Even with the salary cap projected to stay flat for at least the next year, the Golden Knights aren’t in a terrible place. However, the move most hope (expect?) them to make remains nearly impossible without blowing up another part of the team.
Of course, I’m talking about re-signing Robin Lehner to a long-term extension. Reasonably, Lehner could be asking for anywhere between $5-$8 million after completing consecutive strong seasons. It’s always possible that number comes in a little lower if he gets the proper length and maybe even a no-move clause, but there’s little chance he’s going to be worth less than $3 million per season for the foreseeable future.
The Golden Knights needed two teams to retain salary to make room for Lehner when they first acquired him. Now, if they want to keep him, it’ll likely mean a major player or two shown the door.
So, rather than exploring the options of who to get rid of, let’s look at some of the potential options to replace Lehner. Aside from Lehner, there are a few free agents and there will be plenty of trade options with the Expansion Draft right around the corner, but the best place might be the under-utilized restricted free agent market, one that’s teeming with excellent back-up/long-term future options for the Golden Knights this offseason.
Here are those RFAs.
Alexandar Georgiev – New York Rangers
24-years old, 77 career NHL games (35 wins)
2019-20 Cap Hit: $792,500
The Rangers are headed for a bit of a tough spot when they break training camp to start the 2020-21 season. With Henrik Lundqvist under contract for another season at $8.5 million and a no-move clause in tow, he’s essentially guaranteed to be on the roster. They’ll then have to choose between Georgiev and fellow Russian Igor Shesterkin. Shesterkin is waiver exempt for another season, so they have the ability to keep Georgiev and hide Shesterkin in the AHL for another season, but Shesterkin was so good in his short time in the NHL that they may not want to do that.
Thus, if the Rangers believe more in Shesterkin than Georgiev, the latter could be ripe for the picking for the Golden Knights.
Tristan Jarry – Pittsburgh Penguins
25-years-old, 62 career NHL games (34 wins)
2019-20 Cap Hit: $675,000
Poaching Penguins goalies is one of the Golden Knights’ great past-times. The Penguins actually have two goalies headed for restricted free agency this offseason (Matt Murray is the other) and another under contract for $1.25 million through 2021-22 (Casey DeSmith).
Jarry might actually be the best of the three, yet he also may be the most affordable. No matter which way the Penguins go, there will be at least one goalie available and with the Expansion Draft on the horizon, they could lose another as well. Jarry shouldn’t be in line for too much of a raise and the situation could hurt his trade value as well.