2018-19 was a great season for Robin Lehner. After struggling to the point of being non-tendered in Buffalo, he performed quite well with the Islanders but was still only able to land a one-year deal in free agency with Chicago, who gave him $5MM for the season. Once January 1st rolled around, he became eligible to sign an extension with the Blackhawks. John Dietz of the Daily Herald spoke with Lehner who was quick to point out that while he enjoys it there, he won’t be taking any discounts to stick around:
I’ve taken discounts my whole life. I’m not a guy that wants to be overpaid either. I want to gain some respect that I think I deserve and we’ll see if that happens or not.
At the very least, Lehner’s free agent case should be bolstered this summer. Teams were likely hesitant to commit back in July when he had only the one good year under his belt. However, he has played well this season and has posted a .922 save percentage, a mark that is well above league average and he knows that is going to work in his favor.
It’s a different summer this summer than last summer. I have another year under my belt in my new journey. The market is (also) wide open. There’s a lot of teams that need goalies (and) not that many goalies available.
As things stand, it certainly looks like there will be a shuffle of goalies this summer with players like Lehner (plus teammate Corey Crawford), Braden Holtby, and Jacob Markstrom at the top of the market with top backups like Thomas Greiss, Jaroslav Halak, and Anton Khudobin also certain to garner a lot of interest. At the very least, Lehner should be able to get a longer-term commitment and a raise which would make his decision to go the one-year route last summer a prudent one.
Staying in Chicago could ultimately be the best move for him though. With both his and Crawford’s deals coming off the books, they free up $11MM in cap space. While a good chunk of those savings will be put towards Alex DeBrincat’s new deal that kicks in next season, there is still enough for them to spend on a starting goalie. Lehner has been the better of the two so it’s likely that he’ll be the one they push to keep. But after having a quiet market last July, there will be several other suitors to contend with this time around.