One major offseason question for the Chicago Blackhawks has been answered.
Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, who was acquired during a Fleury (get it?!) of Blackhawks transactions in the last week, has confirmed that he will play for the Blackhawks in the 2021-22 regular season. It was first reported in a tweet from @BarstoolChief on Thursday and later confirmed by multiple media reports on Sunday morning. The Blackhawks own Twitter account appeared to have confirmed the news on Sunday morning as well:
— Chicago Blackhawks (@NHLBlackhawks) August 1, 2021
[UPDATE] Fleury later confirmed the news himself:
Chicago acquired Fleury from Vegas on Tuesday for prospect Mikael Hakkarainen in a move that helped the Golden Knights clear cap space. Fleury is under contract for one more season with a $7 million cap hit. After that trade was completed, though, multiple reports emerged that the 36-year-old Fleury was hesitant to uproot his family and move again, including this tweet from Allan Walsh — Fleury’s agent. It appears that Fleury has made up his mind, though.
With the news, goaltending quickly emerges as one of Chicago's strongest positions. Fleury was excellent last season, winning the Vezina and Jennings Trophies after a regular-record of 26-10-0 with a .928 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against average. In 16 postseason games, he went 9-7 with a .918 and 2.04, respectively. However, those numbers are somewhat overshadowed by Fleury’s infamous gaffe in Game 3 against the Montreal Canadiens that turned the tide of that series.
Still, Fleury remains one of the game’s best goalies. Combine Fleury with Kevin Lankinen — the perceived front-runner for the No. 2 spot ahead of Collin Delia and Malcolm Subban — and the Blackhawks should get healthy contributions from their goalies in every game.
Of course, the Blackhawks had perhaps an even better goaltending duo in the ‘19-20 season when Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner were together in Chicago and that team only qualified for the postseason when a pandemic expanded the field to 24 teams. So, strong goaltending is not a guarantee that the Blackhawks will be a successful team in ‘21-22.
But this certainly helps.
And on-ice improvements made by the addition of some veteran blue-liners along with a fairly talented forward group suggests that this year’s Blackhawks teams should, at a minimum, be a serious contender for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Anything less will be unacceptable.