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What We Learned: The Marc-Andre Fleury contract is inexplicable

There’s no doubting the importance Fleury has to the organization as a sort of goaltender-slash-spokesman, but it seems they put the latter title first in signing this contract. (Getty)

I have been trying to wrap my head around the deal Marc-Andre Fleury signed with Vegas since it was first announced.

There is not a universe in which it makes any kind of sense.

For one thing, the Golden Knights signed Fleury a year early, and coming off a career-best season in which he dragged an otherwise not-great team to a Cup Final. As a general rule, you don’t want to pay guys who get bad teams to places no one thought they could go the kind of money commensurate with reaching those levels.

It should be obvious to everyone on earth that Fleury is not as good as he was in the regular season or playoffs. This was a .927 season — the highest of his career by a decent margin — followed by a .927 playoff that was much, much more impressive before he totally melted down against Washington. That kind of outsized outlier performance screams “Beware,” but George McPhee refused to heed that call.

Instead, he shackled his club to a goalie that, while popular in the city and among his teammates, is signed until he’s well past 37 years old. At a $7 million AAV.

To be fair to both sides here, Fleury has almost inexplicably gone .920 over his last 200 regular-season games, and .920 goalies have to get paid, but they don’t have to get paid a year early when you’re only bidding against yourself, and they absolutely shouldn’t get paid through their age-37 seasons. The fact of the matter is that it’s quite likely Fleury turns back into something resembling his career average, which is right around the league average.

And to give a little more credit to both sides here, the money probably doesn’t matter that much because if Vegas hasn’t changed its plans for building slowly through the draft, trades and so on, then you gotta spend money on somebody, and the top line, plus Paul Stastny, plus Fleury seems like a perfectly fair place to do it.

There is, of course, no use arguing whether the money or term are good. Neither are. Everyone knows that. You can’t justify paying a career-average goaltender $7 million dollars for his age-35, 36, and 37 seasons. Full stop. Unless this guy is Dominik Hasek — and he of course is not — this is a nonsense signing.

Maybe people won’t notice so much if Fleury doesn’t perform well next season — or any of the three after that — because Vegas isn’t likely to keep having the kind of offensive success it did last year, but even if you’re getting better-than-average goaltending, it won’t be so much better that Vegas can reasonably sustain the success it had last year. They probably won’t come close.

That likelihood creates a lot of problems, not the least of which is that we don’t know what the fan support in Vegas looks like when the team isn’t any good. Not that they haven’t cultivated a solid base or anything here, and not that people don’t love Fleury in particular, but if this team finishes in the bottom-10 next year, the year after that, etc., will people keep showing up? Fleury was always going to be the poster boy of the franchise, regardless of how he did last season, so now just as everyone else seems to have increased their own internal expectations for how good this team can be going forward, this contract might do the same for Fleury.

Again, if he’s average, or worse, at some point in this contract, one wonders how the revelation that this was a bad contract is actually taken. People in this sport are willing to throw all but the absolute very best goalies under the bus, and this particular goalie now has an untradeable contract.

More to the point, though, the issue is that Vegas just put Fleury into a tie for the third-highest goalie cap hit in the league. He now trails only Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist, and is dead even with Tuukka Rask. I don’t think anyone on earth would confuse Fleury’s career numbers with any of those three players, and Lundqvist, a guaranteed first-ballot Hall of Famer, the best goalie of his generation by a good distance, is the only one who signed in his mid-30s.

I guess the primary reason I don’t understand this contract is that it didn’t have to happen. Vegas wasn’t under any type of time crunch to sign him before a certain date (well, I guess technically July 1, 2019, but they had dozens of weeks) and seem to have wrung no type of hometown discount from getting out in front of this issue now. They bought as high as humanly possible on a goalie who, unlike another recent goalie signing in Connor Hellebuyck, isn’t likely to maintain even previous levels of performance. Everything after 34 or 35 is a total guessing game. Guys can go from great to bad in a single offseason. And put simply, they often do.

