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Marc-Andre Fleury does damage control after agent’s tweet

Updated August 23, 2020 - 10:21 pm

Marc-Andre Fleury wants to avoid being a distraction to his teammates in their quest for the Stanley Cup.

The Golden Knights goaltender was left to do damage control Sunday morning, a day after his longtime agent sent a shocking tweet with a photo edit of Fleury being stabbed in the back.

The Knights open their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series against the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night in Edmonton, Alberta.

“I’ve known these guys for a little while now,” Fleury said of his teammates. “I don’t know, I just want to put this behind and move on, you know? I told them all I care about is winning and (what’s) best for the team. I think they know that.”

Fleury, 35, was relegated to backup duty by coach Pete DeBoer during the Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Blackhawks, as Robin Lehner started four of the five games.

On the eve of the series with the upstart Canucks, and with the Knights pegged as overwhelming betting favorites, agent Allan Walsh went scorched earth at 1:54 p.m. Pacific time Saturday.

Walsh’s post from his verified Twitter account depicted Fleury in the Knights’ net being impaled from behind by a sword with “DeBoer” inscribed on the blade.

Walsh deleted the tweet shortly before Fleury’s videoconference call with the media, which lasted about four minutes in English. Walsh did not respond to a voicemail from the Review-Journal seeking comment.

Knights meeting

Fleury said he met with DeBoer and general manager Kelly McCrimmon on Saturday to discuss Walsh’s tweet and clear the air.

“I just wanted to say that Allan’s been my agent for a long time. I’ve known him since I was 15. Always been close, we always talk about hockey or other things in life, also,” Fleury said. “I think he’s a guy that always protects, or cares a lot about his players and he does about me also. I really appreciate his passion for the game that he has.

“I think this was maybe a way to defend me in that situation where I’m not playing much. You know, I’m here to win with my team and to have success, and that’s what matters. Because of that, I asked him to take the picture down, and he did this morning.”

Fleury is 2-0 with a 2.50 goals-against average and .886 save percentage during the postseason. He wasn’t sharp in a 6-4 victory over St. Louis in the round robin and bounced back with a 26-save effort in Game 3 against Chicago.

Fleury also was in net for the Knights’ 4-1 exhibition victory over Arizona on July 30.

Fleury declined to directly answer whether he was aware of Walsh’s tweet before it was posted.

“Like I said, I think we’ve been talking, right? Throughout the playoffs,” Fleury said. “Obviously I love playing, I love being in the net. Like I said, he’s been on Twitter for a long time and he’s just trying to protect me a bit.”

Similar situation

Fleury is a likely Hall of Famer and tied for sixth all time with 80 career postseason victories. He won three Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but his tenure ended in 2017 after he was supplanted as the starter by Matt Murray.

The Knights selected Fleury in the expansion draft, and he quickly became the face of the franchise after leading the Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season. However, his numbers dipped during a difficult 2019-20 season.

Fleury posted a 2.77 goals-against average, and his .905 save percentage was the lowest of his career since 2009-10. He also faced a personal tragedy when his father, Andre, died in November.

Fleury is signed for two more seasons with a $7 million salary cap hit, tied for the fourth-highest among goaltenders, according to CapFriendly.com.

Several teams appear to be in the market for a starting goaltender should Fleury move on from the Knights this offseason.

Lehner is set to become an unrestricted free agent, and the timing of Walsh’s tweet could indicate the Knights are working on an extension with Lehner. Craig Oster, Lehner’s agent, could not be reached for comment.

Lehner, 29, was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last season as the league’s top goalie and has won eight of his nine starts with the Knights since he was acquired at the trade deadline from Chicago.

He has a career .918 save percentage despite playing the majority of his career with struggling teams in Ottawa and Buffalo.

“Bottom line, we all want to win, right? That’s why we’re here,” Fleury said. “I don’t like being a distraction for my team. I talked with Robin, too. I really like Robin. We have a good friendship. I think he’s a very good goalie also. No hard feelings.”

Contact David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow @DavidSchoenLVRJ on Twitter.

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