Movin' and shakin': Blackhawks acquire Marc-Andre Fleury, Tyler Johnson
From rebuild to rarin' to go. All in one year?
It certainly seems that way when it comes to the Blackhawks, who acquired Vezina Trophy-winning goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights and two-time Stanley Cup-winning forward Tyler Johnson from Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
In what amounted to a paper transaction, the Hawks sent forward Mikael Hakkarainen to Vegas, but they actually will retain him in their minor-league system. The Hawks, who also got a second-round pick from Tampa Bay, sent the rights to Brent Seabrook to the Lightning
The cap hits of Fleury ($7 million) and Johnson ($5 million) will go fully on the Hawks' books.
Now, here's the big question: Will Fleury actually play for the Hawks?
Not long after the news broke on social media, Fleury's agent, Allan Walsh, tweeted: "While Marc-Andre Fleury still hasn't heard from anybody with the Vegas Golden Knights, he has apparently been traded to Chicago. Marc-Andre will be taking time to discuss his situation with his family and seriously evaluate his hockey future at this time."
The 36-year-old Fleury is a three-time Stanley Cup winner who has 492 regular-season victories. He was named the NHL's top goalie last season after going 26-10-0 with a .928 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against average.
Fleury won the Cup in Pittsburgh in 2009, 2016 and 2017.
Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon said Fleury "wanted to play in Vegas" and did not want to be traded. For what it's worth, McCrimmon does believe Fleury will not retire.
"This is a player that is at the very top of his game," he said. "I should think that he'll play this year."
With free agency opening Wednesday, it goes without saying the Hawks need an answer from Fleury as soon as possible.
The Hawks used Kevin Lankinen, Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia in net last season.
The 30-year-old Johnson has scored 20-plus goals four times, but his production has slid the last two seasons (14 goals in 65 games in 2019-20; 8 goals in 55 games in 2020-21)
GM Stan Bowman's aggressiveness to upgrade three major positions (goalie, top-nine forward in Johnson and No. 1 defenseman with trade for Seth Jones last week) is an about-face from the "rebuild" mantra the Hawks repeated over and over last season.
Have they changed philosophies because of the sexual abuse allegations that have been swirling for months? Or because Patrick Kane is tired of losing and may leave in free agency in 2023?
Tough to say, but for two years I've been quietly saying Kane will bolt if the Hawks don't show a commitment to winning soon. It's not difficult to imagine him reuniting with Artemi Panarin in New York if the Rangers can free up enough cap space.
Bowman did not speak with the media Tuesday, but said in a statement: "The opportunity to acquire a Vezina-winning goaltender is rare and one you cannot pass up. Marc-Andre improves our goaltending, strengthens our team defense and will have a huge impact on the overall development of the Blackhawks. ...
"The entire organization is thrilled to have this future Hall of Famer on our team and his reputation of being an excellent teammate on and off the ice precedes him."
Bowman is under fire on two fronts, the second being the Hawks' lack of success on the ice since 2016-17. The "rebuild" talk should have bought him three more years, but when there's a scandal brewing all bets are off.
Bowman will likely be available to the media Wednesday.
If Fleury retires, the Hawks may kick the tires on the following goalies:
• Antti Raanta. If you're willing to shell out $7 million for Fleury, Raanta is worth a look. He's never started more than 47 games in a season, but owns a .919 save percentage and 2.46 GAA.
• Frederik Andersen. A lower-body injury held back the 31-year-old last season, but his career numbers (.915, 2.65, 19 shutouts) are impressive.
• Petr Mrazek or Jonathan Bernier. They shined for Carolina and might want too much term, but it's worth asking.
• Linus Ullmark. He's only 27 and has posted good numbers with Buffalo.
The Hawks will also likely be on the lookout for under-the-radar forwards.
• Twitter: @johndietzdh