The NHL trade deadline is almost two months away, but rumors are slowly — emphasis on slowly — starting to swirl around teams that might need to get a head start before March 21.
One of those teams is the Edmonton Oilers, who have spiraled out of the playoff picture. They started the season with a 16-5-0 record but have since gone just 2-10-2.
Goaltending, in particular, has been arguably their biggest weakness, especially with Mike Smith sidelined. Since Dec. 3, the Oilers have the second-worst team save percentage at .870. Just not good enough.
You could also look at the Colorado Avalanche as somebody that might be interested in strengthening their goaltending tandem sooner than later. They traded for Darcy Kuemper over the offseason but he has a -1.01 goals saved above average this season, per Natural Stat Truck, and the Avalanche rank 24th in team save percentage at .899. It's the only Achilles' heel for a club with Stanley Cup aspirations.
Naturally, Marc-Andre Fleury's name is going to pop up when talking about teams that could be in the market for a No. 1 goaltender. He's the reigning Vezina Trophy winner and has played lights out over the last two months.
Since Nov. 7, he has a 12-4-3 record with a 2.17 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and three shutouts. Only New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin (15.7) has a higher goals saved above average than Fleury (13.1) during that span.
On Thursday, Fleury was asked about the trade chatter and whether he's given any consideration to what the future might hold.
"I don’t know, it's not my thought yet," Fleury admitted. "All I want is to have this team make the playoffs. Honestly, that’s what’s in my head right now. To me, it’s not worth looking too far ahead. I just want to put this team in a good position to make the playoffs, and that’s my goal."
Fleury, of course, has a modified no-trade clause — a 10-team no-trade list — and one year left on his contract that carries a $7 million cap hit. You have to imagine he's going to have some say about where he plays out the rest of the season, especially considering it took him a few days to commit to Chicago after the offseason trade because he wasn't exactly thrilled with the idea of moving his family, which includes three young kids.
While it's not something at the forefront of everyone's minds, it is a storyline worth monitoring moving forward. As of Thursday, the Blackhawks are eight points out of the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference with six teams to jump and have only a 2.7 percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Money Puck.
"Thanks for the positive thoughts there," Fleury joked, in response to a reporter's question about whether he's optimistic about a potential run despite the long odds. "The last five games have been better. We’ve been playing better and we’re playing some division teams coming up. There’s no quit in our game. We've got to keep pushing through this. I know there’s a lot of teams ahead of us, but it's still my goal, try to keep climbing the standings as much as possible."