When the Chicago Blackhawks tweeted out a flower emoji this morning, it could only mean one thing. Marc-Andre Fleury has decided he will report for the Blackhawks and play out the finals season of his contract in Chicago, according to several reports including Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff.
Fleury was acquired by the Blackhawks last month, and because of his stated desire to play the rest of his career in Vegas (and his obvious connection to the Golden Knights franchise), reports immediately surfaced that he may not report for the Blackhawks. Fleury’s agent explained that the Vezina-winning goaltender would take some time to discuss his future with his family. That decision has now been made, and the 36-year-old will be in a Blackhawks uniform this season.
That means on January 8, 2022, Fleury will face the Golden Knights for the first time, less than a year after winning the Vezina Trophy as the face of the franchise. The first ever star for hockey in Vegas, Fleury actually experienced something of a career renaissance with the expansion franchise. Though he had won three Stanley Cup championships with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the veteran goaltender had been passed over during the most recent ones in favor of Matt Murray. The Penguins decided to send him to Vegas in the expansion draft as he was getting older and expensive.
The Golden Knights welcomed him with open arms, and Fleury had the best stretch of his career with the team. In parts of 13 seasons with the Penguins, he posted a .912 save percentage and never finished higher than seventh in Vezina Trophy voting. In four years with Vegas, Fleury posted a .917 and finished in the top-five for Vezina voting three times, winning it this season after posting a .928.
If that’s the kind of goaltending Chicago receives, it will be a huge upgrade on the 2020-21 season. Heading into the year it wasn’t clear at all who would be the starter, but Kevin Lankinen emerged early on as a rookie sensation. The grind of a condensed schedule eventually kicked in though, and Lankinen would finish with just a .909 save percentage and a 17-14-5 record. The other two goaltenders in Chicago fared even worse, and their team overall posted a .906. If Fleury, who was acquired for basically nothing, can continue with his strong play, the Blackhawks are suddenly a little more interesting to watch in the Central Division playoff race.