The Washington Capitals are in their second season experimenting with goaltenders Ilya Samsonov and Vitek Vanecek. While both goalies have shown flashes of brilliance, neither has taken the reigns and consistently proven they can be the team’s full-time starter during the regular season. The Capitals have few problems on its roster, but its goaltending is universally recognized as one of its weakest spots.
With March 21 rapidly approaching, veteran goaltenders that could be available ahead of the trade deadline are becoming more clear.
Thursday, The Daily Faceoff’s Frank Seravalli shared on Sportsnet 650’s Halford & Brough in the Morning that future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury could be available via trade but there is a lot of nuance there.
Earlier in the season, the Blackhawks fired general manager Stan Bowman was fired for his mishandling of the sexual assault of Kyle Beach. Kyle Davidson has been operating as the Blackhawks’ interim GM in the meanwhile.
Seravalli was asked if that would complicate what the Blackhawks do at the deadline.
“I’m pretty sure Kyle Davidson is going to be the guy in the chair, at least at the deadline,” Seravalli said. “I would be surprised if he’s not their general manager moving forward. I think they want to set up a structure that includes a president of hockey ops. They may go outside the box to try and bring someone in from a different sort of past. Maybe someone with some other sports experience. They’re interested in trying something different and they’re willing to go through the process to see what’s out there and what that might and might not look like. They’re doing that. He’s the man at the wheel and I believe he has full autonomy at the moment to make whatever changes he sees fit.”
With Chicago in seventh place in the Central Division, Seravalli thinks the Blackhawks will be sellers and there are only three players that are off the table.
“I think the general consensus has been, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Seth Jones are the three untouchables and if you’d like to take a run at Alex Debrincat, Dominik Kubalik, or Brandon Hagel or Ryan Carpenter, and go down the list, they’re all potentially available,” Seravalli said. “When it comes to answering the first part of your question about Marc-Andre Fleury, he’s been mentioned in Edmonton. I don’t see it as a fit. He still holds a modicum of control himself and I believe the Blackhawks coaxed him back to play after that (Vegas Golden Knights) trade that was so surprising. Part of the deal, I believe, between the Fleury camp and the Stan Bowman camp, was ‘we’re not moving you anywhere unless you’re comfortable with it.’ He’s going to be able to call his shot in some ways.”
The Blackhawks acquired Fleury, who won the NHL’s 2021 Vezina Trophy as league’s best goaltender, from the Vegas Golden Knights over the summer for forward prospect Mikael Hakkarainen. VGK then released Hakkarainen in mid-August. Fleury contemplated retirement before agreeing to join the Blackhawks during training camp.
“I’ve been doing what I love a long time, right?” Fleury said to NHL.com. “So I didn’t want to be overly selfish about things. I thought I was going to maybe retire [in Las Vegas] and finish it out, maybe live there after hockey. So it was a little bit of a change of direction.
“But the [Blackhawks have] been great helping me make myself comfortable in the city. The school has been great for the kids. They love it. They’re playing soccer. The wife loves it. So yeah, no complaints.”
Fleury recently won his 500th game in the NHL. He’s 13-11-3 this season with a .916 save percentage and three shutouts.
The 37-year-old Fleury has a $7 million cap hit and is in the final year of a three-year, $21 million contract extension he signed with the Vegas Golden Knights in July 2018. Fleury has a ten-team no-trade list, meaning Chicago could trade him to 22 other franchises.
“The team that I’ve had circled for Marc-Andre Fleury is not Edmonton, it’s not some of these other places that’s really needed a high-profile goaltender, I think it’s Colorado,” Seravalli said.
If the Capitals wanted to make a big splash and acquire the three-time Stanley Cup champion, Chicago would have to retain money in the deal and the Capitals would likely have to free up some salary while keeping Anthony Mantha on long-term injured reserve until rosters are expanded for the playoffs. Washington only has $2.074 million of cap space per Cap Friendly.
During his interview, Seravalli also spoke about the Blackhawks’ other possible star available.
“The guy I have circled there that’s going to be a really interesting conversation is Alex Debrincat,” he said. “He’s a guy that’s scored at will it seems. Has one more year on his deal at $6.4 million and after it is a restricted free agent. 23 goals this season, pretty significant pace he’s playing at. My sense is, the Blackhawks, they know they have to shake things up there.”
Screenshot courtesy of @NHLBlackhawks/Instagram
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