Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Robin Lehner is a valuable commodity and he knows it. Lehner appears to be truly coming into his own as both a player and a man and although that is currently of great benefit to the Chicago Blackhawks at the moment, it may turn out to come at a great cost as well. Lehner recently made comments regarding his status as a unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and as well as comments regarding potential contract negotiation with the Chicago Blackhawks and if I am being honest it sounds like bad news for the Blackhawks.
Lehner made it clear that there would be no team friendly discounts for the Blackhawks and, for a goaltender who effectively signed a 1 year deal as a mercenary, I can't say I blame him one bit. Lehner's contract with the Blackhawks was a clear indication that the veteran goaltender was betting on himself, and with his incredible performance this season there is no doubt that Lehner's gamble has paid off and he is now in line for a very significant raise.
"We'll see what happens, but I've been taking discounts my whole life," Lehner said as per NHL.com. "I'm not a guy who wants to be overpaid either. I want to gain some respect that I think I deserve. We'll see if that happens or not. We'll see what happens."
The Blackhawks of course could simply offer Lehner a contract at market value and keep him within the fold for the long term, but that would require some creativity on the part of general manager Stan Bowman. For starters it would almost assuredly mark the end of goaltender Corey Crawford's era in Chicago, but that is assuming that Bowman would make such a move while having Crawford in the fold. The problem for the Blackhawks here is not just about money however, Lehner appears to be acutely aware of the fact that he would be an extremely hot commodity on the open market, and one has to wonder if his intentions may be to test free agency and take offers from teams around the league.
"We'll see what happens, but I'll let the agents and [Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman] figure that out," Lehner said. "It's a different summer this summer than last summer. Me personally, it's another year under my belt in my new journey. The market is quite open; a lot of teams need goalies, and yeah, it's not that many goalies that are available this season."
Lehner has been dynamite for the Blackhawks this season recording a 2.85 goals against average and a .923 save percentage over his 27 games played and has down so in front of a battered Blackhawks defense. There's no doubt that the Blackhawks can ill afford to lose Lehner, but now there may also be a question now about whether or not they can afford to keep him. Lehner currently earns $5 million on his one year contract with the Blackhawks, however that number will increase significantly when it comes time for his next deal.