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Fleury’s Agent Echoes His Client’s Desire To Stay Put; Even Though Both Know He’s Probably Not

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Marc-Andre Fleury isn’t new to the business side of the NHL. He knows what went down between the trade deadline and the end of the Golden Knights playoff run, he understands the Golden Knights salary cap situation, and he sees the writing on the wall. No matter what he says or does now, nothing is going to change what will happen in the coming weeks (or maybe months).

So, when placed in that situation, might as well say the right thing before the inevitable happens.

Marc said that he wants to stay in Vegas, and he’s not looking for or seeking a trade anywhere else. He’s perfectly happy to co-exist with Robin Lehner, if that’s what ultimately happens. To some extent the decision making is out of his hands. But he wanted everyone to know where he stands and that he loves Vegas. –Alan Walsh on TSN 690

Walsh, Fleury’s agent, backed up what his client said to The Athletic’s Jesse Granger last week. You should read that interview if you haven’t yet, but to sum it up, Fleury hasn’t and won’t asked to be traded, he hopes to retire in Vegas, and he’d be perfectly happy to share the goal with Robin Lehner in 2020.

It’s all true, but there’s a motive behind the message Fleury was trying to get out. Speaking optimistically about the uncertainty of his future was a tactic and a smart one at that.

By stating he isn’t asking for a trade, Fleury is wisely playing both sides of the fence. He’s showing his appreciation and fondness for the fan base and the city of Las Vegas, but the 35-year-old goaltender was also signaling if and probably when a trade happens, it’s on the organization, not him.

He has great connection to the community. He loves his teammates and he came on board as literally player number one and wants to finish the journey that he set out on when he went to Vegas. Ending with a winning cup. He’s not looking for a change or anything else. –Walsh on TSN 690

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Ranking The 5 Goalie Options The Golden Knights Have From Best To Worst

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The clock is ticking on the “first order of business” for the Golden Knights this offseason. With the buyout period open and free agency set to begin on October 9th, the VGK front office will have to execute whatever plan they have in mind to solve their conundrum between the pipes soon.

Yesterday, in an interview with Jesse Granger of The Athletic Fleury indicated that he has not formally requested a trade, he would prefer to finish his career in Vegas, and he is not opposed to splitting time with Robin Lehner.

I want to stay in Vegas. I thought when I came here that maybe I could retire here. I wanted to end my career here. –Marc-Andre Fleury to The Athletic

That willingness leaves the door wide open for the Golden Knights. There are five options for Vegas. Some are great, some are ok, and some are downright terrible. I’ve ranked them, in order from best-case scenario to worst-case for the organization. We start with the best option.

Re-sign Lehner. Trade Fleury without retaining any salary

This is the best realistic result for the Golden Knights this offseason. There have been reports of a handshake agreement on a deal worth $5 million per year between Lehner and Vegas but both sides have denied such deal exists. But, where there’s smoke, oftentimes there’s fire, which means while that deal may not be final right now, it could in the near future. After signing that deal, Vegas would look for a landing spot for Fleury in which the team taking him on accepts 100% of his salary. Obviously, in a perfect world, the Golden Knights would get an asset in return, but in the current landscape, that seems fairly unlikely. So the hope would be that it wouldn’t cost more than a 3rd round pick to make it happen.

If it all goes down that way, Vegas will have saved $2 million at the goalie position, gotten much younger going from Fleury to Lehner, bought an extra three years of goalie contract, and turned their “rental” into a long-term piece making the initial trade for Lehner even more palatable than before. Even if Lehner’s number is closer to $7 million or if the term is shorter, the Golden Knights will have made out well.

Re-sign Lehner. Trade Fleury with a portion of salary retained (or take a player with a significant cap hit in return)

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Offseason’s “First Order Of Business” Is Between The Pipes

The weirdest season ever is over which means the weirdest offseason ever has now begun. According to the Golden Knights’ GM, the issue on the top of mind for every fan is the same as the front office.

We don’t have those answers for you right now but the first order of business in many respects is to sort (the goalie position) out. -Kelly McCrimmon

The future appears to be heading in the direction of Robin Lehner. From being handed the starting role to the Allan Walsh tweet to the reported long-term contract negotiations with Lehner, all signs point to a parting of ways with Fleury.

No one has more respect for Flower as a person or a teammate or his resume and what he’s done for this franchise and through his career but we made the decisions that gave us the best opportunity to win and we’re going to do that again going forward. -Pete DeBoer

Both Lehner and McCrimmon have denied the rumors of a handshake agreement on a 5-year $25 million ($5M AAV) contract.

