Minnesota Wild trade for goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in blockbuster move
In a separate move, the Wild traded goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen to the San Jose Sharks.
ST. PAUL -- Marc-Andre Fleury won multiple Stanley Cups with Bill Guerin during their time together with the Pittsburgh Penguins. No doubt both men are hoping history repeats itself with the Wild.
In a blockbuster move that sent shock waves across the league on Monday morning, the Wild acquired the 37-year-old goaltender from the Chicago Blackhawks, a source confirmed to the Pioneer Press.
The trade had been rumored for the past few weeks and finally got done with the Wild giving up only a conditional draft pick.
It will be a first-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft if the Wild advance to the Western Conference Final, and Fleury wins at least four games combined in the first round and second round. If not, it will be a second-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.
To facilitate the deal, the Blackhawks retained 50 percent of Fleury’s contract.
“It’s actually been a pretty crazy last couple of days,” Guerin said. “In the end, I think it’s a fair deal.”
In the past, Guerin has talked about waiting for the right time to make a move. He’s been pragmatic in his approach ever since taking over the Wild, insistent that he wouldn’t mortgage the future for instant gratification.
This move appears to be Guerin going for it.
With the Wild looking the part of a Stanley Cup contender earlier this season, he clearly believes Fleury has the potential take them over the top. Think of the trade as an endorsement from Guerin that he thinks this group has what it takes to make a deep playoff run.
“These guys have done their part,” Guerin said. “I have to do my part.”
The past 24 hours have been a whirlwind for Fleury. He actually started for the Blackhawks on Sunday night at the United Center and got pulled midway through a 6-4 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
“It wasn’t my best game,” Fleury joked with reporters shortly after arriving at the Xcel Energy Center on Monday night. “I’m glad it’s behind now and we can move on.”
Things really started to pick up on Monday morning when the Wild pulled off the blockbuster. Not long after the trade went through, Guerin hopped on a private plane to go pick up Fleury in Chicago. They landed back to the Twin Cities a few hours before puck drop between the Wild and Vegas Golden Knights.
As the Wild took the ice for warmups, there Fleury was, rocking his No. 29 jersey before serving as the backup to Cam Talbot in the game. Asked why he waived his no-move clause to come to the Wild, it was clear that Fleury wouldn’t have done it unless he truly thought he could win a Stanley Cup with them.
“I think it’s a great team,” Fleury said. “I think they’re built for playoffs.”
Though he hasn’t had the strongest season with the Blackhawks — his 19-21-5 record, 2.95 goals-against average and .908 save percentage leave something to be desired — Fleury has a gluttony of postseason experience under his belt. He has won the Stanley Cup three times in his NHL career, all with the Penguins, including back-to-back titles in 2016 and 2017 when Guerin was the assistant general manager with the organization.
“It’s no secret that I know Flower,” said Guerin, who was also teammates with Fleury in 2009 when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup. “He’s had a lot of playoff success. I think he can help all of us. That experience is key.”
In that same breath, Guerin noted how he doesn’t want Fleury to feel like the weight of the world on his shoulders.
“We just want him to come in here and play and be himself,” Guerin said. “That’s the most important thing.”
That shouldn’t be hard for Fleury. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner has garnered a reputation as a tremendous teammate throughout his NHL career.
He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NHL Draft and spent more than a decade with the Penguins before the expansion Golden Knights made him the face of the franchise ahead of their inaugural 2017-18 season.
To say Fleury endeared himself to the Golden Knights fan base would be putting it lightly. He was a bonafide superstar on The Strip, boasting a 117-60-14 record with a 2.41 goals against average and .917 save percentage in 192 games. He also started all seven games for the Golden Knights in their first-round series win over the Wild last season.
Fittingly, the Wild played the Golden Knights on Monday night.
“Tough timing a bit,” Fleury said with a smile. “No, that’s OK. I think it’s good to get it out of the way already.”
In a separate move, the Wild traded goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen and a fifth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft to the San Jose Sharks for defenseman Jacob Middleton.
The move makes sense considering Kahkonen instantly became the odd man out with the addition of Fleury. Plus, the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Middleton gives the Wild some added size and strength on the backend, which, according to Guerin, will come in handy during the playoffs.
“It’s a grind,” Guerin said of a potential playoff run. “We need guys that are going be able to withstand the demand of that.”
As if the Wild weren’t busy enough, they started the day by trading Jack McBain to the Arizona Coyotes for a second-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft. He was the No. 63 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft and recently told the Wild he would not sign with them. Asked about McBain deciding not to sign with the Wild, Guerin shrugged his shoulders, replying, “That’s the way it goes.”
As for how the blockbuster trade might impact chemistry in the Wild locker room moving forward, Guerin didn’t seem too concerned, lauding Talbot’s professionalism, and how he was among the first players to reach out to Fleury.
“I talked to Cam yesterday, and I talked to him today, and he’s been absolutely fantastic,” Guerin said. “We’re all after the same thing here. There’s no room for petty (expletive). We’re on a team together and we’re trying to win.”