As expected, Las Vegas takes Fleury in expansion draft
LAS VEGAS — As expected, former Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury is a member of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights.
The new Las Vegas-based franchise selected Fleury, a three-time Stanley Cup champion, after the Penguins left the fan favorite unprotected for the expansion draft.
Fleury was made available to the Golden Knights after he agreed to waive the no-movement clause in his contract for the purposes of the expansion draft. In effect, Fleury chose Vegas as much as the Golden Knights chose him.
"I'm very excited about it," Fleury said. "It was time. I was fortunate to be there for 14 years. I'm thankful for this opportunity in Vegas, to be a part of this community and organization."
Fleury was greeted by a standing ovation from Golden Knights fans at T-Mobile Arena. It's clear he immediately will be one of the team's most popular players.
"I'm not looking to be the face of much," Fleury said. "I just want to come and play hockey and, obviously, we have great fans here already. The reception we had tonight here was great."
Fleury's decision allowed the Penguins to keep him on the roster for their Stanley Cup run. His play between the pipes helped the team defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets and Washington Capitals in the first two rounds.
However, with so many goalkeepers available in the expansion draft, the Penguins also offered the Golden Knights a 2020 second-round draft pick to entice Vegas to take the veteran goalkeeper.
The move also opens up needed cap space for the Penguins as Fleury has two years remaining on his contract that carries a $5.75 million cap hit.
For Fleury, moving to the expansion Golden Knights gives the 32-year-old, two-time NHL All-Star an opportunity to again be a starter. At least for now, the move to Vegas also reunites Fleury with a handful of former Penguins teammates.
The Golden Knights selected James Neal from Nashville, Deryk Engelland from Calgary, David Perron from St. Louis and Chris Thorburn from Winnipeg.
"Those are all good guys," Fleury said. "All guys I've really enjoyed, and it will make the transition easier."
While the NHL will not release the 2017-18 schedule until Thursday, Fleury already is thinking about taking on his former team on the same ice he once called home and trying to stop scoring opportunities from his former teammate Sidney Crosby.
"There will be a lot of mixed emotions," Fleury said. "I'll be playing against guys I've practiced with everyday."
Crosby said it was a little weird seeing Fleury in the new Golden Knights jersey, but he thinks the veteran goalie will be great addition for Vegas.
"He's going to be so important for the team," Crosby said. "I think with his experience and the kind of person that he is, and I'm sure it hasn't been an easy couple years being in that situation. I think sometimes you forget how difficult it is just because he handles it so well. I know he's excited for the opportunity, and I think the experience he has is going to go a long way with helping the team here and you really couldn't get a better guy to do it."
The expansion draft was held in conjunction with the NHL's annual awards ceremony.
For the second time in his storied career, Crosby won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's goals leader with 44.
"I haven't even thought about (winning the Richard trophy), honestly," Crosby said. "There have been a lot of things going on. It was just one of those years the puck seemed to find the back of the net a little bit more, and I had some bounces. I was able to get a good start, and I felt pretty good after that."
Crosby, a two-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, finished second to Edmonton's Connor McDavid in the voting for the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP. McDavid also beat Crosby in the balloting for the Ted Lindsay Award, given to the league's most outstanding player as voted on by the players.
"He had an unbelievable year," Crosby said. "It's an honor to be counted in that group and to be in the mix for winning. When you're nominated with guys like Connor, who's done what he's done and had the year he had, you tip your cap and get ready for the next year."
Crosby finished 10th in balloting for the Selke Award, given to the league's top defensive forward. Goalie Matt Murray was fourth in balloting for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. Justin Schultz finished 10th in the voting for the Norris Trophy for top defenseman.
Jim Rutherford was sixth in GM of the year voting, and Mike Sullivan was eighth in the running for coach of the year.
Robert Horne is a freelance writer.