Photo: Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images
According to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Washington Capitals are looking into acquiring Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury “at the very least” ahead of the NHL Trade Deadline, which is on Monday, March 21.
“We should prepare ourselves for the possibility of Marc-Andre Fleury, Washington Capital. At the very least, the Capitals are looking into it,” Friedman wrote.
After a slow start to his (likely short) tenure in Chicago, the 37-year-old has rebounded and is 13-13-3 with a .913 save percentage, a 2.76 goals-against average, and three shutouts. The 2021 Vezina Trophy winner is a year removed from a season where he posted a career-best .928 save percentage, a 1.98 goals-against average, and six shutouts. The Capitals would likely need to get a third team to eat salary though as Fleury makes $7 million this season. If you are concerned about cost in terms of assets, all the Blackhawks had to give up for Fleury was a prospect whose contract was terminated a month later right after he won the Vezina Trophy.
In 912 career NHL regular-season games with the Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Vegas Golden Knights, Fleury is 505-289-83 with a .913 save percentage, a 2.55 goals-against average, and 70 shutouts. His 505 wins rank third in NHL history.
In 162 career Stanley Cup Playoffs, the 2003 first overall pick is 90-70 with a .912 save percentage, a 2.53 goals-against average, and 16 shutouts. Fleury faced the Capitals in the postseason twice with the Penguins (both in the second-round; 2009, 2017) and once in the Stanley Cup Final (with the Golden Knights in 2018). Fleury helped the Penguins win both of those series in seven games.
The Capitals have had goaltending issues this season even though their .9232 five-on-five save percentage ranks 12th in the NHL. Vitek Vanecek won the starter’s job out of training cap and started the season with a .946 save percentage and a 1.30 goals-against average in his first three games but coughed it up after going 2-2-3 with an .897 save percentage and a 2.87 goals-against average in his next seven. Ilya Samsonov appeared to take the starter’s crease when he went 7-1-0 with a .929 save percentage and a 2.11 goals-against average over the next 11 games but he has gone 2-3-2 with an .875 save percentage and a 3.46 goals-against average since. Zach Fucale even got a chance to take the reigns after going 2-0-1 with a .980 save percentage and a 0.42 goals-against average in his first three career NHL starts, including a shutout in his first one on November 11 in Detroit, but got reassigned to the AHL’s Hershey Bears after getting pulled 27:53 into a 7-3 loss to the Boston Bruins on January 10, when he allowed four goals on 16 shots.
Goaltending is a major reason why the Capitals are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games and have gone from first in the Metropolitan Division to fourth in a matter of a few weeks.
Vanecek is 9-6-5 with a .912 save percentage, a 2.47 goals-against average, and one shutout this season while Samsonov is 13-4-3 with a .903 save percentage, a 2.77 goals-against average, and three shutouts.
Since the Capitals still have Stanley Cup aspirations with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom still a part of the core, getting more insurance in goal may be critical to getting past the first round for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2018.
Friedman also added “No clarity as I write this on Evander Kane’s eligibility from the NHL, but Edmonton and Washington wait to see how things unfold.”
By Harrison Brown