It is never not interesting when it comes to the Vegas Golden Knights.
According to Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff, the Golden Knights have "expressed interest" in a reunion with franchise legend Marc-Andre Fleury, the star netminder they kicked to the curb after his Vezina Trophy-winning season in 2021.
— Frank Seravalli (@frank_seravalli) February 15, 2022
Why? Well, the preferred and chosen netminder, Robin Lehner, has a shoulder injury that, while perhaps temporarily manageable, will eventually require surgery. To put it lightly, there is major uncertainty at the goaltending position in a season wherein Vegas should fancy itself as a serious contender to lift the Stanley Cup.
Now there are a couple obstacles here — perhaps the most serious being Fleury's pride.
As mentioned, Fleury was cast aside at the end of last season despite pouring his heart into the franchise and community for a half decade. He accepted demotions, won back his job and competed regardless of role, eventually being named the league's best netminder in his final season with the infantile franchise.
He didn't deserve his fate, but it became so serious so soon in Vegas that GM Kelly McCrimmon and the rest of the Golden Knights braintrust decided that moving on from the player who was as instrumental as any in helping establish permanent roots had to go.
No doubt there's a soured relationship.
And before the soured relationship, there were, of course, memes.
It is worth considering, however, if Vegas is still where Fleury would prefer to be. He never wanted to leave, of course, and his situation hasn't improved with the Chicago Blackhawks. He is a very viable trade candidate in the final season of his contract with the Blackhawks, who will be selling any asset they can before the deadline. If Fleury wants to chase a championship, Vegas might be the best and certainly most familiar destination, that is unless the Pittsburgh Penguins suddenly have a need in net.
Maybe unfinished business is the most powerful force, here, or at least a motive that would override hurt feelings.
The other important consideration is what made him expendable in the first place: salary. At $7 million, Fleury outearns Lehner, which means that Chicago would have to retain a portion of the netminder's salary to facilitate the move, or a healthy chunk of change would have to be moved out in order to carve out the necessary cap space.
Even then, Lehner would have to be transferred to the injured list for the remainder of the season, meaning he wouldn't be an option until the playoffs barring a Fleury injury. Vegas is already stretching itself to the limit when it comes to stashing away salary, having moved Mark Stone's $9.5 million salary to long-term injured reserve just this week to pave the way for Jack Eichel's debut.
The Golden Knights will unabashedly shove dollars between the couch cushions if it means improving their chances, but there is some risk associated with taking on such excess.
Still, wouldn't it be an incredible story? With all the layers to Fleury and his tenure in Vegas, and the Golden Knights' relentless, bordering on obsessive and disruptive pursuit of a championship, a reunion might be one of the most remarkable developments in this league's recent history.
We hear so many excuses in the NHL — from players, managers and owners. From Vegas, though, we don't.
This team will, without shame, chase down what it wants. It will do what others won't. And it's almost become impossible to not respect.
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