The New York Islanders signing goaltender Robin Lehner to a one-year deal could prove to be the steal of the free agency.
After this past season, one thing was very clear for the New York Islanders. No matter what decision John Tavares made (we all know how that went), the team needed to find an upgrade in goal before the start of the season.
They were linked to former Washington Capitals goaltender Philipp Gruabuer at the draft until they traded him to the Colorado Avalanche. They were also in discussion with free agent Carter Hutton who signed with the Buffalo Sabres on the opening day of free agency.
The Islanders found their short-term solution on the third day of free agency, signing former Sabre Robin Lehner to a team-friendly, one-year deal worth $1.5 million.
The deal benefits both the Isles and Lehner in giving the 26-year-old (turning 27 later this month), the opportunity to prove himself.
Players tend to perform better during their contract year, but that wasn’t the case for Lehner (though no fault of his own). Starting for the 31st place Sabres, his numbers reflect the second-worst defensive team in the league, only falling short of the defensively terrible Isles.
So technically, Lehner would go from playing behind the second-worst defensive team to the worst defensive team of this past decade, but that won’t officially be the case.
While their defense has declined on paper with Calvin de Haan heading to the Carolina Hurricanes, a new system and the addition of a few defensive-minded forwards (Leo Komarov, Valtteri Filppula, Matt Martin) will drastically improve the team’s defensive-woes.
Now Lehner get’s a second chance to play during a contract year and another chance to be a starting goaltender at the NHL level. Whether it’s attempting to earn an extension with the Islanders or trying to gain interest from other clubs, Lehner has something to prove.
The 6-foot-4, 225-pound netminder has been the starter in Buffalo since he came over ahead of the 2015-16 season (although he was hurt for most that season) and his numbers have varied.
Playing in Buffalo has done no favors to his record. Despite his 42-61-22 record over the past three seasons, he has posted a .916 save percentage (Sv%), a 2.77 goals against average (GAA), and six shutouts.
In his career, which includes parts of five seasons as the backup for the Ottawa Senators, Lehner is 72-97-35 with a .915 Sv%, a 2.82 GAA and eight shutouts.
Yesterday, the Islanders announced an addition to the coaching staff, naming Lane Lambert associate coach.
Head coach Barry Trotz and Lambert have worked together since their days in Nashville with the Predators.
Lambert isn’t the only former Capital that Trotz hopes will join the staff.
Goaltending guru Mitch Korn is reportedly deciding between staying with the Capitals or joining Lambert and Trotz on Long Island.
According to Andrew Gross of Newsday, the team has had discussions with Korn, who is largely responsible for developing several goaltenders including Braden Holtby and Grubauer.
On Sirius XM NHL Network, Barry Trotz confirms #Isles have had "dialog" with goalie coach Mitch Korn. Says nothing "imminent" in terms of Korn re-joining Trotz with Isles, says Korn is weighing his options.
— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) July 5, 2018
If Korn were to join the Isles’ staff, he could potentially do wonders for Thomas Greiss and the newest netminder, Lehner.