Vegas Golden Knights star Marc-Andre Fleury had his agent remove a social media image depicting the goaltender being stabbed in the back with a sword engraved with coach Pete DeBoer’s name.
The Knights have started goalie Robin Lehner, whom they acquired at the trade deadline, in six of their eight postseason games. Allan Walsh, Fleury’s agent, published the image on Twitter on Saturday, on the eve of the Western Conference semifinal series between Vegas and the Vancouver Canucks. Fleury is 12-2-2 against the Canucks all time and hasn’t lost to the team since 2006.
“Regarding that picture that came up, Allan’s been my agent for a long time,” Fleury said in a news conference on Sunday morning, as the only member of the Golden Knights to speak to the media before their game. “I’ve known him since I was 15. We’re always very close. We always talk about hockey or other things in life. He always protects and cares a lot about his players, and cares a lot about me also. I really appreciate his passion for the game. I think this was maybe a way to defend me in this situation. But I’m here to win with my team. To have success. That’s what matters.”
Fleury was asked twice about whether he knew Walsh would publish the image, and declined both times to specify if that was the case.
“We’ve been talking, right? I love playing. I love being in the net. He’s been on Twitter for a long time. He’s just trying to protect me a bit,” Fleury said.
The goalie met with DeBoer and Vegas GM Kelly McCrimmon on Saturday after the image was published. “It was good to talk, see where we’re at,” Fleury said. “I don’t like being a distraction for my team.”
Fleury has been the face of the franchise since being selected in the 2017 expansion draft. The charismatic veteran goaltender arrived with a championship pedigree — winning three Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins, twice in a tandem with goalie Matt Murray — and then led the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season.
Fleury signed a three-year, $21 million contract extension in July 2018 that runs through 2022.
But the 2019-20 season was a struggle for him. He had a .905 save percentage in 49 games, his lowest since 2009-10 while with the Penguins. Off the ice, Fleury has also dealt with the death of his father in November. “It’s tough. I’m doing my best. Hopefully, time will make me better,” he told The Athletic in January.
With Fleury’s uncharacteristic season and the lack of a quality backup goalie, the Knights traded for Lehner from the Chicago Blackhawks at the deadline. An unrestricted free agent this offseason, Lehner had gone 16-10-5 with a .918 save percentage for the Blackhawks.
“We did not feel that we had enough support behind Marc-Andre, so that was the motivation behind the deal,” McCrimmon said during the postseason. “I think there’s a good relationship between both goaltenders, and each is available for the same reason: to try to help us win.”
Fleury said on Sunday that he “really likes” Lehner. “We have a good friendship and I think he’s a very good goalie, also. No hard feelings,” he said.
As for the rest of his teammates, Fleury wasn’t concerned about rocking the boat as the Knights seek their first Stanley Cup.
“I’ve known these guys for a while now. I just want to put this behind and move on, you know?” he said.