It’s not true. Nothing is finalized. It’s kind of annoying that we are here in the conference final and people are saying things they don’t know. If it would have been finalized it would have been finalized. -Lehner on 9/11/20

The goalie situation will be the driving force behind all of what the Golden Knights do this offseason.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

If they decide to go with Lehner only, where does Fleury end up and what are the cap ramifications that go with it?

If they decide to keep both, where will they trim to make it work?

Can they go back to Fleury after all that’s happened? Does Fleury even want that?

They are all questions that will be answered quickly as the offseason truly ramps up in just a few weeks. The Draft is scheduled for October 6th and 7th and unrestricted free agency opens up two days later on the 9th. The Golden Knights will likely reveal their answers before the latter.

The NHL’s salary cap is set to remain at $81.5 million heading into next season and is likely to stay there for at least one more year after that. That makes life a little more difficult on the Golden Knights as they were pushing (actually went over) the Cap in 2019-20.

There are decisions to be made on plenty of free agents, both restricted and unrestricted, but the offseason starts and ends with what shakes out in goal. It will shape the present and future of the organization and until it’s figured out, not much else really matters.

In The Playoffs, Back-To-Back Doesn’t Have To Mean Two Goalies

I want to preface this article by saying the point of it is not to challenge the decision being made by the Golden Knights coaching staff in regards to which goalie will start Game 4. Because, as I’ll show, there really isn’t a right or a wrong way to do it. Instead, the goal is to debunk an idea that seems to have turned into a hard and fast rule for the Golden Knights, and thus VGK fans as well.

In the playoffs, you do not have to switch goalies when playing back-to-back games.

Again, that doesn’t mean you can’t, or shouldn’t, it just means you don’t absolutely have to, especially when playing in a bubble with no travel and against the same team both games.

This postseason 13 series have experienced a back-to-back situation. Of the 26 teams involved in those games, 19 of them chose to use the same goalie in both ends of the back-to-back. Goalie performance, as well as team performance, do not appear to be correlated to this decision.

With such a small sample size and the teams playing each other, wins and losses cancel out as a whole. So, instead, I decided to use total goals against as well as save percentage in an attempt to determine if a goaltender was better or worse in the second game of the back-to-back.

Hellebuyck – Worse
Talbot – Better
Markstrom – Worse
Stalock – Worse
Kuemper – Better
Saros – Worse
Andersen – Better
Bobrovsky – Better
Varlamov – Worse
Talbot – Better
Allen – Better
Markstrom – Worse
Kuemper – Better
Rask – Worse
Hart – Worse
Price – Worse
Crawford – Better
Halak – Worse
Vasilevskiy – Better

10 were worse, nine were better. Compare that to the teams that switched goalies.

Korpisalo to Merlizkins – Better
Lundqvist to Shesterkin – Better
Mrazek to Reimer – Better
Bishop to Khudobin – Better
Grubauer to Francouz – Worse
Mrazek to Reimer – Better
Fleury to Lehner – Worse

Five better, two worse.

Looks good right? But, when we dig a little deeper, the numbers end up identical, just arriving at the same place in different ways.

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The Inevitable Goalie Controversy Has Arrived For The Vegas Golden Knights

(Photo tweeted by Allan Walsh, Marc-Andre Fleury’s agent)

Goalie controversy, this is the Vegas Golden Knights. Golden Knights, goalie controversy. It’s been six months in the making, but the time has now come for you two to get acquainted with each other.

The inevitable was put into place on February 24th when the Golden Knights traded then back-up goalie Malcolm Subban for starter-to-be Robin Lehner. Despite the words of positivity coming from the front office and head coach about Fleury’s place atop the Golden Knights goalie depth chart, his role changed on that day, and it’s devolved ever since.

Today, one day before the Golden Knights begin their second round series with the Vancouver Canucks, what went from a potential hazard lurking in the distance stormed into the forefront and is now here to stay.

That’s a tweet from Allan Walsh, Marc-Andre Fleury’s long-time agent. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this one really only needs to be worth four.

Fleury is not happy.

This isn’t a new move from the Walsh playbook though. He’s always been very active on Twitter and has even used the platform to stand up for another one of his clients in a nearly identical situation.

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Gallant On VGK Goalie Situation: “That’s Going To Be A Tough One For Them”

If it wasn’t clear before, it should be now. Robin Lehner is the Golden Knights starting goalie.

Robin (Lehner) has done what you want players to do when they show up with a new team. He has played at a level, not just in games but also through camp, where we have had to give him the net. This is not about Flower not doing something. He has been great. Robin has just been at a different level. –Pete DeBoer to The Athletic

The Golden Knights sticky goalie situation is starting to become a bigger story in the national media. With it has come a rash of opinions about the present and the future, both of which will be challenging for Vegas to navigate.

