Just about anyone who knows anything about star goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury knows he’s a terrific guy you’re happy to see good things happen to.
Whether it was as a long-term member of the Stanley-Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins, or more recently, as a short-term member of the Vegas Golden Knights, Chicago Blackhawks – and currently, as an employee of the Minnesota Wild – Fleury he has always endeared himself to the fan base of the team he works for. And now, Fleury has the chance to put himself in an excellent competitive and financial position: either as a key member of the Wild next season – after building on a deep playoff run with Minnesota this spring – or as a very well-compensated piece of the puzzle on another franchise, with a good shot at winning the fourth Cup of his career.
Fleury has prospered with the Wild after being acquired from Chicago at the NHL trade deadline, posting a 6-1-0 record, a 2.59 goals-against average, and a .921 save percentage with Minnesota. That`s well-worth Fleury`s $7-million salary this year, and all the more so given the Hawks are retaining half of it before he becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer. In some ways, the better Fleury plays, the more he prices himself out of the salary cap-strapped Wild`s budget for the 2022-23 campaign. Minnesota already has veteran Cam Talbot signed next year at a $3.6-million cap hit, and the prospect of paying Talbot that amount, plus at least that amount, if not double it, would put the Wild in at more than $10 million per year just on their netminders. That’s a luxury they likely can’t afford.
Some of you may be asking, “Which team is going to pay Fleury – who’ll be 38 years old next year – upwards of $7 million for one season?” The answer to that is, “You mean, ‘Which teams’, as in plural”. Remember, we’re not talking about a multi-season contract for Fleury. We’re talking about the ramifications of this year’s playoffs as a factor that will help decide how much Fleury will be in a position to ask for one more notable payday before he retires.
With that in mind, you can see a circumstance in which a team like, say, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Washington Capitals or Edmonton Oilers craps out in the first round of the playoffs because they didn’t get the type of netminding they needed, and chooses to move around enough money to afford Fleury’s services. Or perhaps Fleury’s old team in Pittsburgh has their hopes sunk by a second straight post-season meltdown from starter Tristan Jarry, and Pens GM Ron Hextall persuades Fleury to finish off his Hockey-Hall-of-Fame career in the same place it blossomed.
Or maybe an organization like the Detroit Red Wings or New Jersey Devils – both of whom have been plagued by bad goaltending this season – believes they’re a veteran netminder away from getting back into the playoffs next year; any large amount of money they’d give to Fleury would be worth it if it meant getting playoff revenue back into their owner’s bank account.
As it stands, Fleury would be one of the very best options in net for any team looking to improve on what they presently have between the pipes. He doesn’t need to break the bank with a Sergei Bobrovsky-esque $10-milliun annual salary, but he also has earned a much bigger payday than the league minimum. For Fleury, it’s going to be about which team he believes has the best chance at a championship, and again, there will be more than one option for him in that regard. He’s going to have a seller’s market for his talents.
The humble, affable Fleury doesn’t have to provide anything to anyone. The team that winds up paying him for another season after this one knows just what they’re getting – a chance to win games night-in and night-out – and for that reason, he’s going to be handsomely and deservedly compensated for may what could be his final NHL season.