The Las Vegas Golden Knights pulled off a shocking move at the National Hockey League's trade deadline for the 2019 - 2020 regular season, and now it has left many with a ton of questions about the direction in which the Golden Knights will be moving towards in the not so distant future.
When he was asked about the decision to make the move Las Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon made it clear that the move was not intended to replace veteran goaltender Marc Andre Fleury, arguably the face of their franchise, but rather an attempt at shoring up the teams highly suspect backup goaltending. To put in bluntly, McCrimmon made it clear that the team lacked confidence in goaltender Malcolm Subban without directly saying so.
“We weren’t sure with the work that we’ve done to position our team, with the work that we’ve done to build our team, we didn’t have confidence that we were as strong at that position as we needed to be,” McCrimmon said as per the Las Vegas Sun. “If anything ever happened to Marc-Andre Fleury, we weren’t strong enough to win playoff games if we get to that point. Those are hard decisions, but we felt that way.”
That statement makes all the sense in the world when you consider that over a 20 game stretch Subban had recorded a 3,18 goals against average, an .890 save percentage, and had only managed to secure 9 wins for his team. However there are many who believe that there may have been more than a desire to replace Subban as backup behind this move and there is good reason to suspect that this may indeed be the case.
Over the past two seasons there is no question that Lehner has been the better goaltender and when you consider than he is 7 years younger than Marc Andre Fleury it is not hard to see why the Golden Knights could have viewed him as a potential upgrade over Fleury moving forward. It seems extremely unlikely that the Golden Knights will be able to retain both men beyond this current season and you would be hard pressed to make a case, at least from a hockey perspective, that keeping Fleury over Lehner is the right long term decision for the organization.
Lehner has only played one game for the Golden Knights thus far but you can already see that he is not going to make this an easy decision for the organization moving forward. Lehner was outstanding in his sole appearance thus far, recording a 2.00 goals against average and a .941 save percentage for the Golden Knights and looking very much like a number one goaltender in the process. Lehner has also made it clear that he is now looking for a long term contract, presumably one that comes with a significant bump in salary as well, and the Golden Knights will have to think long and hard about whether or not they will meet those demands.
If they do Fleury's contract, a cap hit of $7 million for two more seasons, will have to be moved. Fleury does have a 10 team no trade list which will further complicate matters for the Golden Knights, but you have to believe that the option is one that they are already weighing internally.