One of the areas that had not been addressed on the Blackhawks roster was their goaltending situation. That no longer appears to be the case, as reports show the ‘Hawks have acquired reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in a trade with the Vegas Golden Knights for AHL F Mikael Hakkarainen.
The Blackhawks have been rumored to be in on just about every goalie that was available via trade or free agency at one point or another, but their interest in Fleury goes back to last offseason. Vegas was considering moving on from him, since they did not want to have $12M in salary cap invested in their goalies.
But for whatever reason, the Golden Knights kept Fleury in town for this past season, and it paid off in spades for the team. With Robin Lehner battling injuries, Fleury stepped in to the #1 role and never gave it up, starting 36 games, and delivering a goals-against under 2 (1.98) and a 0.928 save percentage.
Vegas, fresh off another solid run in the playoffs, appears to need some scoring boost, as their top players didn’t show up on the scoresheet as much as they would have liked in the playoffs. Clearing space allows them to pursue scoring options that could give a boost to their chances in 2021-2022.
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What does this do for the ‘Hawks? For one, it adds a veteran goalie still performing at a high level to their goalie room. Secondly, it offers a tandem partner for Kevin Lankinen, who clearly was wearing down towards the end of the season. Having a partner who can split the games is helpful for a young goalie.
Most importantly, the confidence boost for the defensive corps will be huge, having the Vezina Award-winner behind them if they do make a mistake. That should aid in the development of the young defenders on the team like Caleb Jones, Wyatt Kalynuk, Riley Stillman, Ian Mitchell, and Nicolas Beaudin.
In exchange, the ‘Hawks only gave up Mikael Hakkarainen, who was going to have a hard time finding a path to the NHL on the Blackhawks. There are salary cap concerns, as Fleury’s $7M was fully accepted by Stan Bowman in the trade, and they are only showing $594K in cap space according to Cap Friendly.
But certainly, exciting news coming out of the Blackhawks organization. They clearly are setting the expectations a lot higher for this season than we originally thought.