- 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.
- The team must now make a decision about what to do with Fleury and his $7 million cap hit.
The Vegas Golden Knights have found the starting goalie for the future. The team has signed Robin Lehner to a 5 year, $25 million contract before he was able to become an unrestricted free agent on Friday.
The 6’4″ 240 pound Swedish native received a contract that includes a modified no-trade clause. There is an 8 team list of ‘approved teams’ in the first three years with a five team list in the final two years. Lehner was acquired by Vegas at the trade deadline in February in a deal with the Chicago Blackhawks that sent former backup goalie Malcom Subban to the Windy City. At the time, the expectation was that Lehner was a ‘short term rental’ that could serve as a capable backup to Fleury during the NHL stretch run and playoffs.
Oddly enough, it was the coronavirus pandemic that likely gave Lehner the opportunity to become the starter in Vegas. The team got to know Lehner better during the hiatus and head coach Pete DeBoer was impressed with him during training camp. He played in 16 of the Knights’ 20 playoff games with a 9-7 record, 1.99 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. While the Vegas offense would ultimately be responsible for their elimination from the postseason Lehner was rock solid throughout.
Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon said that a persistent question over the past three years was the plans for a starting goaltender after Fleury:
“It was one of the oddities of expansion. We asked ourselves over and over, ‘Where is our next goalie?’. We never, ever found that goalie. It’s the most important position on the team. It’s given us a chance to really solidify that position.”
Lehner quickly became a favorite among Vegas fans who gravitated toward his personality as well as his stellar play. They also gravitated toward his story and resilience. Lehner has openly struggled with mental health issues as well as alcohol and prescription drug addiction throughout his career and he spoke of his comeback after the contract was announced:
“I’ve had my bumps and bruises. I’ve battled through a lot of things. I want to do this for my family, but I also want to do this for everyone else out there struggling, showing that you can get an organization, no matter if it’s professional sports or a normal job or executive or CEO, you can be counted on.”
At 29 years old, GM McCrimmon thinks that Lehner is entering his prime:
“I think he’s at the right age where the very best years of Robin’s career are going to be the next five. I believe he thinks he’s got more in him, more to give. I think he’s incredibly excited about having a home and being a part of an organization for the long term.”
The Knights attention now turns toward former starter Fleury. McCrimmon kept his cards close to the vest when speaking of their mindset:
“More decisions to be made. Obviously, now with Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin under contract, we’ve got different options that we’ll explore here before making our final decisions as we sort out the position.”