Heartbroken VGK Fans Say Goodbye To Popular Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury
They made a Marc-Andre Fleury sculpture out of chocolate in Season 1 at the Bellagio on the Strip for the Stanley
Cup playoffs. Then they made Marc-Andre Fleury out of Legos in Season 3 at a studio at the new Circa hotel in
downtown Las Vegas. But on Tuesday, Vegas Golden Knights fans learned sadly that a Flower doesn’t last forever
in the desert.
It’s all business, as they say in sports, as the Vegas Golden Knights unceremoniously dumped the franchise’s most
popular player Tuesday when the team shipped the 36-year-old Fleury and his $7 million annual salary to
Chicago for 23-year-old defenseman Mikael Hakkarainen. But Golden Knights General Manager Kelly
McCrimmon said Hakkarainen will remain with the Chicago organization and Vegas will pay his contract. So, was
this player really “acquired” by the Vegas Golden Knights if he remains playing in the Chicago organization? Talk
about a salary dump to clear cap room.
After the Golden Knights drafted Fleury from Pittsburgh in the expansion draft more than four years ago, the franchise’s marketing plan was to stress that this was a newly-created team of many players and not focus on an established star like Fleury.
But Fleury’s colorful, acrobatic style on the ice and his funny, prankster and touching personality off it captured the hearts of Golden Knights fans here in Southern Nevada and across the continent. People associate The Killers’ “The Man” song with Fleury. The song by the Las Vegas band was played after many of Fleury’s best saves at T-Mobile Arena.
LVSportsBiz photographed Fleury conducting a press conference at the VGK expansion draft in June 2017 at T-Mobile Arena.
Fleury rebounded from losing his starting job in the 2020 pandemic playoffs to Robin Lehner by having a Vezina
Trophy-winning season in 2021, leading the Knights to the second-best record during the amended 56-game
season in 2021. Fleury, born in Sorel, Quebec, was among the NHL’s top goalies with wins (26), goals-against
average (1.98), save percentage (.928) and shutouts (6) in 36 appearances this past season
But the franchise looked at Fleury’s $7 million annual salary as a financial obstacle to sign and collect players as
the Knights navigate the $81.5 million flat salary cap. Lehner, who is six years younger than Fleury at 30, has four
more years at $5 million per year with the VGK. Lehner said Fleury was a “100% HOF guy.”
And in a PR nightmare, news leaked Tuesday that Fleury was shipped to Chicago without the Knights first
announcing the trade or even apparently telling Fleury. First rule in PR: get out in front of bad news and set the
message. Didn’t happen.
McCrimmon said he kept Fleury informed about the interest from other teams, but he’s can’t stop “leaks” of
information that make it to social media before a player is advised that he’s been officially traded. McCrimmon
said he can’t tell a player he’s been traded until they make a trade call to the league.
Here’s Fleury’s agent, Allan Walsh, on Twitter this morning: “While Marc-Andre Fleury still hasn’t heard from
anybody with the Vegas Golden Knights, he has apparently been traded to Chicago. Marc-Andre will be taking
time to discuss his situation with his family and seriously evaluate his hockey future at this time.”
This is how the Golden Knights eventually told their upset, angry and saddened fan base:
Mc Crimmon spoke at a Zoom press conference at 12 noon today. LVSportsBiz.com published the McCrimmon talk below.
As an original Misfit from the 2017 expansion draft, Fleury eventually became the face of the young franchise. He
already had a legion of hardcore fans from his Pittsburgh Penguins days when his name was inscribed on three
Stanley Cups and he collected thousands more in Las Vegas. Here’s Fleury with fan Liz Lane at a Golden Knights
gala fundraiser in 2019.
Fleury connected to Las Vegas. He was more than just a player on the market’s first major league team. There was
an emotional buy-in between Fleury and Las Vegas and it was a mutual one. Just days after the Oct. 1 lass killing
on the Strip in 2017, there was a blood donation event attended by Golden Knights players, including Fleury. He
sat and listened intently to the emotional words of a woman still traumatized from attending the outdoor country
music concert on the MGM Resorts fields on the east side of Las Vegas Boulevard across from MGM Resorts’ hotel-casinos. Here’s that moment.