By: Jason Walsh II
The Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2003 first overall draft pick and beloved goaltender Marc-André Fleury is headed to Minnesota to play for the Wild. Fleury, well known as “Flower” played for the Penguins for 13 seasons and helped bring three Stanley Cup championships to the city.
After winning his third Cup in Pittsburgh and being rated as one of the top goaltenders in the league, the Penguins decided to part ways with the franchise goaltender. They left Fleury unprotected in the upcoming 2018 expansion draft. With no protection from the Penguins, the newly formed Golden Knights snagged Fleury with their pick of a Pittsburgh player, sending him to the bright lights of Las Vegas.
Once the “Flower” arrived in Vegas, he was immediately in the spotlight. Due to the benefits of the NHL expansion draft, the Knights made out like bandits. They selected players to fuel a high-speed offense, mediocre defense, and an All-Star goaltender in Fleury at the helm of the team. With Fleury’s aggressive play and ability to take on a heavy load of shots per game, the Knights’ offense flourished under the Vegas lights. In his first season in Vegas, Fleury led the Golden Knights to a Stanley-Cup appearance. However, the team, unfortunately, fell short against the high-powered and physical Washington Capitals.
Fleury continued to grow in Vegas making it to four-straight Western Conference finals, three straight All-Star appearances, and a 2021 Vezina Trophy winner; rated as the top goalie in the league. Although, with all this success in Vegas, the team would deal him to the Chicago Blackhawks in a blindsided trade due to cap space issues in the spring of 2021.
With his third team, Fleury made the best of the sticky situation and still played at a high level. Through the Blackhawks’ struggles, they could not produce and put W’s in the win column. Fleury continued to play on through the 2021/22 regular season up until the trade deadline.
On Monday, March 21st, 2022, the last day of the NHL trade deadline the Blackhawks did right by Fleury and dealt him to the Minnesota Wild who is a current playoff contender.
That same day, Minnesota flew Fleury in to back up goaltender Cam Talbot. Fleury continued to back up Talbot for a few games as he got all his personal affairs settled. He officially made his first start on Saturday, March 26th with a 3-2 OT win over the Columbus Blue Jackets with 23 saves. Since then, the goaltender newly dubbed the “Wild Flower” by Minnesota fans has split time with Talbot and is currently 2-0 as a starter and has a .95 save percentage with the team. Fleury’s next start will be Saturday, April 2nd against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Minnesota fans have welcomed their new “Wild Flower” with open arms and support, starting a new tradition of tossing bouquets of flowers onto the ice for him after games. With less than a month away from the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Wild are sitting comfortably in third place in the Western Conference with 87 points on the season. The team is looking at a bright future with the 2 goaltenders rotating in net.