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DeBoer Shares Goalie Plans For First Four Games

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

The Golden Knights enter the return to the 2019-20 season with a luxury. Vegas is part of the group of eight teams that will not be fighting for their playoff lives instantly upon the season’s resumption. Instead, they have an exhibition game followed by three round-robin games which come with reward but little consequence.

Head coach Pete DeBoer intends on taking advantage of that luxury in regards to his goaltenders.

My plan here is both guys are going to play through the round-robin. I think coming off a four-month pause in order to make sure that we get everybody up to speed and are fair and have all the information at our disposal when we start the playoffs that’s the right thing to do. They’ll probably play two and two between the exhibition game and the three round-robin games and then we’ll make some tough decisions. -DeBoer

Since the Golden Knights acquired Robin Lehner at the deadline, they have rotated between he and Marc-Andre Fleury every game. It was just a six-game stretch, but it appears that plan will continue through the first four games in Edmonton.

That first of those four is an exhibition game against the Coyotes on Thursday. DeBoer is planning on taking that game a lot more seriously than he would a normal preseason game.

I do know I’m not a big believer in splitting goalies half games so whoever we start with we’ll plan on ending with. We have the option of dressing 22 where a normal roster is 20. I’m leaning towards dressing 20 just because I want to get into our game rhythm. We only have one game prior to starting the round-robin so I want it to feel like an important game. -DeBoer

He did not reveal which goalie that will be, but the assumption based on how they’ve been rotating goalies is that whichever it is, he will also be in the net for the middle round-robin game against St. Louis. Obviously things could change, but we expect it to look like this…

7/30 – ARI – Goalie 1
8/3 – DAL – Goalie 2
8/6 – STL – Goalie 1
8/8 – COL – Goalie 2

The Golden Knights will then have a day or two off before they start the real playoffs, a best-of-seven series against a qualifying round winner. At which point, DeBoer will select the true starter.

Those decisions are never written in stone and whoever we start with that can change very quickly depending on how the playoffs go and injuries and matchups and things like that. -DeBoer

Let the story of the playoffs for the Golden Knights begin.

Robin Lehner Contract Comparisons

It’s a story that will continue to dominate the Golden Knights landscape, and one that will only get more and more complicated as the team starts to win and lose games in the playoffs.

Currently, Lehner’s the 15th ranked goalie against the salary cap, but with a pair of stellar seasons in tow and a deadline that saw him fetch a 2nd round pick plus prospects as a rental, the pending UFA is likely destined for the Top 10 when he inks his next contract.

(Photo Credit: Ken Boehlke, SinBin.vegas)

This past offseason Lehner signed a $5 million, one-year deal with Chicago and that number essentially represents the average salary for starting goalie in the NHL. The good news for Lehner is that he’s been well above average.

To illustrate where Lehner’s next contract may land, whether with the Golden Knights or elsewhere, I’ve taken a look at the most recent goalie contracts, many of which have been signed since the beginning of the pandemic. There have been eight goalies signed since Lehner inked his one-year $5 million deal with the Blackhawks on July 1, 2019. Here are the closest comps to Lehner.

Elvis Merzlikins
$4M

The most recent major goalie contract to be signed in the NHL was that of the inexperienced Latvian, Elvis Merzlikins. He’s spent the majority of his professional career in his home country but came to the NHL this season and lit it up. Originally a 3rd round draft pick, Merzlikins signed and quickly burned his entry-level deal, then took a one-year $1.8M deal last year. He played in 33 games, winning just 13 but posting a stellar .923 save percentage and 2.35 goals against average.

