- The NHL Vegas Golden Knights have signed goaltender Robin Lehner to a five year, $25 million contract.
- Lehner supplanted former starter Marc-Andre Fleury after the restart.
- Despite speculation that Fleury would be traded or bought out the team plans to keep him as part of their goalie tandem in 2020-2021.
After much speculation to the contrary it appears that goalie Marc-Andre Fleury will stay in Las Vegas after all. Golden Knights’ GM Kelly McCrimmon confirmed to the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the team is no longer trying to trade the two time Stanley Cup winning veteran netminder. Furthermore, the team will reprise the goalie tandem with newly anointed starter Robin Lehner next season.
It appeared that Fleury’s days in Southern Nevada were numbered after the Knights signed Robin Lehner to a five year, $25 million deal. Lehner had taken over as the starter following the NHL restart and the expectation was that the team would have to part company with Fleury in some manner. Lehner was younger and playing better but Fleury had become the ‘face of the franchise’ during his three years in Vegas and is beloved by the local fans. Fleury also sounds pretty happy in Las Vegas and indicated that he wanted to stay. In addition, owner Bill Foley made clear that he’d like to keep Fleury in the fold.
From the start, it was obvious that it would be tough to move Fleury due to his $7 million cap hit. That’s likely why the Knights have been putting a positive spin on the difficulty of trading their goaltender–for example, this comment from Foley:
“There’s not a lot of places for (Marc-Andre Fleury) to land and I’m glad there’s not. I like it. I’m glad that we’re in this situation. I hope it keeps on working out that way.”
The Knights had the option of buying Fleury out of the final two years on his contract but that would still leave them out a sizable chunk of money and still needing a backup goalie. Apparently realizing the inevitable, owner Foley began to tell the media that he was willing to ‘overspend’ for goaltenders next season. His rationale, however, is definitely valid–with a likely condensed schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic having two elite netminders becomes all the more desirable. GM McCrimmon echoed these sentiments:
“Everybody expects that, but when you begin to live it I think that the importance of two goaltenders is really going to be valuable. We looked at a number of possibilities. … When we met with our pro staff, our pro staff really reiterated how important they felt having the two goalies that we have were going to be to our team and how important it will be this year. All those inputs went into the discussion, and did we look at any number of possibilities? Sure we did. But this was, at the end of the day, the decisions that we made to move forward were based on some of those things I’ve just touched on.”
The Golden Knights will have a combined salary cap hit of $12 million next season. The only team spending more on goaltending is the Montreal Canadiens with a combined $14.85 million for Carey Price and Jake Allen. GM McCrimmon said that the increased contribution of young players on inexpensive contracts gave the team greater financial flexibility:
“We’ve been able to bring in younger people to our organization, and wmarhen you do that, it allows you to make a decision like the one we’re making.”
With most of the VGK talent nucleus remaining and the addition of highly regarded free agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo the team will be right up against the salary cap. At the same time, they should have an even better look at a long playoff run which bodes extremely well for a team that reached the conference finals this season.