When the golden knights chose Marc-André Fleury of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft, the goalie who would symbolize and boost Vegas in his debut season and beyond, they found a player who was just as important to fans and which players to hang on to.
The question is whether the Seattle Kraken, in the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft presented by Upper Deck on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, SN NOW), can replicate that.
“It really depends on who is available and who we can choose, but we certainly think there will be good players available,” Kraken general manager Ron Francis said on Saturday. “Hopefully when they’re selected here we can get them to come to town and take the stage and they can become the first faces of our Seattle Kraken roster. “
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There are options for the Kraken. With protected lists for NHL teams except the Golden Knights to be revealed On Sunday, there are names that stand out like potential faces at La Fleury.
It starts with Prix Carey, the goalkeeper of the Montreal Canadiens. Price is from Anahim Lake, BC, who would fit right in as Fleury after helping the Canadiens to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
He is not the only one. There’s the St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko, captain of the Calgary Flames Marc Giordano, attacking the Philadelphia Flyers James van Riemsdyk and New Jersey Devils defenseman PK Subban, among others.
“With COVID and the apartment [NHL salary] for years to come, it might not be that hard for Seattle to find this guy, ”said Deryk Engelland, the Las Vegas resident who was signed as a free agent by the Golden Knights and counted as the pick. of the Flames in the expansion project.
“There are a lot of teams that are right on the ceiling and [who have] guys to sign, so I think they’re going to be able to put together a team that competes. And that’s what you want. “
As Vegas and general manager George McPhee were looking for a face, they found one in Fleury, a player whose humility, talent and chops – he had, after all, won the Stanley Cup three times – combined to become a powerful motivator for a bunch of misfits, and at the same time, he was ready to do countless interviews, reach out to the community, rarely tiring himself, rarely refusing.
It was a powerful combination.
“We weren’t necessarily looking for a franchise face,” McPhee said. “We thought the face of the franchise should be our logo. And we were very team-centric. We haven’t appointed a captain. We tried to have 23 captains. We have treated everyone the same. There was no hierarchy.
“What we were trying to get was some leadership in the players that we were gaining, and Marc-André certainly had that and a lot of talent and a lot of play. It wasn’t intentional, but he became the face of the franchise organically. . “
It helped that Fleury was the most recognizable name, the most recognizable face, playing a privileged position, the one McPhee called the most important in building a team from scratch. He was known in a way that others who have become stars of this team say Guillaume Karlsson or Jonathan Marchessault, maybe not.
“He was the only star people had any idea of at the time,” said the former Golden Knights forward. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, now plays for the Colorado Avalanche. “It was’ Fleur ‘.’ Everyone, I mean, it’s like people have no idea who we are. “
There is no doubt that the reverence, even now, even from players who are no longer with the organization, is real and tangible. The players of the 2017-18 Golden Knights, the inaugural team that qualified for the Stanley Cup final before losing in five games to the Washington Capitals, speak of Fleury in glowing terms, with deep admiration for what he did on and off the ice. ice cream.
He set the tone and took the heat.
“From a marketing standpoint, I think they relied on him a lot in the first year,” said the defenseman. Nate Schmidt, now with the Vancouver Canucks. “And that kind of takes the pressure off a lot of other guys, which is really great. Honestly, a lot less pressure, a lot less pressure on us to play because he’s the guy, but he’s kind of immune to these things, which is awesome, honestly. “
Fleury, of course, had just lost her job with the Penguins for Matt Murray and was left unprotected, allowed to be selected by the Golden Knights. And yet, said Bellemare, he never complained, always worked the hardest, always smiled, helping to create a team culture that endures.
“He’s your superstar,” Bellemare said. “You’re getting into a whole new team so that everyone can be a superstar, and it could go really fast if you end up with guys who think they’re better than they are. And you have to be careful.
“But the thing with Flower is that he was our best player, our biggest superstar and he was also the most humble guy. So whoever comes in second or third or fourth or even 19th, whatever your name is, he can’t come and be arrogant. “
It has made Fleury the face of fans and his teammates, the backbone and soul of a team that has accomplished more than anyone realized, and it will be difficult for the Kraken to replicate. But there is a plan and players that would fit well into the mold Fleury filled for Vegas.
“You definitely look at what they’ve done because of the success they’ve had, but as we’ve pointed out a number of times it’s going to be different,” Francis said.
Or maybe not.
“I think they can take a lot from what we’ve done and they will,” said McPhee. “And I think the pandemic will help them a lot. There are general managers who have experienced this once on the other side. They may be a bit smarter.
“On the other hand, the flat cap is going to be difficult for some teams and they will be looking for a way out. This is something Seattle could benefit from. We expect Seattle to do very, very well and have a very good competitive team from the start. “