The Blackhawks posted a flower emoji on their Twitter account early Sunday morning, then multiple reports said Fleury had decided to play for Chicago.
Fleury, however, was contemplating his future after his agent, Allan Walsh, said the three-time Stanley Cup-winning goaltender was caught off guard by the trade, with sources telling ESPN that he found out about it via social media.
Sources had said there was chatter that Fleury, 36, might retire if he was traded from Vegas.
According to sources, Blackhawks president and general manager Stan Bowman and Fleury had a phone conversation Tuesday afternoon. Bowman and the Blackhawks wanted to be respectful and give Fleury the space and time he needs to make a decision, sources said.
Fleury is on the final year of a contract that carries a $7 million cap hit. Had he retired, the Blackhawks would not have been on the hook for his salary.
According to sources, Fleury spent the last several days doing “due diligence” asking around about the Blackhawks organization, making sure he would feel comfortable playing there. A source close to Fleury said he would like to play for Team Canada at the 2022 Olympics.
Fleury, a 17-year NHL veteran, won his first Vezina Trophy in 2021 with Vegas. He went 26-10-0 with a career-best .928 save percentage and 1.98 GAA, helping the Golden Knights post the league’s second-best record in the regular season, trailing only the Colorado Avalanche.
Fleury and Robin Lehner won the William Jennings Trophy as the goalie tandem with the best save percentage this past season. In the playoffs, Fleury led the Golden Knights to series wins against the Minnesota Wild and the Avalanche before falling to the Montreal Canadiens in the semifinals.
Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon was defensive about how the team handled the trade last week, saying the Golden Knights had communicated with Fleury the possibility of being traded several times, beginning at his exit meeting on June 29.
McCrimmon said he didn’t think there would be the same “appetite” next season for Fleury and Lehner to split the net 50-50, which is what precipitated the trade. Both goaltenders combined for $12 million against the cap.
It’s the first time in 20 years the reigning Vezina winner was traded before the next season. Buffalo traded Dominik Hasek to Detroit on the first day of free agency in 2001.
Fleury, who won all three of his Cup titles with the Pittsburgh Penguins, had been the Golden Knights’ starting goaltender from the team’s inception and led Vegas to the Stanley Cup Final in its first season.
Fleury immediately becomes the No. 1 goalie for the Blackhawks. Chicago parted ways with longtime netminder Corey Crawford ahead of last season and instead turned to a trio of youngsters: Collin Delia, Kevin Lankinen and Malcolm Subban.