Marc-Andre Fleury is a three-time Stanley Cup champion, the third-winningest goaltender of all time and a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. He's coming off a season in which he won the Vezina Trophy as the league's top netminder, at age 36.
So when word leaked on social media that he was traded from the Vegas Golden Knights to the Chicago Blackhawks for practically nothing, you can imagine the reaction.
"A little bit," Fleury said when asked if he was surprised. "It’s summer, it was that time. That’s scary, you don’t what’s going to happen. Been traded before, right? I guess so, right? It is, yeah, it is a little surprising."
Fleury technically wasn't traded to the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017, but the Pittsburgh Penguins did, however, trade a second-round pick in 2020 to ensure Vegas would select him in the expansion draft. So he knows what it feels like to be moved from one team to another.
While his heart may have still been in Pittsburgh, Fleury became the face of the NHL's 31st franchise and Vegas quickly became home for him and his family. He had spent the last four years there and wanted to finish his NHL career as a Golden Knight.
When he was traded to the Blackhawks, Fleury was caught off guard and needed some time to reassess things. He had a wife and three kids to think about, and uprooting his family isn't something he was expecting to do at this stage of his career.
"I never had anything against Chicago, the organization," Fleury said. "I think it was just me personally what I wanted to do. ... Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into it. I’m very fortunate, Stan [Bowman] gave me some time to reflect on what I wanted to do, what was best for me and my family."
Once he came around and made the decision that he was, indeed, going to play for the Blackhawks, Fleury said there was "a lot" to be excited about.
"I’ve talked to guys, and I keep hearing so many great things about the team and how they treat the players and the families," Fleury said. "I thought Stan [Bowman] did a great job too of getting some players over the summer, trying to make this team competitive right away. That’s also very appealing."
Fleury mentioned that he talked to former Blackhawks goaltenders Robin Lehner and Cam Ward about the city of Chicago and the organization after the trade, along with former Penguins teammates Craig Adams and Chris Kunitz, who's on the Blackhawks' coaching staff as a player development adviser.
The thought of playing with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews also got him excited.
"Kane’s one of the guys who gave me the most trouble in shootouts during my career," Fleury said smiling. "Looking forward to getting to practice with him every day and having some good battles with him. I think Toews looks pretty good and hopefully he goes again, another guy I got to know over the years. It’ll be fun. They’ve been around a long time, had a lot of success, hopefully I can just do my part to help the team win some games."
With one year left on his contract, it's unclear what the future holds for Fleury beyond this season, not because he might not want to play but because it's no longer about him. It's about what's best for he and his family.
"I felt pretty lucky I didn’t have to move so many times like a lot of guys have to do," Fleury said. "It’s not an easy thing, right? It’s OK. It’s stressful, right? It’s a process to find somewhere comfortable for your family to be in, or a good school. There’s lots in there for them and I’ve been lucky to play for a long time and have won, too. I can’t think about me all the time, right? Everybody was good with me playing again, and the kids are excited to go, wife’s excited to go."