A week ago, the Golden Knights’ goalie situation changed. They went from having an aging starter and an unproven backup to having arguably the best goalie tandem in the NHL.
Now, with a pair of goalies both among the top 15 in the league, Vegas is suddenly stacked at a position that was previously considered a potential weak spot.
However, the future is not as clear. Lehner came to the Golden Knights on a contract set to expire on July 1st and he’s seemingly seeking a new long-term contract north of $6 million. Meanwhile, Fleury still has two years left on his deal at $7 million apiece against the cap.
This offseason the Golden Knights will have to make a challenging decision. Up to this point, all the rhetoric from the front office, as well as Lehner himself, makes it appear as though he’s simply here as a rental and will move on to a new team when free agency opens.
He’s on an expiring contract. That will take care of itself. His contract will expire. -McCrimmon
I don’t hope anymore. We’ll see what happens this summer. -Lehner
But, of course, there’s still a postseason to play and depending on Lehner’s influence on it, the tide could change in a hurry. If it does though, it will likely spell the end of Fleury’s time in Vegas as well.
The chances of the Golden Knights retaining Fleury and paying Lehner in free agency remain incredibly slim. Not just because having 15+% of the salary cap tied up in goalies is financially unwise, but the upcoming Expansion Draft offers Vegas an opportunity that makes overspending at the position now foolish.
We don’t participate in the Draft but if you’re a team that has two top goalies and you know you’ve got to give one up, wouldn’t you rather trade that 2nd goalie to us as opposed to losing that goalie for nothing. –The Creator on Vegas Hockey Hotline
The moment the offseason hits this summer, every team in the NHL not named the Golden Knights will have an eye towards the Expansion Draft in June 2021. The rules that were in effect for Vegas remain for Seattle meaning every team can protect one, and only one, goalie at the Expansion Draft.
Thus, every single team in the NHL has to expose their backup (or their current starter if they prefer their backup long-term) with the risk of losing them for nothing.
That’s where the Golden Knights come in. They’ll be able to offer these teams a place to send their goalies and receive compensation in return. Let’s go back to the Vegas draft. Darcy Kuemper (MIN), Jordan Binnington (STL), Jaroslav Halak (NYI), Joonas Korpisalo (CBJ), Philipp Grubauer (WSH), Anton Khudobin (BOS), Antti Raanta (NYR), and of course, Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT) were all left exposed in the 2017 Expansion Draft.
Most of these goalies have switched teams and very few of their old teams received anything in return, In the case of Pittsburgh, they actually gave up something to have Vegas take on Fleury. Don’t expect the same to be the case for Seattle, especially with Vegas lurking on the periphery.
I think we’re going to be very opportunistic with Seattle coming in. We understand the system and we’ll be ready for this next Expansion Draft. Ready to help. We just want to be able to help them help themselves. –The Creator on Vegas Hockey Hotline
Vegas will make the decision on Fleury and Lehner this summer. There’s a way to keep them both, but they almost certainly won’t do it. Then, the attention turns to the Expansion Draft where McPhee and McCrimmon will play the role of the old lady hanging around the slot machines waiting for someone to go on a bad run so she can swoop in and catch the jackpot.
Hopefully, they have better luck than that old lady. Lurking doesn’t work.