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
The cost of Lehner and other high-end UFA goalies are expected to be in the range of $5-$7M per season, which would keep Vegas out of the running as long as Marc-Andre Fleury is still under their control. GM Kelly McCrimmon made it clear in late February, Lehner was a rental.
He’s on an expiring contract. That’ll take care of itself… That wasn’t part of the decision-making process. The decision was improving our goaltending in the stretch drive, improving our goaltending in the playoffs and to complement the work that we’ve done to build the team that we’ve built. -McCrimmon on trade deadline day
Let’s assume the Golden Knights are content letting Lehner walk, what is their next move? They have to start by signing a backup goaltender. Which direction they go is uncertain at this point. Of course, they would like to address Fleury’s successor, but that’s easier said than done. It’s possible they got with Oscar Dansk, or maybe they bring in a player of Malcolm Subban’s caliber, or do they take a chance at an unknown like KHL goaltender Alexei Melnichuk. He’s drummed up some serious interest around the NHL, and Vegas is rumored to be one of the potential suitors.
Ottawa remains the frontunner for Zub and, goaltender Alexei Melnichuk has trimmed his list of NHL teams down to four. All US based clubs. https://t.co/L9vDzOG8xX
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) April 7, 2020
If Vegas steers the ship with Fleury, a gamble on Melnichuk would be worth the risk. However, if they extended Lehner, he would be their ace. Leaving them the difficult and emotional decision of trading the face of the franchise.
Either way, when free agency opens up Vegas will have hopefully made up their mind because Lehner could be the first goaltender off the board. And possibly to a divisional rival.