHL regular-season games (858 starts). He is 90-70 with a 2.53 GAA, a .912 save percentage and 16 shutouts in 162 postseason games, and won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 2009, 2016 and 2017.
Bowman said he is hopeful Fleury and Kevin Lankinen will be a good team in net. Lankinen was 17-14-5 with a 3.01 GAA, a .909 save percentage and two shutouts as a rookie with Chicago last season.
The general manager is confident Fleury will fit in fast with the Blackhawks.
“One thing I’ll say about Marc-Andre Fleury, and people in the media probably know this, but it’s really incredible how when you talk to people around the League, he is the most beloved teammate on every team he’s ever played on,” Bowman said. “Just a fantastic person, and I can see why.”