Updated September 30, 2020 - 6:25 pm
The strategy, in part, is to get your version out first. To play, well, a victim of sorts. It’s just business.
Yeah. Even the sword meme. Although that took things to a really weird level.
Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon on Fox Sports Radio this week again intimated his team’s goalie situation could be resolved between the draft and beginning of free agency, a timeline that would put such a decision at Oct. 6 to 9.
If a popular theory is true and Vegas ultimately moves on from Marc-Andre Fleury, it can’t expect to win any sort of public perception battle. Not with this player. Not in this town.
Fleury and agent Allan Walsh — ol’ King Arthur from “Excalibur” — are making sure of that.
Each has been quoted recently about the goaltender’s love of Las Vegas and his desire to remain with the Knights, even if it means co-existing with fellow goalie Robin Lehner. That, in short, Fleury is not asking to be traded.
All of which has every chance of being true.
Well, at least the part about loving Las Vegas.
Lehner is the guy
Until he chooses not to sign with the Knights and travels elsewhere once free agency begins — a long shot considering numerous reports of a five-year deal worth $25 million being in place with Vegas — Lehner is the team’s starting goalie.
Coach Pete DeBoer made that abundantly clear during the NHL playoffs, regardless of his consistently silly statements about having two starting goalies. Vegas had 20 playoff games, including three from the round-robin stage, in the hub city of Edmonton. Lehner started 16 of them. People can count. Lehner, assuming he stays, is DeBoer’s guy.
That leaves Fleury and what will happen to unquestionably the most popular of all expansion picks from 2017. He is, deservedly so, beloved from Henderson to Summerlin and all points in between. But that’s emotion, not business. And business should win every time.
“Marc said that he wants to stay in Vegas,” Walsh told TSN 690 in Montreal. “He’s perfectly happy to co-exist with Robin Lehner, if that’s what ultimately happens. To some extent, the decision making is out of his hands. But he wanted everyone to know where he stands and that he loves Vegas.
“He has great connection to the community. He loves his teammates, and he came on board as literally player No. 1 and wants to finish the journey that he set out on when he went to Vegas … He’s not looking for a change or anything else.”
Welcome to “How to be an agent 101.” Please take a seat.
One of the oldest blueprints of an agent whose client might soon be moved from a franchise is to passively play the injured party should divorce proceedings commence. So if by small chance Lehner moves on, Fleury has publicly stated his desire to remain with the Knights. And if he’s the one to go, Vegas management looks as if it dumped the favored son.
Fleury will soon turn 36 and has two years remaining on a contract that pays $7 million annually. He’s going to get the money regardless. But does anyone really believe someone so competitive and successful throughout his career would be fine concluding it as a backup? He finished his time with the Penguins on the bench. He wants to here as well? Really?
The thing is, I just don’t know how you come back and make nice from the meme. From when Walsh, who didn’t return a voice message Wednesday, tweeted a picture of Fleury being stabbed in the back with a sword that had DeBoer’s name engraved on the blade.
It happened on the eve of a Western Conference semifinal series against Vancouver. Message sent. Now, a different although no less obvious one is being conveyed. That none of this, if he goes, is on him. It’s all the team.
Decision comes soon
Fleury has yet to directly answer whether he knew of Walsh’s plans to tweet the picture. He just won’t say definitively one way or another. Which means in all likelihood he did.
It ultimately won’t matter if the Knights move him. I assume he isn’t asking for a trade as he and Walsh have said. There would be no point while holding little leverage.
Everything should be decided soon enough. Who goes. Who stays. But until then, we are reminded that sometimes we send messages not to get a reply but just to be seen.
In this sense, Fleury and his agent hit the mark.
It shouldn’t matter, of course.
Only business does. As it should be.
Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Frida. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.