Bowman thrilled about Fleury, knows younger players must keep improving
A little time.
That's all Marc-Andre Fleury asked for during a phone conversation with general manager Stan Bowman after receiving the shocking news he'd been traded to the Blackhawks last week.
Bowman was happy to oblige.
He knew Fleury's family had become embedded in the Vegas community over the last four years. Leaving wouldn't be easy -- especially for two of his daughters, ages 8 and 6.
But this is the life of a professional athlete. Uncertainty -- even for a Hall of Fame goalie -- is part of the gig.
Trades happen. Adversity hits.
So what do you do?
In Fleury's case, he took a few days. He flew to Chicago and was contacted by former Team Canada teammate Jonathan Toews, who said something along the lines of: "Hey. We'd love to have you here."
Here he will be, in Chicago backstopping what could be a playoff contender in the Central Division next season.
And Bowman -- whose job is likely on the line after four mediocre seasons and due to a sexual-abuse scandal that gets hotter by the day -- is downright ecstatic.
"A lot of smiles going around," Bowman said Monday, not long after spending time with Fleury at Fifth Third Arena. "Certainly it's a huge addition to our team."
Bowman didn't want to get into what his conversations with Vegas were like. He just said "it was well known they had a lot of money in goaltending and they were trying to make other moves."
Bowman reached out and agreed to take on Fleury's $7 million cap hit. At that point, he basically took the Hawks out of the running for any other goalies when free agency began Wednesday.
It was boom or bust. But Bowman figured Fleury loves the sport, loves to play, loves to compete and -- most of all -- loves to win.
So why not roll the dice?
"He loves the game," Bowman said. "He just came off (his) best season. He won the Vezina Trophy. We were comfortable when he was given the right time that he'd be excited to join our group."
Excited is almost certainly how Toews and Patrick Kane feel after the Hawks added Fleury, defenseman Seth Jones and forward Tyler Johnson over the last two weeks.
All of this just a year after Bowman let Corey Crawford walk and declared a rebuild was under way.
Is it possible Toews and Kane said, "Enough is enough. Win now or we're leaving in two years after our contracts expire."
Totally. But Bowman wouldn't divulge if that was the case.
"I talk to them often and, of course, hockey players want to win," Bowman said. "If you ask any player ... 'What do you think about trying to win this year or three years from now?' I think everybody wants to win (now). That's why they're athletes and that's why they're competitive.
"Of course you know they want to win, but it was not a reaction to those type of conversations."
Make no mistake, the Hawks are so much better now with the additions of Fleury, Jones, Johnson, defenseman Jake McCabe and Toews -- assuming Toews is 100%. But Bowman left no doubt he expects the young core -- led by Kirby Dach, Dominik Kubalik, Henrik Borgstrom, Brandon Hagel, Wyatt Kalynuk, Nicolas Beaudin and Ian Mitchell -- to continue making meaningful strides.
"(These moves don't) really change the path that we were on," Bowman said. "We still want to build this as we go forward and show progress this year and continue to see young players grow. If anything, we're trying to surround those players with some stronger players to give our team a little bit more confidence that we can grow as a group.
"So for sure when you bring in experienced players that have won Stanley Cups and have had success individually, I think there's reason for optimism."