Marc-Andre Fleury is the most important hockey player in Vegas. And he's not going anywhere which is critical for the franchise on and off the ice.
Fleury is the cornerstone of the Vegas Golden Knights in terms of wins and losses as well as brand recognition. Vegas has quickly become Flower's team and his town.
With the announcement of a three-year extension carrying an average annual value of $7 million which will keep Fleury with the Golden Knights until he's 37, the stage is set for him to continue leading the team and eventually retire with VGK If that's his choice.
From the moment Fleury was chosen by Vegas in the 2017 expansion draft, the 33-year-old gave the organization hope and opportunity. He's a world class goalie coming off his best statistical season and was eligible to become an unrestricted free agent following this coming season. McPhee has now nailed down his most valuable player and created stability in the net. Vegas now has time to develop a succession plan at the goaltender position and allow for a young netminder to learn on the job under Fleury's tutelage at a reasonable pace.
Another key factor where Fleury is concerned is the incoming equipment rule changes for NHL goalies. Rules mandating smaller, lighter and more streamlined equipment will come into effect this season and Fleury is among the goalies expected to benefit from the change.
Lighter, more athletic goalies such as Fleury will continue to stop the puck based on their abilities. Goalies draped in excessive equipment will now cover less net based on the reductions and a regression in their numbers is a logical possibility. Athleticism among goaltenders will come to the forefront again and leveling the playing field will give fast-twitch athletes such as Fleury an advantage. Goaltending will be about skill and talent again and not just letting the puck hit padding.
Anytime an organization invests term and money into a 33-year-old player there is the inevitable wear and tear as a result of age, but at 6-2 and 180 pounds, Fleury doesn't have the body type for a rapid falloff. He's light and limber and in elite condition. The move from the Pittsburgh Penguins to Vegas also created a psychological rebirth for the player.
Fleury continues to have fun and loves coming to the rink. There's still lots of kid and lots of hockey left in this player.
Despite missing almost two months as a result of injury, Fleury won 29 games last season, including his 400th NHL victory, and posted four shutouts. He had the best statistical regular season of his career with a goals-against average of 2.24 and a save percentage of .927. He won 13 games during the playoff run and recorded a .927 save percentage with a 2.24 goals-against average.
The three-time Stanley Cup champion has 404 career wins in 737 games between the Pittsburgh Penguins (691 games) and Golden Knights (46 games). He ranks 11th in victories in NHL history and is third among active goalies in wins.
Following the Stanley Cup Final, Fleury announced he would like to spend the rest of his career in Vegas and this contract paves the way for such an opportunity.
Vegas has its own superstar in Fleury. He's proven to be still in his prime and he has much to offer in terms of building a winning culture. Young defenders such as Shea Theodore and Colin Miller have the opportunity to grow their games with Fleury backstopping the organization.
Fleury will also be key in allowing McPhee's draft and develop plan to progress on its own pace. He can win games on nights when young players are making mistakes in front of him.
Getting Fleury in the expansion draft was always a winfall for McPhee. Pittsburgh's salary cap woes became McPhee's goaltending advantage. Locking that advantage down and giving head coach Gerard Gallant an edge in net for the next four seasons is good business.