It’s time for the market to recognize that Robin Lehner deserves that multi-year deal, in my mind anyway, and I just don’t know how that can be in Vegas. –Pierre LeBrun on 2 Man Advantage podcast

The next series, two, or three will certainly go a long way in determining where the Golden Knights head with their future between the pipes. At the same time, the reason it will be one, two, or three series is directly correlated to how the situation is handled in the present.

It’s a situation that hasn’t been easy to maneuver already and the Golden Knights have only lost a single game since arriving in Edmonton.

That’s going to be a tough one for them, there’s no doubt. Marc’s such a popular guy and a great character guy but, as I found out, it’s all about winning. They want to win, they’re thinking they’re doing the best thing for their team. They are tough decisions. It’s easy to look at it from the outside and say ‘Why isn’t Fleury playing? He’s done this and that for them,’ but you know they are on a path where they are trying to win every game and obviously they think Lehner is the better goalie right now. It’s a tough call for them and everybody knows that, every fan knows that. A thousand people have asked me that question the last couple days and I say ‘hey I don’t have to make that decision anymore.’ –Gerard Gallant to 2 Man Advantage podcast

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Life In The Bubble A “Two-Headed Coin” For Players’ Minds

One of the best quotes ever about the game of hockey comes from the great Jim McKenny. He said, “half of the game is mental, the other half is being mental.”

In 2020, playing hockey inside of a bubble, staying mentally sharp both on and off the ice is going to go a long way in determining which teams succeed and which fail.

You’ve got nothing else to do. You (only) think hockey. -Jonathan Machessault

Literally plucked away from their families, friends, and society as a whole, the NHL’s method of keeping players safe is working incredibly well, but it’s also bound to start taking a toll on the minds of the players involved.

It’s hard. You know, you talk to them every day and also as a parent you miss a lot of things. My one-year-old started walking and my two oldest have started school. So it’s really unfortunate to miss those. They are asking me every day how many days until they are going to see me but I mean it’s hard for me to give them an answer. -Marchessault

The Golden Knights have been in the “bubble” for 23 days and they aren’t even through the first round of the playoffs. If things go well, that number could reach north of 60.

The league’s plan at the beginning was to allow players’ families to join for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final, but those plans remain “up in the air” according to NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly.

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A Timeline Of How Marc-Andre Fleury Lost The Golden Knights Starting Job

On June 21st, 2017, Marc-Andre Fleury’s walked across the stage at T-Mobile Arena to the roar of 10,000 fans. It was in the moment he became the starting goaltender for the Vegas Golden Knights, a position he would hold for more than three years, until last night.

For a franchise that has gone through many changes over its first three seasons, if there was one place where you could find stability, it was between the pipes. After claiming Malcolm Subban on waivers four days before the team’s first game, Fleury was the starter and Subban was the backup.

When healthy, there was never a question as to who the Golden Knights’ first choice goaltender was on any given night.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Playoff “Photographer” @BadSportsArt)

It worked that was for almost three full years. Fleury was the starter in the first game ever in Dallas. He started the emotional home opener against Arizona. He was in the net for all 20 games on the Golden Knights’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2018.

He started the opener in 2018-19, he played every game against the Sharks in the 2019 playoffs and he started the opener against those same Sharks to open 2019-20. In total, he racked up 179 starts in the Golden Knights first 256 meaningful games and had it not been for injuries and absences for personal reasons, that number would be well over 200.

However, over the past eight months, four of which saw the NHL season on pause, the Golden Knights goaltending situation has been anything but stable.

On January 15th, 2020, the Golden Knights made a change at head coach, firing Gerard Gallant and hiring Pete DeBoer. This was the beginning of a flurry (pun intended) of changes. Hiring DeBoer signaled the end of Director of Goaltending Dave Prior’s role of selecting the starting goalie each night.

I pick the goalie. Obviously I gather information from Dave when I originally got here and now it’ll be Mike but I’ll decide who’s going every night. -DeBoer on 2/28/20

A little more than a month later, the real upheaval began. Despite starting him the night before, a 6-5 win in Anaheim, Malcolm Subban was traded along with a 2nd round pick and a prospect to the Chicago Blackhawks for goaltender Robin Lehner.

If anything ever happened to Marc-Andre Fleury, we weren’t strong enough to win playoff games if we get to that point. Those are hard decisions, but we felt that way. -Kelly McCrimmon on 2/26/28

A few days later, Prior was fired placed on administrative leave. The most important man in Golden Knights goaltending was gone, just two days after the team’s blockbuster trade was to acquire a goaltender.

