The Vegas Golden Knights goalies are, luckily to the team, both starting-calibre. While their original starter, 35-year-old Marc-Andre Fleury has played well, how much longer will he be able to do that? The other goalie, newly acquired Robin Lehner will be 29-years-old in July and will also be an unrestricted free agent. He signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Chicago Blackhawks last summer and was dealt to the Knights during this year’s Trade Deadline, tremendously boosting the Vegas Golden Knights goalies corps.
Vegas Golden Knights Goalies Situation
Fleury’s statistics show he’s still competitive and it will take quite a bit to remove him from the Vegas crease. Over the last three seasons, while in Vegas, his numbers show a slight tapering off from his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He’s tallied a 91-50-14 record with a .915 save percentage and a 2.51 goals-against-average with Vegas. He’s also collected 17 shutouts. Yet, over this current season, he has shown a 27-16-5 record with a .905 save percentage and a 2.77 goals-against-average. He had shutout opponents five times during the now-suspended 2019-20 campaign.
So, with age slowly catching up to Fleury and the luxury of having a very capable goalie to split games with, will Fleury accept that decrease? He’s averaged 52 games played over the last three seasons, and dropping that down to evenly split with Lehner may be something Fleury won’t want to accept.
Salary Cap Questions
Now, there is no guarantee that Lehner will be in a Golden Knights jersey next season. The team will have about $11.4 million in cap space this summer. With a very strong season this year, Lehner is sure to ask for, at least, $5 million on his next deal as well. Of course, the Knights can’t dedicate all of their energy to Lehner. They have seven other NHLers on expiring contracts, meaning the money they do have will have to be divided.
Let’s assume that Lehner will want $6-7 million to keep him in Vegas. That will, obviously, take some doing. While keeping Lehner seems to be an astute roster move, we still don’t know if he even has any interest to stay, or if he will test the free-agent market. His departure may put the Vegas team in a bind with the ever-pressing question about Fleury’s stamina and play level likely to decrease.
Apparently Lehner never really wanted to leave Chicago. The Blackhawks just didn’t seem too motivated to keep him for some reason. He played in three games for Vegas before the season was suspended. He won all three games and maintained a .940 save percentage with a stellar 1.67 goals-against-average, including a shutout. With that as a preview, the Golden Knights certainly will do what they can to retain his services. It usually comes down to money, and his situation is no different.
If Lehner Leaves
The possibility of Lehner leaving is definitely something that the Vegas management team will need to consider. With two more years remaining in Fleury’s contract, they know he’ll be around but what happens if Lehner leaves to free agency?
They have a couple of young goaltenders in Oscar Dansk who performed well in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves this season. He played 35 games with a 2.57 goals-against-average and a .908 save percentage. Dylan Ferguson is another possibility and he played in the WHL for the 2018-19 season performing in 49 games with a 3.01 goals-against-average and a .908 save percentage.
If Lehner Stays
This is, of course, the best cause of action to keep the goaltending tandem as skilled as possible. We may not get to see how well that tandem works if the season and playoffs aren’t resumed this season. It doesn’t seem to make any sense for the team to acquire him as a rental and allow him to sign elsewhere. He would certainly give the Vegas team an additional weapon to perhaps get that first Stanley Cup.
With the current suspension of play, it allows the player’s additional rest and the management more time to evaluate what direction to go with the roster.
One thing is certain… the Vegas Golden Knights are a much better team with Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury as goaltending options. They were already difficult enough for opposing teams to beat. Adding Lehner for say a five-year contract would put their chances even higher… if that’s possible.
The Vegas Golden Knights goalies will be just fine.