Robin Lehner’s recent comments regarding his future contract negotiations with the Chicago Blackhawks don’t necessarily suggest or guarantee Lehner will be moved at the trade deadline this season but they do suggest the Blackhawks might make “a move.”
Jimmy Greenfield of the Chicago Tribune (subscription required) reports Robin Lehner has said he’s not opposed to staying in Chicago, but he’s certainly not going to make it any easier for the Blackhawks to keep him. Lehner said:
“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,”
Fair enough. This is a goaltender who now knows what his value is, what the market is for his services and is ready to finally say, ‘I’m done taking deals.’
What Does This Mean For the Blackhawks?
Lehner, 28, accepted what many deemed a deal to join Chicago in the first place. While he was paid well on a one-year deal ($5 million), that he couldn’t secure more than a one-year contract was a bit surprising but also indicative of what the market was doing at the time he became a free agent. Soon to be an unrestricted free agent again, Lehner sees his time to cash in as now.
If the Blackhawks aren’t willing to pay a fair price for Lehner and on a long-term deal, he’ll look to cash in where teams like the Detroit Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, San Jose Sharks, or Ottawa Senators might be looking to fill their own needs in net.
Let’s not forget, there are other teams who have decent goaltending situations this season but will also see those netminders needing new contracts. There could be as many as eight or nine teams with a need for a goaltender of Lehner’s qualifications. The end result? He’s going to get paid.
What Does This Mean for Crawford?
If Chicago determines Lehner is their No. 1 guy (and that appears to be where they’re leaning), this has to be a sign that Corey Crawford’s days are numbered. That is, unless he’s willing to take a significant hometown discount to stay.
Currently finishing off a $6 million per season deal, there’s no way Chicago can afford to have the same $11 million tied up in netminders as they do this season. What would a Crawford discount look like? That’s hard to say.
But, at 35 years old, this may be Crawford’s last chance to land any sort of deal of significance and the more he plays well this season (this hasn’t always been the case), the more likely a team looks to him as an option. And, if the Blackhawks can shed some salary, they might be inclined to do so.
Would the Blackhawks deal him this season before the deadline, retain salary to move him and put all their chips in on Lehner? Stranger things have happened.
The other question is, what if Lehner tells the Blackhawks he wants $6 or $7 million per season over 7 years? (I’m just throwing out numbers here). Is that enough to where the Blackhawks say, ‘Yeah, that’s too rich for our blood.’ and move him to a contender? A lot of that will depend on how the Blackhawks perform over the next few weeks. Right now, their shot at the playoffs aren’t looking so good.
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