The Buffalo Sabres should do whatever it takes to pull the trigger on a trade for Marc-Andre Fleury.
We’re just a week into the 2020-21 NHL season but the Buffalo Sabres are 1-3-0 and it is clear that they need to significantly upgrade their goaltending, which is why they should try and acquire Marc-Andre Fleury from the Vegas Golden Knights.
It hasn’t been a good start to the season for the Sabres who opened the year with back-to-back defeats to the Washington Capitals, before splitting their two-game series with the Philadelphia Flyers. Now, Buffalo did beat the Flyers 6-1 on Monday but they were shutout on Tuesday, where a few fatal flaws were exposed.
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For one, there is no doubt that this offense can be explosive given that they boast a top-line of Taylor Hall, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, a trio that combined for eight points (2 G, 6 A) on Monday. However, they can’t carry this team on their own and every good team needs goaltending to win them a handful of games throughout the course of the season.
This therein lies the rub. The Sabres have been averaging 3.00 Goals Against Per Game so far in 2020-21, with Carter Hutton 1-2-0 with a .899 Save Percentage to start the year. However, Hutton took a elbow to the head in the second period of last night’s loss to Philadelphia and he didn’t return in the third.
With No. 1 starter Linus Ullmark currently absent from the team due to personal reasons, it will now be down to Jonas Johansson to carry this team on his back if Hutton is indeed out for any period of time. Therefore, it is time Buffalo Sabres General Manager Kevyn Adams makes another bold move.
The Buffalo Sabres and Marc-Andre Fleury makes perfect sense
He’s already done so after signing elite winger Taylor Hall to a one-year, $8 million deal in Free Agency and trading for veteran center Eric Staal from the Minnesota Wild during the offseason, but now he needs to do whatever it takes to upgrade his goaltending and, as such, he should pick up the phone to Vegas Golden Knights General Manager Kelly McCrimmon and try to strike a deal for Marc-Andre Fleury.
The future Hall of Famer has started one game this season and boasts a stellar 1.01 Goals Against average and a .955 Save Percentage, while he is expected to split the load with Robin Lehner throughout 2020-21.
However, it was only a few months ago that an ugly divorce between Fleury and Vegas seemed inevitable with the Fleury camp unhappy with how the front office handled the goalie situation following the addition of Lehner at the Trade Deadline, who proceeded to start the majority of the games in the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It got a little messy with Fleury’s longtime agent, Allan Walsh sending out a rather graphic Tweet depicting his client being stabbed in the back with a rather large medieval sword and, to spice things up even more, the sword had the name of Head Coach Pete DeBoer emblazoned on it. Ouch.
Then, with the Golden Knights aggressively pursuing elite defenseman Alex Pietrangelo in Free Agency, it appeared once again as though Fleury would be dealt in order to create the cap room necessary to be able to sign Pietrangelo, In the end, however, defenseman Nate Schmidt was traded to the Vancouver Canucks and veteran center Paul Stastny was dealt to the Winnipeg Jets to clear salary, with General Manager Kelly McCrimmon deciding that having an elite goalie tandem for a shortened 56-game season would be hugely beneficial.
However, spending a combined $12 million on two goalies for this season and next season isn’t conducive to success in a hard cap sport, and it especially isn’t feasible in a flat cap world. Therefore, it is possible that McCrimmon and the Golden Knights would be interested in listening to offers should one attract their attention.
This is where Kevyn Adams and the Buffalo Sabres come in. I outlined in my 4 Big Questions facing the Sabres Season Preview that the one big concern on this roster was goaltending, with the offense and the defense both deep and talented enough to lead this franchise back to the postseason.
Now, due to a sluggish start to the season and Hutton going down, it is time for Adams to make the ultimate move that would make this team a Playoff team and potentially a contender, while also placating face of the franchise Jack Eichel who won’t want to deal with another losing season.
Trading for Marc-Andre Fleury would automatically make the Sabres a much better team, and it would give them a legitimate shot at being one of four teams to grab a postseason berth in what is an incredibly stacked East Division.
Granted, there’s a couple of caveats at play here in that Fleury carries a cap hit of $7 million through the 2021-22 season, while the Sabres have less than $1 million in cap space so they would need the Golden Knights to retain some of Fleury’s salary while also finding a way to clear one or two cap hits off the books.
Also, what would Buffalo be required to send back? It was thought back in the offseason that the Vegas Golden Knights would want a First Round Draft pick back if they were expected to retain some salary, while the Sabres would have to throw in a couple more sweeteners in there in the form of more draft picks or prospects. Maybe they could send Linus Ullmark or Carter Hutton the other way with the Knights needing a replacement for Fleury, while it would certainly help to create the cap space needed to bring Fleury to Buffalo.
There is no doubt that the Buffalo Sabres would have to pay a steep price for acquiring Marc-Andre Fleury but they would be getting a three-time Stanley Cup Champion who is capable of winning games on his own, while his vast postseason experience would be invaluable in that locker room.
You need elite goaltending in order to be competitive in the NHL let alone seriously contend, and the Buffalo Sabres would be getting that in Marc-Andre Fleury who would help to take this team to the next level while showing Jack Eichel that this franchise is serious about winning so, whatever it takes, whatever they have to give up, GM Kevyn Adams needs to get on the phone now and make what would be a blockbuster move.