During the first TV timeout, Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury skated behind his net, squirted water in his face, leaned on his stick and looked up at the scoreboard screen at PPG Paints Arena. His old hockey life flashed before his eyes, a tribute to everything he did for the Pittsburgh Penguins. There he was going No. 1 in the 2003 NHL Draft, making acrobatic saves, lifting the Stanley Cup, interacting with fans. The final image: Fleury riding in a championship parade, fans flanking him, city surrounding him. The message: “Thank you, Marc-Andre”. The fans cheered and chanted his name. He saluted with his stick, waved with his glove, tapped his chest, clapped for them as they clapped for him. He skated back into his crease, but they would not stop. For more than a minute, they kept cheering and chanting. Fleury stated: “I was happy I had a mask on”. At one point, Fleury reached into that mask to wipe away something. Tears? “Maybe,” Fleury said with a bittersweet smile. “It was sweat. A lot of sweat. It’s a night I won’t forget. I’ll forget the score”. Fleury won 375 regular-season games with the Penguins, fourth by a goaltender with one team, after Martin Brodeur’s 688 with the New Jersey Devils, Henrik Lundqvist’s 426 with the New York Rangers and Tony Esposito’s 418 with the Chicago Blackhawks. He set a Penguins record with 44 shutouts. He was part of three championship teams. When Fleury came out for warmup, he was greeted by hundreds of fans with signs ringing around the Vegas end. “Thank you 29. Once a penguin, always a penguin. Welcome home, Flower”. Fleury added: “I didn’t really know what to expect. Just in warmup, I had goosebumps skating around with all the people at the game with the cards and the kind words”. Amid the postgame interviews, amid the disappointment of the loss, Fleury made sure to appreciate the appreciation: “The support I’ve gotten over the years here has been incredible. I want to thank everybody for all these years and once again showing up tonight with such great support”.
The Rangers have received Rick Nash’s 12-team trade list, and it appears the 33-year-old is set to be dealt by the Feb. 26 deadline. The Rangers had requested the 33-year-old’s list of 12 teams to which he would be willing to except a trade. The request comes with Nash only months away from the end of an eight-year, $62.4 million contract, a deal which carries a hefty $7.8-million cap hit. In fact, the Rangers retaining some of Nash’s salary can make any deadline deal involving the eight-time 30-goal scorer a win-win for both teams. From New York’s perspective, swinging a deal that reduces Nash’s cap hit for the acquiring team stands to bring a better return than one that would see Nash moved along at full cost. For instance, retaining, say, 50 percent of Nash’s salary might turn what would’ve previously been a third-round selection into a second-round pick. Conversely, teams on Nash’s trade list that may not have been able to afford to bring him aboard without salary retention can now enter the bidding for the veteran. Here are 3 potential destinations:
Kings – Anze Kopitar needs some help. Los Angeles has the 19th-ranked offense and keeping pace with some of the West’s higher-scoring clubs, the Vegas Golden Knights, for example, is going to be a chore if the Kings don’t add some extra scoring punch. Nash could be that scoring punch. Yes, as noted, Nash’s best days are behind him, but he still has 15 goals this season, which would tie him with Adrian Kempe for fourth in scoring among Los Angeles forwards. Beyond that, Nash’s size would fit in with the Kings and he’s proven he can contribute in the playoffs. In 36 postseason games over the past three years, Nash has 10 goals and 23 points.
Penguins – Maybe Nash isn’t the big prize ahead of the trade freeze, but he seems like he could be a perfect fit in Pittsburgh and a piece of the puzzle that helps push the Penguins right back into contention as they search for a third consecutive Stanley Cup. Consider Nash skating on the wing next to Crosby or Malkin. However, Nash doesn’t even need to play on the top two lines to fit with the Penguins. Matter of fact, as a depth scorer playing on the third line, Nash would face weaker defenders which could allow him to break out.
Ducks – Anaheim would need a player like Nash in order to boost what has been a struggling offense. Through 54 games, the Ducks have average just 2.74 goals per game, which ranks 23rd in the league. Worse yet, the scoring hasn’t been spread out. Rickard Rakell is the team’s lone 20-goal scorer, and the next best goal -coring threat is Ondrej Kase, who has 13 tallies. Nash would almost immediately be able to slide into the top-six and help the offense. Another way Nash could help, though, is by offering a pseudo-replacement for Patrick Eaves, who has been sidelined for most of the season.
The superstar goaltender is having a pedestrian season by his lofty standards, but he’s not getting a lot of help. “For me, regardless of your position in the standings, I’ve always tried to take one day at a time,” Price said. “Obviously it’s a cliché, but you can only earn two points in one game, so I’ve tried to keep that in mind and prepare for each game individually.” Price has faith. He believes the Canadiens are on the right path in terms of how GM Marc Bargevin has built the team and how coach Claude Julien deploys the troops. “We’re a team built on speed, we just need to find the consistency in our game,” Price said. “We need to use that speed to our advantage more often. When we’re playing well, we’re hard on the forecheck, using our speed and not allowing teams to have any room. When we’re doing that, we’re playing with the puck more.” The Habs need a great amount of improvement over the summer if they want to compete again. Price will be 31 when the campaign begins and thankfully for him, goalies tend not to age the way skaters do. But it will take real work from the organization, not faith, to get Price’s squad back to the post-season.