The biggest difference between Merlikins and Lehner is proof. Lehner’s numbers over the past two seasons are similar (actually a bit better) than Merlikins’ and he’s done it with three different teams. Lehner should easily make more than a goalie with just a handful of games in the NHL and just a few years age difference. Comp: Lehner +++

Darcy Kuemper
$4.5M

Kuemper is older than Lehner but has not played as many games over the course of his career. 2018-19 was a breakout year at the age of 29 for Kuemper as he placed 5th in Vezina voting (Lehner was 3rd) and nearly single-handedly willed the Coyotes into the playoffs. That being said, his numbers in his best season are fairly similar to what Lehner produces most years and come up quite short of what Lehner did in his best.

Kuemper was good again this season and appears to be a solid long-term option for the Coyotes. His contract is for just two years which is one of the reasons why the AAV is a bit on the lower side. Hitting free agency again in a few years will be beneficial for Kuemper if he continues his solid play. Lehner has done it longer, done it better, and is a few years younger. He has to make more than Kuemper. Comp: Lehner ++

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Robin Lehner Excited To See What Free Agency Has In Store For Him

(Photo Credit: Jason Pothier, SinBin.vegas)

It’s been Goaltending Month here at SinBin. Earlier this month we examined the offseason decisions the Golden Knights front office will have to make in net. Last week was focused on cap percentage and how much is the right amount to spend on goaltending. So, let’s continue Tendy Month by getting some insight from Vegas’ exceptional backup goaltender as he addressed his future with the Golden Knights.

On Ottawa radio, unrestricted free agent to be Robin Lehner explained his desire to find a permanent address this offseason.

I’m looking for the right set up for me and my family. I got a five year-old and a two-year-old. My five-year-old has been to five different teams. I feel like I deserve to get some stability for me and my family. -Lehner on TSN Ottawa

It’s been a journey for Lehner. At 29 years-old with ten years of NHL service, the goaltender hasn’t found a location to settle down in.

We will see what happens and what makes sense for me and my family. To say I that need X amount of years or dollars, it’s kind of not what it’s been for me. I just try to perform as good as I can and I think I’ve done that throughout my career. I’ve had some other issues obviously but I’ve also taken the steps and been very serious about those steps and I’ve bounced back and I’ve shown that I’m on a really good path which is only getting better and better. -Lehner

The former Senator, Sabre, Islander, and Blackhawk is proud of success on and off the ice and feels he’s earned the opportunity to find a permanent NHL address. Especially, for his wife and kids.

I believe that I’ve proven my statistics for a long time and that I’m a very reliable goaltender… We’ll see what opens up and what makes sense for me and my family. We’re excited to see what happens this offseason. -Lehner

Can the playoffs do anything to help leverage Lehner’s future contract negotiations? Will he need to compete with Marc-Andre Fleury for playing time and excel in the postseason?

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Examining The Correlation Between Goalie Salary Cap Allotment And Winning The Stanley Cup

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Marc-Andre Fleury. Robin Lehner. Winning the Stanley Cup (or even getting there).

Salary cap history says the Golden Knights can only select two, not all three.

Since 2009, there have been 11 Stanley Cup Champions. None of them have had a salary cap allotment of goaltenders reach higher than 11.31%. 22 teams have reached the final, the highest allotment was 12.26%. The average of all Stanley Cup Final participants since 2009, 8.83%.

Fleury is set to make $7 million next season. That’s 8.81% of the salary cap for him alone.

 AverageLowestHighest
Cup Winners8.83%4.74%11.31%
Final Participants8.55%4.67%12.26%
Conference Final Losers9.27%2.86%21.83%

In other words, Fleury alone puts the Golden Knights above the average. Figuring Lehner in sends the Golden Knights into a group that makes them an outlier even among conference final participants.

 Cap Hit% of Cap
$3m + Min Salary$3,700,0004.54%
$3m + $1.5m$4,500,0005.52%
$4m + Min Salary$4,700,0005.77%
$4m + $1.5m$5,500,0006.75%
$5m + Min Salary$5,700,0006.99%
$5m + $1.5m$6,500,0007.98%
$6m + Min Salary$6,700,0008.22%
$6m + $1.5m$7,500,0009.20%
Fleury + Min Salary$7,700,0009.45%
Fleury + $1.5m$8,500,00010.43%
Fleury + $3m$10,000,00012.27%
Fleury + $4m$11,000,00013.50%
Fleury + $5m$12,000,00014.72%
Fleury + $6m$13,000,00015.95%
Fleury + $7m$14,000,00017.18%

Here’s the cap allocation for every team to make hockey’s final four since 2009.

