Lately there has been a lot of chatter surrounding the Sabres and moves they could make this off-season. The most surprising name to come up for a lot of Sabres fans is goalie Robin Lehner.
Lehner, 25, is fresh off of his first full healthy season as the Sabres’ number one goaltender. He finished with a GAA of 2.68 and a SV% of 0.920, pretty solid stats on a bad team.
However with a new GM at the helm the Sabres seem to be evaluating their options at goalie.
Some chatter over Buffalo exploring its goalie options. Lehner an RFA come July 1.
— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) June 8, 2017
This may come as a surprise to some people given Lehner’s numbers, and the fact that he showed he would be a capable number one goalie on a better team. However you cannot blame Botterill for coming in and at least exploring all possible options.
What are GMJB’s options for Lehner?
1) Sign Lehner to s short term contract…
Lehner, a pending RFA this July needs a new contract regardless of where he plays next year. Since Botterill wants to evaluate his options in net giving Lehner a one or two year prove it deal could be a wise decision. Committing to Lehner short term would make a lot of sense since alternative options are very slim. Giving Lehner a prove it deal is low risk and high reward, if it pays off then Botterill can commit to him as the long term starter, and if he isn’t up to the task then after the deal both sides can move on.
2) Trade Lehner and look for another goalie…
If Botterill does decide to move on from Lehner it would be via trade, and since Botterill has no ties to Lehner moving on from him would be easy for the new regime. The difficult part would be replacing a 25-year-old solid starting goalie. Ullmark and Johansson are the other two goalies in the organization and neither are ready to be a full time NHL starter.
Other capable goalies are hard to come by but there are a few options if the Sabres can pull off a deal. The two that come to mind are Phillipp Grubrauer of the Washington Capitals and Joonas Korpisalo of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Grubrauer has been very good in his 66 NHL games, posting a 0.922 SV% and a 2.28 GAA, and since the Capitals are clearly protecting Holtby for the expansion draft Grubrauer is a piece that can be pulled away.
Korpisalo has less experience, only appearing in 45 games, but has a solid record and a 0.915 SV% and a 2.68 GAA. Like Grubrauer, Korpisalo is stuck behind a Vezina caliber goalie in Bobrovsky and could be traded prior to the expansion draft.
Both could be alternatives to Lehner, but don’t have the experience that Lehner does as a starter.
3) Sign Lehner to a long term contract…
This option doesn’t seem likely but it is a possibility if Botterill ends up deciding that Lehner is the Sabres’ starting goalie of the future. Signing Lehner to a five year deal could make sense if they beleive in Lehner and if the cap hit Lehner desires is reasonable but this option doesn’t seem to be in the cards for the near future.
So what should the Sabres do with Lehner? Keep him short or long term? or try and find another young goalie who can replace him? give us your feedback on social media @SabresFanatics and to myself @austin_broad.
Stats and info for this article provided by hockeydb.com