So it’s difficult to say what Vegas was doing here, except making a PR signing now, on an otherwise quiet day for the league. There’s no doubting the importance Fleury has to the organization as a sort of goaltender-slash-spokesman, but it seems they put the latter title first in signing this contract.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Why would you turn to Adam Henrique to spark your offense? He’s perfectly good but 50 points seems like his absolute ceiling.

Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes faced what could fairly be considered “undue backlash” for that Hossa trade. Like, I get it because they trade for dead money a lot but they got a good player out of it and it doesn’t really matter. Stop bailing out Chicago, sure, but whatever.

Boston Bruins: The idea that the Bruins would shake up the defense, perhaps by trading Torey Krug, does not seem well-considered.

Buffalo Sabres: Gotta keep locking in those 2015 BU Terriers.

Calgary Flames: I easily can see the Flames being a very bottom-of-the-barrel playoff team next season, for sure. Not quite certain where that actually gets them, but they could do it in that division. For the record, I can also see them missing by a dozen points.

Carolina Hurricanes: Yeah when you put it this way: Adding de Haan and Hamilton to your blue line is a pretty good upgrade for just about anyone in the league.

Chicago: I really hope Corey Crawford is over all his health issues but man, imagine what happens to this team if he isn’t. Yikes.

Colorado Avalanche: Speaking of which, Grubauer being a 1b in Colorado seems pretty good but also who really knows?

Columbus Blue Jackets: That’s some nice value for Oliver Bjorkstrand. He seems like he could turn into a very useful forward.

Dallas Stars: Yeah, sure, the Stars should trade for literally everyone. Why not.

Detroit Red Wings: Really wonder how much more room Anthony Mantha has to grow here. Another 24-goal season would be a nice resume-builder.

Edmonton Oilers: Well, “impressive” is one word for it.

Florida Panthers: We’re at the “I’m writing about AHL depth signings” part of the summer already? Good lord.

Los Angeles Kings: This headline is the reason the phrase “don’t put the cart before the horse” was invented.

Minnesota Wild: Yes they absolutely have hit their ceiling. Definitely.

Montreal Canadiens: The Habs keep signing first-round picks, which isn’t a bad idea because they tend to be talented players, but also: Ehhhh.

Nashville Predators: Haven’t seen much this summer to convince me shouldn’t be the Cup favorite again this year. Doesn’t mean they’ll win but this is a great team despite having no additions.

New Jersey Devils: Oh come on.

New York Islanders: Get ready for Barzal to have way too much expectation heaped on him in the next few years. Good luck kid.

New York Rangers: Imagine thinking there’s a “right” guy to be your enforcer who isn’t “nobody.”

Ottawa Senators: No, don’t do it Brady!!!

Philadelphia Flyers: Stop getting your hopes up about prospects based on rookie camp performances. Come on.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Giving Daniel Sprong a chance to actually play at the NHL level seems like a good idea. He was ridiculous in the AHL last year as a rookie.

San Jose Sharks: Jeez there are a lot of jokes to make here.

St. Louis Blues: Ah yes I have to agree: The Blues’ recent failures are definitely Vladimir Tarasenko’s fault.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Brian Bradley being on the Lightning’s Mount Rushmore is absolutely indefensible.

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs keep making nice, cheap signings and that’s what you gotta do if you have a bunch of expensive elite players.

Vancouver Canucks: Hard to put yourself in the mindset of being a coach who has to run a mess of a team for the full 82 knowing you’re not coming into the playoffs.

Vegas Golden Knights: Important to get out in front of those high expectations now.

Washington Capitals: Totally have my popcorn ready for that Tom Wilson deal.

Winnipeg Jets: Mark Scheifele is great but he would never ever get anything resembling a John Tavares contract.

Gold Star Award

That Phil Danault contract is like a Magic Eye puzzle. You really have to not think about it to see the reason why it’s a value.

Minus of the Weekend

Rest in peace, Ray Emery. Truly awful news.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “Jokerz89” is an agent of chaos.

Something along the lines of Krug, Backes, Lauzon, Senyshyn, and a 1st for Nugent-Hopkins and Klefbom

Signoff

Well Seymour, you are an odd fellow, but I must say: You steam a good ham.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All stats via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)