Marc-Andre Fleury didn’t look any different when he hopped on a Zoom call Wednesday.
He had the same charming grin, humble tone and sense of humor that has made the 36-year-old goaltender a franchise icon twice in his Hall of Fame career. Only this time, he was representing a third team.
Fleury had his first media availability as a Chicago Blackhawk on Wednesday, more than a week after he was traded by the Golden Knights. He said the move was “a little surprising” but that he’s ready to get to work with a new team after taking time to think about his future.
“(It’s been) a little bit crazy,” Fleury said. “I’m very fortunate that (Chicago general manager) Stan (Bowman) gave me some time to reflect on what I want to do, what was best for me and my family. I’m excited now. I’m excited to make the move and try to help the Blackhawks.”
Fleury, who won the Vezina Trophy last season, was the Knights’ heart and soul after joining the team in the 2017 expansion draft. But general manager Kelly McCrimmon thought the organization needed to trade him for salary cap relief and because Robin Lehner — who formed a Jennings Trophy-winning tandem with Fleury last season — was capable of being the No. 1 goalie.
McCrimmon said he had several conversations with Fleury throughout the offseason and informed him that Chicago was interested weeks before the trade happened. Fleury, who had never been traded in his career, said he still was caught a little off guard. He said his agent, Allan Walsh, called to tell him he had been traded after the news leaked on social media but before it was finalized.
McCrimmon said he doesn’t tell players they have been traded until the deal is on record with the NHL in case there’s a last-minute snag.
“There’s just a process that you have to go through in terms of the timing of that,” McCrimmon said after the deal.
Other than releasing a statement thanking his Knights teammates and fans, Fleury didn’t talk on the record until Wednesday. Walsh said on the day of the trade that his client would “seriously evaluate his hockey future at this time.”
Fleury decided to play for Chicago and announced his decision Sunday. He and his wife toured the city to get a feel for it. And he talked with players who had played in Chicago, such as former NHL goalie Cam Ward and ex-teammates Chris Kunitz and Craig Adams.
“I never had anything against Chicago, the organization,” Fleury said. “It was just me personally, what I wanted to do. I’ve talked to a bunch of guys. I keep hearing so many great things about the team, how they treat their players and families.”
Fleury is joining a team that finished 20th in points percentage last season but has made several offseason moves. Along with adding Fleury, the Blackhawks acquired defenseman Seth Jones and signed him to an eight-year extension, traded for two-time Stanley Cup-winning center Tyler Johnson and signed free agent defenseman Jake McCabe.
The moves could give franchise icons Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane another winning window with two years remaining on each player’s contract.
“What we’re hoping for is a competitive team that pushes for the playoffs,” Bowman said.
It will be a new situation for Fleury, who leaves a Stanley Cup favorite in the Knights but takes a throng of memories with him.
“Coming to Vegas, I didn’t know if people were going to like hockey or come to the games and support us,” Fleury said. “(I’ll remember) having success with the team, winning games, going deep in the playoffs, especially that first season, making it to the Final. … I’ve been very fortunate to spend four years there.”