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Golden Knights Who Could Be Heading To The Olympics In 2022

As we inch closer to the NHL and NHLPA agreeing on a plan to finish out the 2019-20 season, word has leaked out that an amendment to the CBA will pave the way for NHL players to participate in the 2022 Olympics in Beijing.

The league blocked players from playing in the 2018 games citing an unwillingness to put the NHL season on halt for upwards of two months. Russia’s KHL took 33 days off for an Olympic break in 2018, Sweden’s SHL took 14, and leagues in Germany, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic took nearly three weeks each.  The last three times NHL players have gone to the Olympics the league took a two-week break.

So, with the prospect of being without the Golden Knights for two weeks in the middle of the 2021-22 season, we’ll have to hope a few Golden Knights make Olympic rosters. Here’s a look at which ones have the best chance.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Mark Stone – Canada

It’s hard to believe a roster with the option to select Mark Stone would be without him, but it is actually possible. He should be a lock as the best defensive winger in the NHL and nearly a point per game producer with size and an incredible stick, but the list of Canadian forwards is vast and depending on the type of team they are going for, there’s a legitimate argument to leave him off.

In the end, not selecting Stone would be a mistake Team Canada will probably not make.

William Karlsson – Sweden

Sweden is surprisingly a bit weak when it comes to the center position. By 2022, there’s going to be an argument to be made for Karlsson as the best Swedish center available. Nicklas Backstrom will be 34-years-old, so it’ll be between Karlsson and Mika Zibanejad. Karlsson will probably find himself down the lineup a bit due to his defensive prowess, but with the wingers Team Sweden boasts, every line is going to be potent.

Assuming health, Karlsson will be headed to Beijing.

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Illustrating The Impossible Challenge DeBoer Faces In Having Two Elite Goalies In The Postseason

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

When hockey gets back underway, the Golden Knights will hit the ice with one of the best goalie tandems in the league. Both Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner are fully capable of carrying a team through the playoffs leading most to view goaltender as an advantage Vegas has on every other team.

While I’m not here to argue against the benefits of having more than one tremendous goaltender, I would like to illustrate the challenge it will present to the man standing behind the bench.

Peter DeBoer has been the Golden Knights head coach for 22 games and has led his team to victory in 15 of them. His early success earned the Golden Knights a Pacific Division title and placed them in the round-robin in the modified playoffs. But the only memory that will last regarding his first season in Vegas will be of the outcome of the upcoming postseason. And with goalie coach Dave Prior no longer calling the shots between the pipes, DeBoer’s decision on goaltenders will, fairly or not, ultimately be the only thing to define his inaugural campaign in Vegas.

Usually, working in hypotheticals is a tiresome, useless activity, but today I’d like to throw some out to show just how impossible the job of selecting a goalie in the postseason can and will be for DeBoer come August when hockey starts back up.

Instead of creating situations, let’s use ones from the past, ones that we know the eventual outcome. Imagine a world in which each of these games was played with the Golden Knights having both Fleury and Lehner on the roster.

We start with the worst moment in franchise history.

2019 Round 1 – Game 7 – at San Jose

After six games of strong goaltending by Fleury, followed by 50 minutes of perfection, the walls started to cave in on the Golden Knights following the phantom major penalty on Cody Eakin. Before the call, Vegas led by three and were getting a strong effort in net.

The first goal happened almost instantly as a shot from the point was blocked directly to a Shark, leading to a cross-ice pass and a perfect shot that beat Fleury. It’s a save he’s made in the past, but not one anyone could ever expect him to come up with.

