In case you missed it earlier today, the Vegas Golden Knights acquired goaltender Robin Lehner from the Chicago Blackhawks.
Details surrounding the official trade were murky and several reports were published prematurely before the deal was officially consummated. Now, however we have clarity surrounding the deal and it's officially a three-way between the Knights, Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Check out the explanation from the Leafs' official website:
The Toronto Maple Leafs announced today that the club has acquired Vegas' fifth-round selection in the 2020 NHL Draft in exchange for forward Martins Dzierkals to complete a trade between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Vegas Golden Knights. The Maple Leafs have retained a portion of goaltender Robin Lehner's salary as part of the transaction.
To make things simple, here's how it goes down:
Lehner's signing with the Blackhawks was one of the biggest surprise signings of the 2019 offseason. The New York Islanders inked goaltender Semyon Varlamov to a four year, $20 million deal on the opening day of free agency. Not because Varlamov isn’t an excellent goaltender but… the team already had a Vezina Trophy nominee in Lehner who was willing to negotiate a new deal with the team. What gives?
Lehner, of course, was dumped by GM Lou Lamoriello and signed a one year, $5 million deal with the Blackhawks. The veteran goaltender performed admirably with his new team and looked to be a fit moving forward, but he made it clear that he won’t be fooled again when it comes to contract negotiations.
Sportsnet reporter Chris Johnston recently caught up with Lehner to talk about his pending free agent status and relayed his conversation to colleague Elliotte Friedman who shared his thoughts below:
Lehner will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, and while he understands how his off-ice issues led him to this point, he believes it’s time for him “to be paid fairly, like any player would want to be.”
Johnston asked specifically if a long-term deal is the biggest priority; Lehner responded he couldn’t say for sure, noting that stability would be good for his family, but that there are other factors to consider. Reading between the lines, we took that to mean he doesn’t necessarily want to take a lower AAV to get term.
Lehner was excellent for the Islanders last year and has been great for the Blackhawks this year. He pointed to his 2016-17 season (seventh in save percentage) as evidence that — until being derailed by addiction, anxiety and bipolar disorder — there is consistent above-average performance there. He rejects the notion signing goalies to longer-term contracts is any more risky than it is for skaters, saying, “Many of those deals don’t work out either.” This led into another conversation about how we are still looking for proper methods of evaluating goalies. He said performance is more tied to overall team play than most people acknowledge — that John Gibson didn’t all of a sudden get bad this season. Lehner did say, however, that NHL goalies should stop every clear-eye shot they face. “We get paid enough to do that.”
So the big man wants money and term? Don’t we all?
In all seriousness, Lehner has earned the right to command top dollar. He’s been one of the league’s best net minders for the better part of three seasons now and, frankly, was dicked around by Lamoriello and the Islanders in previous negotiations. Once bitten, twice shy. It'll be interesting to see what happens to the big man this offseason.