LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Vegas Golden Knights Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury has been traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, according to an announcement made by the organization on Tuesday.
Fleury’s agent, Allan Walsh, released a statement from the goalie on Twitter hours after the news broke, which reads:
Earlier in the day, the Knights thanked Fleury on social media and announced the team’s acquirement of forward Mikael Hakkarainen from Chicago in the trade deal.
“My job is to try to make our team better, and to do that, you need cap space to improve,” Vegas Golden Knights General Manager Kelly McCrimmon said during a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Fleury, 36, was set to county $7 million against the salary cap next season, which would have been the final year of his contract. Chicago was not on netminder’s 10-team no-trade list.
“Marc-Andre wanted to play in Vegas. That never changed… that was his number one preference,” McCrimmon told reporters.
“With respect to what decisions he might make moving forward, this is a player who is at the very top of his game,” McCrimmon said. “I sure think he’ll play this year. But those are things that I would leave he or others to speak about.”
Fleury spent four seasons with Vegas and had a 117-60-14 record with the team.
The future Hall of Famer went 26-10-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average and .928 save percentage last season. He started 16 of the Knights’ 19 playoff games over Robin Lehner, who is signed for four more seasons.
Fans who spoke to 8 News Now say they are not happy about seeing Fleury traded, “You’re not only disrespecting Marc-Andre Fleury, you’re disrespecting the fans, and I’m really disappointed right now. With Fleury being a face of the franchise they definitely have like stabbed a lot of the fanbase in the back with this.”
“I’d like to thank Marc-Andre Fleury for his time in Vegas. It’s incredible the moments we shared with him as part of our organization. He’s the most popular player I’ve ever seen in sports. He was the face of the franchise,” McCrimmon said.
Shortly after the news broke on Twitter, Walsh said the beloved Vegas goalie hadn’t “heard from anybody with the Vegas Golden Knights,” about the trade. “Marc-Andre will be taking time to discuss his situation with his family and seriously evaluate his hockey future at this time,” Walsh said.
“The rumors hit Twitter before I spoke to Marc-Andre Fleury… we hadn’t begun the trade call. We would never speak to a player before you got to the trade call in case things don’t unfold,” McCrimmon noted.
“These are hard jobs, you have to make tough decisions,” the general manager said when asked if he feels like the “bad guy” in terms of making the trade.
He says he began having conversations with Fleury at their exit meetings on June 29. “At that time, I told Marc that I couldn’t say for sure what we’d do with our goaltending for the upcoming year.”
Lehner called Fleury a “100% HOF guy that I will miss” in a tweet later Tuesday.
“There is not many people I’ve met or played with I respect as much as flower,” Lehner said.
It’s the first time in 20 years the reigning Vezina winner was traded before the next season, AP reports. Buffalo traded Dominik Hasek to Detroit on the first day of free agency in 2001.
McCrimmon says the organization will look to add a backup goalie in the coming weeks.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman wished Fleury the best on social media, saying he “will always be part of the Las Vegas family.”
Mikael Hakkarainen, who was acquired in the trade, will continue to play for the Blackhawks despite Vegas owning his contract.
The trade news was first reported by TSN Tuesday morning.