At this point, there’s absolutely no consideration of switching goalies to put in Lehner. (Remember, this is all a hypothetical in which we are considering what VGK would have done if they had both goalies.)

Goal two comes less than a minute later. This one is a shot pass that deflected in from a tip in the mid-slot. No goalie in NHL history is expected to make this save, but nonetheless, a three-goal lead is now one and there are still four minutes left to kill.

Pull Fleury here in order to buy some time for the penalty killers? Settle the team down? People still complain that Gallant didn’t take a timeout, switching goalies would achieve the same result. I doubt this would be a time to do it, but Monday morning QB’s everywhere would be barking nonetheless.

Fleury stays in. The Sharks tie it about four minutes into the power play. A breakdown in penalty killing leads to a shot from the high-slot that beats Fleury. He’s now allowed three in less than four minutes and blown a Game 7 lead. Is now the time to pull him and put in Lehner?

Goal four is the one that would get the coach in hot water for not switching goalies. It’s a shot Vegas allowed on the PK all series long, in fact, that was in the game plan to give that shot up. Fleury is off his angle and the softest goal of the four gets past him. Trust me, if Lehner was on the Golden Knights at this moment, fans (including myself) would not have been happy that he was sitting on the bench.

Again, Fleury stays in the game having now allowed four. We get all the way into OT, and a poke check gone awry allows a fourth-liner to net the season-ending goal for the Golden Knights. Again, if Lehner is on the team, people are none too happy he never saw the nets in this horrific road loss.

In reality, Gallant never even considered pulling his goalie to put in Subban, nor would anyone have, and thus this criticism never existed, but if the situation were exactly the same, and Lehner was on the Vegas bench, the coach would have gotten crucified over refusing to put in the trade deadline acquisition.

2018 Western Conference Final – Game 1  – at Winnipeg

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Who Has The Early Edge The Shooter Or The Stopper?

(Photo Credit: Jason Pothier, SinBin.vegas)

Now that there’s a format in place (kinda), fans can finally feel good about the NHL getting back on the ice. The timetable hasn’t been set yet, but before the games begin, clubs will hold some sort of training/mini-camp. George McPhee mentioned a couple of weeks back that Golden Knights players shouldn’t need much time to prepare.

I think after a week or 10 days of skating they’d be fine. Are they really going to want four weeks? I don’t think so. After a week of hard skating, they’ll probably be saying ‘You know what, I’d rather be playing than practicing, so let’s get going.’ –George McPhee on Vegas Hockey Hotline

After the training period is over and the players are ready for action, which position will be at their best first? The shooter or the stopper?

Because (goalies) motor skills don’t have to be as refined. Their crease movement is something they can practice on their driveway, they can practice in their basement. Their angle play, their awareness of the game, they can watch tape. There’s a lot of things they can do, they don’t really need ice.-Pierre McGuire, NBC Analyst

If goaltenders find their way back to form quicker, teams with better goaltending and defense have an early edge. The fear of the hot goaltender is so real reports were Montreal Canadiens star goalie Carey Price was one of the factors why the play-in series will be nothing less than a best-of-five finish.

The league initially suggested this play-in round be best two out of three and the players said no way… they felt it was not acceptable enough for the teams that had a better regular season and Pittsburgh looked at its matchup and it said ‘two out of three against Carey Price is not fair for a team that had zero percentage points to play in the playoffs.-Elliotte Friedman, SportsNet

Depending on the Golden Knights offense, either of their goalies have the ability to get hot and grab an early edge in a series. It should be a concern for any team in the Western Conference.

It certainly is for Winnipeg Jets sniper Patrick Laine.

