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Was trading Marc-Andre Fleury a mistake?

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The Golden Knights traded the face of the franchise to clear cap space.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Vegas Golden Knights Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday morning the Vegas Golden Knights did what has been rumored but never fully seemed like an actual possibility, trading reigning Vezina winner Marc-Andre Fleury to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The Golden Knights’ side of the deal was a pure cap dump, as the return was prospect Mikael Hakkarainen, who will remain with Chicago, much like Nick DeSimone at the trade deadline. With the deal, Vegas freed up Fleury’s $7 million cap hit ahead of free agency, which opens Wednesday morning.

Fleury is beloved by the Knights fanbase and has been an integral piece of the Golden Knights’ success throughout their existence.

So, the question must be posed: will the Knights regret this trade in the short and long term?

It’s not a question with an easy answer.

The Knights are expected to be one of the top teams competing for the Stanley Cup in 2021-22, and as general manager Kelly McCrimmon said during his press conference following the announcement, the Knights had to move Fleury to be able to improve the team.

With the cap space that the Knights freed up, they will be in prime position to acquire a top-tier player like Jack Eichel. Whether that move comes in free agency or via trade, it would be shocking for the Knights to not make a big move.

With that being said, it is a little early to judge what the trade’s implications will be before seeing what comes next. But there are other sides of the trade that could make it look like a major mistake.

There now is a massive amount of pressure on Robin Lehner. Not only is he going to be the full-time starter, but he will also be filling the shoes of the face of the franchise. He must perform at an extremely high level or there will be questions from media and fans very quickly.

I believe Lehner will be able to do just fine, as he has been great throughout his Golden Knights career. I understand the worry from many fans, but it’s possible some of the initial reaction could be clouded by love of Fleury and fear that he would be traded.

The other side of this is the organization’s treatment of Fleury.

Allan Walsh, Fleury’s agent, revealed that Fleury found out about the trade on Twitter, which is an atrocious way of treating a player that has done so much for the franchise and city.

Fleury was adamant that he wanted to finish his career with Vegas and, as Walsh suggested, is even pondering retirement instead of playing for the Blackhawks. This could be partly why Vegas got nothing in return, though the ultimate goal was to clear cap space.

The Golden Knights could look to sign a backup for Lehner, but it is very possible that they will give Logan Thompson a fair crack after his excellent season with the Henderson Silver Knights in the AHL.

In the end, as heartbreaking as today may have been for many fans, it was most likely the best decision for the present and future of the team.

The Knights can now add an excellent player with the cap space they freed and can hand the keys to the goaltender that they seem to believe is the “guy.”

This trade can be a turning point for the Golden Knights, and it will be one that gets revisited in the coming months and years.