The Las Vegas Golden Knights decided to trade Marc-Andre Fleury to the Chicago Blackhawks for Mikael Hakkarainen in a highly controversial move that has shaken the fanbase to its core. Fleury, who signed with the Golden Knights in 2019, was a key piece for the team over the last few years and was even awarded the 2021 Vezina trophy for best goalie in the league. That makes him being traded a very confusing move, which might hurt the team in the long run.
It's no secret that a big move was coming down the pike in Las Vegas, especially with the Knights wanting to sign Alec Martinez, and Fleury was just collateral damage. While some will argue that this was the right move, especially with Fleury taking up 24% of cap space over the years, you could have made the same case for the now starting goalie Robin Lehner to be on the chopping block. In fact, Lehner is set to take up approximately 36% of cap space in the next five years, and he doesn't exactly have the performance to back up that price tag.
Fleury easily had the better stats, and the 2021 playoffs showed the real difference between the two. Let's start with the fact that Lehner started three games during the playoffs and gave up 11 goals in that time. He did have some pretty good stats throughout 17 regular-season starts in 2021, but overall he worked much better as a relief for Fleury in between tough games.
Fleury played in 16 games in the postseason, going 9-7 in that period. Although that doesn't sound like the best of performances, keep in mind that he had to start several games in a row. Fleury also had a 1.98 average score allowed, making him seem like the better choice. Keep in mind that Lehner had an average score allowed of over 3 in the playoffs, which is why he was used so sparingly throughout the postseason.
Let's be honest here. The stats and the performances prove that Vegas had something special with the Lehner and Fleury combo. Unfortunately for the dream team, the franchise seems more interested in finding players that can capitalize on power plays than keeping their best goaltending duo together. If the tandem had to be broken up, though, why wouldn't they stick with the Vezina trophy winner and not the guy who collapsed in three games?
Fleury was a better starter. He had better stats, and he was a critical part of the teams' success. Now, this doesn't mean that Lehner isn't a suitable backup or relief goaltender, but he doesn't have the stats to earn the starter role. Lehner just doesn't have the kind of stability that Fleury did. He isn't as good under pressure and rarely started back-to-back games. This means that although the Golden Knights might think they are building for their future, they may have just shattered their iron-clad foundation in the process.