My game is probably gonna look terrible since I haven’t skated for two months… It’s always a struggle to come back after a long period when you haven’t skated.-Patrick Laine, Jets forward

Between the pipes, Vegas should get strong goaltending from Marc-Andre Fleury or Robin Lehner, so it’ll be up to their offense to advance to the later rounds. Scorers like Max Pacioretty and Reilly Smith will need to quickly get into midseason form and continue the offensive success they had in the regular season. Since scoring is projected to be low in the opening games, it’ll be important for the Golden Knights forwards to shake off any early rust.

For the offensive players there’s a tempo element to the game that really can’t be duplicated unless you’re on the ice. With hand skills, with shooting skills, with foot movements. Until you’re on the ice doing them, it doesn’t work.-McGuire, NBC Sports

If the Golden Knights score 3.5 goals per game like they did last postseason, the backend duo of Fleury and Lehner should save enough to clinch multiple playoff rounds. The question is which goalie will take on the heavier load?

The intimidation factor of a goalie. I think a goalie can get up to speed a little bit quicker than they offense can. Carey (Price) is a guy that can definitely steal a series. Vasilevskiy can steal a series.-McGuire, NBC Sports

Vegas has the goaltending and the offensive talent to go on a run, however, it will all have to come together at the right time. If the offense struggles, it could come down to which Golden Knight goalie has the longer leash, and if Pete DeBoer pushes the right buttons going back and forth.

Dear SinBin – May 6th, 2020

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Q. Hi SinBin, hope you are well and enjoying being home with loved ones. I’m writing because I’m having marital problems. My husband is a huge Golden Knights fan and that’s what has created the issues. We’re both working from home so already our personal space was getting cramped but now that there’s no hockey I can’t get away from him. Normally, three, maybe four times a week I had to myself while my husband was watching the Golden Knights.

I can’t explain how precious those three hours were to me. I love my husband with all of my heart but I need something to distract him a few times a week. Do you realize how backed up I am with my shows? I’m falling a part here.

-Delay of game Debra

A. You are not alone Debra. Significant others across the valley are having the same issue during the quarantine. Without the Golden Knights, there’s nothing that can easily replace the time spent watching hockey per week. Your husband is probably thinking it’s best spent with his wife. That’s clearly not working for you, and others, so don’t be too hard on yourself.

You mentioned distractions, which is a good first step in saving your marriage. I suggest you force your husband on would be game nights to catch up on highly-rated shows or movies that he may have missed over the years. He could roughly spend the same amount of time binging as he did watching the Golden Knights play. If he resists, tell him to ‘act like a man’ and watch The Godfather, The Sopranos, or Narcos. Call out his manhood, hit him where it hurts.

You could also fib and tell him he’s looking a little tight around the waist. Let him think that since the NHL pause he’s grown a little ponch, and it might be best if he spent two hours on game nights to work out. Even if your hubby is in shape, poke hard enough and he’ll worry you’re not attracted to him. We won’t admit it but men don’t like being fat-shamed.

Lastly, if he doesn’t cook, tell him to start. Pick out a few time-consuming recipes a week that will take up hours of his time. This should allow you to gain back some of your precious me time.

If none of that works, divorce him, or just “pause” your marriage. Everyone else seems to be doing it.

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

Q. Dear SinBin, I’ve had this problem since late February. Now that there’s more time to think about it with the pause and all, I’m ready to reveal my dilemma. I have two loves and I’m torn. Both are great, one is charming and athletic, the other is a lovable, stonewall panda. Lately, I have come to the reality that both cannot stay in my life. There’s cost, games started, styles, endorsements, etc. Please, I need your help. Who should I start?

-Caught in the crease

A. There’s a great saying that we all know well, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You might think you love both but really there’s one that means more to you. One sentence stood out to me from your letter, “There’s cost, games started, styles, endorsements, etc.” It’s good you’re starting to realize that only one can be in your life. Is it the more established but older one? Or a giant that’s hitting their peak?

It’s a stressful time and dilemmas like this can weigh you down. Maybe it’s best to step back and allow a team president or general manager to help make that difficult decision. Either way, you should feel good about 55-60 starts next season.

