The NHL playoffs just wouldn’t be the same without Marc Andre-Fleury being somewhere in the mix.
Unable to backstop the retooling Chicago Blackhawks into contention, the three-time Stanley Cup-winner is headed to Minnesota to help the high-scoring Wild shore up their inconsistent goaltending issues for a late-season playoff push. Minnesota gave up a conditional first-round pick in this year’s draft to acquire the 37-year-old Fleury hours before the NHL trade deadline on Monday.
Fleury, who last missed the playoffs during his first full season in Pittsburgh 16 years ago, jumped 10 spots in the Western Conference standings by landing in Minnesota where he will share the goaltending duties with Cam Talbot. The Wild opened the day sitting fourth overall — and third in the Central Division — in a tightly contested playoff race in which six points separate third-place St. Louis and ninth-place Dallas.
Eight of the West’s top nine teams made moves, starting with the conference-leading Colorado Avalanche landing Montreal’s Artturi Lehkonen, who is considered one of the best 200-foot wingers in hockey. The only contender to not make a trade was salary cap-strapped and injury depleted Vegas, which sits eighth.
The Eastern Conference teams were busy, too, taking advantage of one last chance in focusing mostly on addressing depth and defensive needs.
The salary cap, which has stayed flat at $81.5 million, played a factor, with a majority of the trades involving players eligible to become unrestricted free agents this summer with draft picks going back in return.
The East-leading Carolina Hurricanes acquired forward Max Domi in a trade with Columbus just before the deadline. Domi has topped 40 points in four of his seven NHL seasons.
"We've been looking for somebody to complement our forward group, the top nine, and felt that this was a perfect fit for us," Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell said of Domi, who nine goals and 32 points in 53 games this year.
The Pittsburgh Penguins landed a potential top-six forward Rickard Rakell in a trade with Anaheim. Rakell's 154 goals in 550 games rank fifth on the Ducks list. In return, Anaheim acquired Zach Aston-Reese, Dominik Simon, prospect goalie Calle Clang and a second-round draft pick.
The eighth-place Capitals made two moves at wing, with Marcus Johansson returning to Washington for a second stint following a trade with Seattle and Johan Larsson arriving in a deal with Arizona.
The New York Rangers added size to their defense by acquiring Justin Braun in a trade with Philadelphia.
Of the trades completed, the Wild’s addition of Fleury could well be the most meaningful in seeking to address one of the league’s widest disparities: Minnesota ranks third in the NHL in averaging 3.67 goals per outing, and 22nd in allowing 3.2 goals per game.
In acquiring Fleury, who won a Vezina Trophy a year ago with Vegas, Minnesota traded backup goalie Kaapo Kahkonen and a fifth-round draft pick to San Jose for defenseman Jake Middleton. Kahkonnen had a 12-8-3 record this season and was 0-5-1 with 21 goals allowed in his past six starts. The Wild also grabbed a second-round pick this summer from the rebuilding Coyotes for unsigned prospect Jack McBain.
In other moves:
- The St. Louis Blues got the defenseman they’ve been looking for, acquiring Nick Leddy from the Detroit Red Wings. St. Louis also got Luke Witkowski and sent forward Oskar Sundqvist, defenseman Jake Walman and a 2023 second-round pick to Detroit. Leddy is a pending free agent.
- The Coyotes acquired unsigned forward prospect Nathan Smith and Bryan Little’s contract from the Winnipeg Jets for a 2022 fourth-round pick. Little is signed for two more seasons at an annual salary cap hit of $5.3 million and is not expected to play again because of concussion issues.
- "We are excited to acquire Nate," Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong said. "He is a very skilled two-way center who is relentless and competes hard every night. We are very happy to acquire his rights and look forward to him joining the Coyotes organization."
- The Toronto Maple Leafs might have been the day’s biggest loser in failing to address their goaltending needs. Toronto lost out on signing Harri Sateri after Arizona claimed the Olympic gold-medal-winning Finn off waivers. Signed by Toronto to a $750,000 contract for the rest of the season, Sateri was first required to clear waivers because he played in Europe this season.
- One goaltender who was thought to be available came off the market before the deadline when Anton Forsberg re-signed with Ottawa. Forsberg inked an $8.25 million, three-year deal.