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Marc-Andre Fleury tells Chicago: ‘Let’s get to work’

Updated August 1, 2021 - 12:21 pm

Marc-Andre Fleury’s Hall of Fame hockey career isn’t over yet.

The goaltender plans to play for the Chicago Blackhawks next season, after taking time to think about his future following his Tuesday trade from the Golden Knights. Fleury revealed his decision in a Twitter video for the Blackhawks on Sunday.

“Hey Chicago, it’s Marc. Just wanted to let you know I’m in,” Fleury said. “Let’s get to work.”

Fleury had stayed quiet after the trade other than a statement thanking his fans and teammates for his four-year tenure in Las Vegas. The 36-year-old’s agent, Allan Walsh, said Tuesday his client “will be taking time to discuss his situation with his family and seriously evaluate his hockey future at this time.”

Fleury has one year left on his contract with a $7 million cap hit. He won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltender last season and shared the Jennings Trophy for fewest goals allowed with teammate Robin Lehner.

The Knights host the Blackhawks on Jan. 8 and March 26 and play in Chicago on April 27.

Fleury is joining a Chicago team that made serious efforts to improve this offseason after finishing 20th in points percentage. Along with getting Fleury, the Blackhawks made a blockbuster trade for defenseman Seth Jones and added two-time Stanley Cup-winning center Tyler Johnson.

Sunday’s news gives Fleury a chance to be a franchise icon thrice over. He was a beloved member of three Stanley Cup-winning teams in Pittsburgh before joining the Knights in the 2017 expansion draft. He won fans over quickly in Las Vegas with his highlight-reel saves, charming personality and willingness to embrace his new community.

The Knights purchased a full-page advertisement in Sunday’s Review-Journal to thank Fleury for his contributions.

“He was the most popular player I’ve ever seen in sports,” general manager Kelly McCrimmon said after the trade. “He’s had a tremendous impact on our organization, he’s had a tremendous impact on our city.”

The Knights decided to move on from Fleury this offseason to save cap space. The team had another No. 1 goaltender on its roster in Lehner, who is six years younger, costs $2 million less against the cap and is under contract for four more seasons.

The Knights were active on the first day of NHL free agency Wednesday after the trade, announcing a three-year extension with defenseman Alec Martinez, acquiring right wing Evgenii Dadonov from Ottawa, signing backup goaltender Laurent Brossoit and bringing back left wing Mattias Janmark.

“Our backs are against the wall in terms of the cap,” owner Bill Foley said Tuesday. “We operated almost all of last year with 20 guys suited up, sometimes five D-men, sometimes 11 forwards. The scouts and Kelly and (president of hockey operations) George (McPhee) felt like we just had to get some cap space, we had to get some room. I finally capitulated. I said, ‘OK, I understand. I get it.’”

Fleury said after winning his first Vezina Trophy that he wants to keep playing as long as he enjoys it.

“I still feel like if I still have fun playing, or if I don’t have fun playing, then that will be it,” Fleury said June 29. “If I still can help my team and enjoy what I do every day and come to the rink, have fun, have a smile and be with the guys, that’s what’s going to dictate when I hang them up or keep playing.”

Contact Ben Gotz at bgotz@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BenSGotz on Twitter.

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