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Five Sports Illustrated Experts Pick Vegas To Play For The Cup (Plus Our Picks)

(Photo Credit: SinBin.vegas Photographer Brandon Andreasen)

As we continue holding out for some level of hope for the NHL season to resume, some outlets are continuing the tradition of making their annual Stanley Cup predictions. This year Tampa Bay and Vegas were the two teams most picked to play in the Cup finals by Sports Illustrated.

Five SI experts chose the Golden Knights to participate in the Final if the season were to continue play. Unfortunately, four out of the five picked the Golden Knights to lose in the Stanley Cup Final.

Matt Larkin: Lightning over Golden Knights in six

Sam McCaig: Lightning over Golden Knights in five

Edward Fraser: Lightning over Golden Knights in six

Ryan Kennedy: Lightning over Golden Knights in six

Each prediction had Vegas losing to Tampa in six games or less. Ouch, not even one deciding game. The lone SI expert that awarded Lord Stanley’s cup to the Golden Knights left Tampa out of the Final completely. Here’s his explanation of why he chose VGK as the 2020 NHL champions.

Dan Falkenheim: Golden Knights over Bruins in six

Since Jan. 15, no team has a higher share of expected goals (58.5%). Robin Lehner’s arrival ensured Vegas would enter the playoffs with the NHL’s best netminding situation. And all the sudden, with Max Pacioretty turning back the clock, the Golden Knights looked like the West’s top team before the pause.

Much less drama for the Bruins, some 2,700 miles away. Save for a mediocre 4-5-6 stretch running from early December into the New Year, Boston has been the league’s most consistent team throughout the season. Tuukka Rask’s emergence as the Vezina frontrunner helped the Bruins carve out an eight-point lead in the Atlantic Division and serves as a reminder that he can carry a team as far as he wants to. Both Boston and Vegas are built to withstand the rigors of postseason hockey—each has reached the finals within the last three years—but the Golden Knights are the team that comes out on top in a matchup between recent Stanley Cup losers. -Dan Falkenheim, SI.com

It’s an intriguing matchup, to say the least. The last two Stanley Cup runner-ups battling to end their finals losing streaks. Both teams are recognized for elite-level skill and fantastic goaltending. Plus after the pause, Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone will be fresh and fully healthy for Vegas and Boston’s older veterans will get some much needed extra rest for their pursuit.

Although SI went heavy on Tampa, they’re not the team I selected to win the cup. Nor to come out of the East. Here are our predictions for this year’s Stanley Cup finals.

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Lehner Could Be Part Of Upcoming Game Of Goalie Musical Chairs

The Golden Knights have a goaltending issue. Not in the desperate sense that other clubs have, instead, for Vegas, it’s a luxury problem. The problem is Vegas has two really good ones and they likely won’t be able to hold on to both. Other teams need to address their goaltending positions as well, and the Golden Knights may be a part of the carousel expected to take place.

Vancouver for one, is a team that will end up spending a lot of money on goaltending this offseason. Either ponying up to the demands of their current tender Jacob Markstrom, or by investing in one of the available free agents such as Vegas goaltender Robin Lehner.

Whenever it comes, this offseason will have a slew of unrestricted free agent goaltenders, led by Lehner, Markstrom and Braden Holtby. Each is expected to be offered term and money, something Vegas probably isn’t considering.

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… 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. -Kelly McCrimmon on trade deadline day

Many teams will most certainly be interested in Lehner, and at 6’4″ he could be the most attractive candidate available. Teams that could be searching for a backstop include Calgary, Chicago, Detroit, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Washington. Not to say all of these clubs would pursue Lehner, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they reach out.

It is such a deep list of UFA’s this summer. It was going to be the craziest game of musical chairs we’ve ever seen potentially… Lehner should’ve been one of the guys to go off the list last year early, and for good money. He ended up signing for a one-year ticket at five million coming off a Vezina finalist season .-Kevin Woodley, NHL.com

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