I’m a big believer that competition at any position is a great motivational tool and it always pushes, especially competitive people, to new levels. -DeBoer on 2/26/20

The Golden Knights’ first game following the trade deadline was on February 26th, a game they won 3-0 against the Edmonton Oilers, with Fleury in the net.

Flower (is in net). Easy decision. He’s been playing great recently. It gives Robin some time but he’ll get a start soon. -DeBoer on 2/26/20

The next game, two nights later, went to Lehner.

We’re going with the big fella tonight. -DeBoer on 2/28/20

From that moment forward, the Golden Knights alternated between Fleury and Lehner.

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Continuing Goalie Rotation Into Real Playoffs “On The Table” For DeBoer

Since the Golden Knights acquired Robin Lehner, he and Marc-Andre Fleury have been in a straight goalie rotation. Through seven regular-season games, an exhibition game, two round-robin games, and a third tomorrow, Vegas has alternated goalies in each and every game.

There’s nothing abnormal about a goalie rotation in today’s NHL… during the regular season. But once teams get to the playoffs, historically (and by that I mean every team ever) teams select one goalie as a starter and he remains in the net until he loses it. Very rarely do teams change goalies off wins and even more rarely do they use both goalies multiple times in the same playoff series.

However, with the oddity that is the 2020 playoffs and the Golden Knights success in swapping goalies every night, there’s a legitimate argument to be made that it should continue into the first round.

DeBoer has intimated since the team returned to action that his plan was to go the normal route and select a starter after the round-robin, but when I asked him if he’s considering sticking with the rotation following tomorrow’s game, his answer was far more non-committal, indicating it’s a real option they’re examining.

I think everything’s on the table. It’s such a unique year, such a unique format. I’ve already heard there’s going to be some back-to-backs in the early rounds of the playoffs which typically you never got so for me everything’s on the table in that regard. -Pete DeBoer

In the 10 games since acquiring Lehner, the Golden Knights are 8-2-0 overall with Lehner posting a perfect 4-0-0 record and Fleury coming in at 4-2-0. Lehner has allowed eight goals in his four games while Fleury has given up 15 in his six.

On paper, a playoff goalie rotation could offer some unique benefits, especially considering the contrasting styles of the Golden Knights’ two goalies. But, without teams trying it in the past, there’s no true evidence that those benefits will actually hold true.

It’s worked so far for the Golden Knights, but are they willing to be the team that breaks the mold?

The option is on the table, we’ll see if DeBoer picks it up.

DeBoer Shares Goalie Plans For First Four Games

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights enter the return to the 2019-20 season with a luxury. Vegas is part of the group of eight teams that will not be fighting for their playoff lives instantly upon the season’s resumption. Instead, they have an exhibition game followed by three round-robin games which come with reward but little consequence.

Head coach Pete DeBoer intends on taking advantage of that luxury in regards to his goaltenders.

My plan here is both guys are going to play through the round-robin. I think coming off a four-month pause in order to make sure that we get everybody up to speed and are fair and have all the information at our disposal when we start the playoffs that’s the right thing to do. They’ll probably play two and two between the exhibition game and the three round-robin games and then we’ll make some tough decisions. -DeBoer

Since the Golden Knights acquired Robin Lehner at the deadline, they have rotated between he and Marc-Andre Fleury every game. It was just a six-game stretch, but it appears that plan will continue through the first four games in Edmonton.

That first of those four is an exhibition game against the Coyotes on Thursday. DeBoer is planning on taking that game a lot more seriously than he would a normal preseason game.

I do know I’m not a big believer in splitting goalies half games so whoever we start with we’ll plan on ending with. We have the option of dressing 22 where a normal roster is 20. I’m leaning towards dressing 20 just because I want to get into our game rhythm. We only have one game prior to starting the round-robin so I want it to feel like an important game. -DeBoer

He did not reveal which goalie that will be, but the assumption based on how they’ve been rotating goalies is that whichever it is, he will also be in the net for the middle round-robin game against St. Louis. Obviously things could change, but we expect it to look like this…

7/30 – ARI – Goalie 1
8/3 – DAL – Goalie 2
8/6 – STL – Goalie 1
8/8 – COL – Goalie 2

The Golden Knights will then have a day or two off before they start the real playoffs, a best-of-seven series against a qualifying round winner. At which point, DeBoer will select the true starter.

Those decisions are never written in stone and whoever we start with that can change very quickly depending on how the playoffs go and injuries and matchups and things like that. -DeBoer

Let the story of the playoffs for the Golden Knights begin.

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