In 2017, the Vegas Golden Knights began their expansion journey with a group of misfit players that were cast out from their former NHL clubs. However, the Golden Knights did have a former Stanley Cup Champion and NHL all-star in Marc-Andre Fleury to serve as a leader and the face of the franchise. Fleury is one of the most popular players amongst his peers, as his fun-loving personality and hilarious pranks constantly keep things light even in stressful situations. Unsurprisingly, Fleury became an instant fan-favorite in Vegas and led the Golden Knights to playoff appearances in each of his four seasons with the team.
Fleury’s tenure in Vegas wasn’t without a little bit of drama, as is often the case when a team has two starter-caliber goaltenders sharing the crease. When the Golden Knights decided to go with Robin Lehner as their starting goalie for the 2020 playoffs, Fleury’s agent Allan Walsh attempted to stand up for his client by posting a picture to Twitter with a sword through Fleury’s back. Despite the spectacle, Fleury and Lehner were both class acts throughout, as Fleury maintained that he had a great relationship with Lehner and fully supported his partner. He also had Allan Walsh delete the tweet. Fleury’s following season in 2020-21 with Vegas was a special one, as he posted a 26-10 record with a .928 SV% and a Goals Saved Above Expected Per 60 (GSAx/60) of 0.500, which was the best in the NHL among goalies who played at least 15 games. In other words, Fleury saved an impressive 0.5 goals per game that the average NHL goalie would typically let in. That summer, Fleury won the Vezina trophy for the league’s best goalie for his efforts in 2021. Unfortunately, with a cap crunch in Vegas, the Golden Knights decided to move on from Fleury due to his age and heavy cap hit. With Robin Lehner more than capable of being a solid starting netminder, the Knights decided to cut salary from a position of strength and traded Fleury to the Chicago Blackhawks for a low-level prospect in Mikael Hakkarainen. Tonight, Fleury returns to Vegas with his new team for the first time since being dealt. I fully expect this to be an emotional night for a fanbase that embraced “Flower” for his entire four-year stay in the city, and there will no doubt be a loud ovation from the Golden Knights faithful at T-Mobile Arena.