Updated September 24, 2020 - 3:51 pm
Marc-Andre Fleury made the first move in a possible reconciliation with the Golden Knights.
The goaltender said during an interview with The Athletic published Thursday that he wants to remain with the team and compete for the starting job if unrestricted free agent Robin Lehner is signed to a long-term extension.
“I get along great with Robin, so I think it would be all right. I still love to play,” Fleury said. “I don’t think I just want to be a backup, but I’ll practice hard, try to play well and hopefully get some games.”
Fleury, the face of the franchise throughout the Knights’ three seasons, served as the No. 2 goalie behind Lehner for most of the playoffs.
Before the start of the Western Conference semifinals Aug. 22, Fleury’s agent, Allan Walsh, tweeted a picture of his client being stabbed through the back with a sword that had coach Pete DeBoer’s last name inscribed on the blade.
Despite the tweet, which was deleted the next day, Fleury noted that he has not asked to be traded.
“This team means a lot to me, and the city has been so good to me,” Fleury said. “The fans and (owner Bill Foley) have been so awesome. It’s a great team, and I thought when I came here that maybe I could retire here. I wanted to end my career here.
“I understand the business side of hockey, and that I might have to be moved,” Fleury added. “But that’s why they (the front office) are the ones making the decisions.”
Fleury declined an interview request made through the Knights. Walsh did not respond to a text message from the Review-Journal seeking comment from him and Fleury.
Fleury, who turns 36 in November, has two seasons remaining on his contract with a $7 million salary cap hit. Keeping both goaltenders might be too expensive with the $81.5 million salary cap remaining flat for the next two seasons.
Lehner denied a published report that he and the Knights have agreed in principle to a five-year, $25 million contract extension.
The Knights are projected to have approximately $5.8 million in salary cap space with 10 forwards, six defensemen and Fleury under contract for 2020-21.
In addition to Lehner, forwards Nick Cousins (restricted), Tomas Nosek and Chandler Stephenson (restricted) and defensemen Deryk Engelland and Jon Merrill are free agents.
Fleury said he spoke to general manager Kelly McCrimmon and president of hockey operations George McPhee during the postseason but did not receive clarity on his future with the club.
“Those talks were OK. It was vague, still,” Fleury said. “It’s difficult for every team now, working with the salary cap that won’t move for a few years. Obviously, we’re a cap team, so they will have some tough decisions to make. We’ll see.”
If the Knights decide to move on from Fleury, he has a 10-team no-trade list that had to be submitted last week. There’s also a buyout option, which would offer short-term relief but cost the Knights on the back end.
The buyout period begins Friday and runs through Oct. 8, a day before the start of free agency.
Fleury was 3-1-0 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in the postseason.
Lehner went 9-7 with a 1.99 goals-against average, .917 save percentage and four shutouts. DeBoer said he played at an “elite level” after being acquired at the trade deadline.
“Like anybody, I want to be in the games for the playoffs, so sometimes it’s hard to be on the sideline, but like I said before, it’s about winning,” Fleury said. “… I don’t know what the future holds. I guess we’ll see what happens in the next few weeks.”
Offseason protocols announced
The Golden Knights and other NHL teams will be permitted to reopen their training facilities for voluntary group workouts starting Oct. 15, the league announced Thursday.
There are still no official start dates for training camp or the 2020-21 regular season.
The offseason protocols, which were agreed to by the NHL and NHL Players’ Association, are similar to ones put in place during the NHL’s return to play with no coaches and a maximum of 12 players on the ice at a time.
Clubs are required to administer COVID-19 tests to all players and team personnel 48 hours before the start of offseason training activities and at least twice weekly after that.
Players returning to their club’s home city might be required to quarantine for up to 14 days.