Vegas takes Fleury off market, cites schedule

NHL

The Vegas Golden Knights are no longer looking to trade star goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, general manager Kelly McCrimmon said Monday.

“We see the goaltending position being incredibly important this year. Our goalies will be Robin [Lehner] and Marc-Andre. We all expect a schedule [next season] that’s going to be very compressed. The importance of two goaltenders is really going to be valuable,” said McCrimmon, during a press conference announcing the signing of star free-agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

Fleury has two years left on his contract with the Knights, with a cap hit on $7 million. He has a limited no-trade clause.

Sources told ESPN that Vegas was seeking to move Fleury, engaging with NHL clubs to potentially pick up a portion of his contract in a three-team deal. But given the flat salary cap of $81.5 million, internal caps on spending due to the impact of COVID-19 on the NHL, and the volume of goaltender movement during the free-agent signing period, the market for such a trade shifted in the weeks following the end of the season.

Instead of moving Fleury’s contract, the team traded defenseman Nate Schmidt, an original Golden Knight, to the Vancouver Canucks to open up cap space for Pietrangelo’s $8.8-million average annual value. Schmidt makes $5.95 million against the cap and is signed through 2025.

Lehner signed a five-year, $25-million contact extension after the Dallas Stars eliminated the Knights in the Western Conference Final. McCrimmon said Lehner underwent minor “clean up” shoulder surgery this week, but is expected to be back for training camp. The NHL is currently targeting January 1, 2020 as the start date for next season.

After season, McCrimmon said that settling the team’s goaltending situation was the team’s top priority. When Lehner was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline, the team said he would serve in support of Fleury, the team’s starting goaltender. But Lehner ended up starting 16 of the Knights’ 18 postseason games, posting a .917 save percentage and a 1.99 goals against average.

The situation prompted Fleury’s agent Allan Walsh to protest on social media, posting an image depicting his client being impaled in the back by a sword with Vegas coach Peter DeBoer’s name on it.

McCrimmon said any presumption of tension or acrimony between management and Fleury is misguided.

“With respect to repairing that relationship, I don’t see any issue that way at all. I don’t think it was ever what was reported or assumed. Whatever different theories that were out there, I don’t think internally it was ever the issue it was made out to be, and I don’t expect it will be an issue going into next season,” he said. “Believe me: If it was, we would have made different decisions than we made.”

The Knights’ current cap figure is around $82.5 million. McCrimmon said they will be cap compliant when the season starts.

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