The Vegas Golden Knights formally announced today the club has signed goaltender Robin Lehner to a five-year, $25M pact. The deal had been widely rumored since the NHL playoff bubble but Lehner denied there was a “handshake” deal in place. Today confirms the news and sets several balls in motion. VHN looks at the impact on the VGK going forward.
Lehner was acquired by the Golden Knights at the trade deadline from the Chicago Blackhawks in a deal that sent then-backup Malcolm Subban to the Windy City. He would start 16 of Vegas’ 20 playoff games, going 9-7 with a 1.99 GAA, .917 save percentage and four shutouts. Lehner has previously played for the Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, New York Islanders and Blackhawks.
There have been times in my life I’ve left the obvious unsaid, and trust me it always comes back to bite you. So here we go. Signing Robin Lehner at age 29 to a five-year, $25M does several things for the Golden Knights. It gives them cost certainty at the position in a world of shifting cap sands for the next five years. Both sides should be happy with the amount and term.
Lehner comes with some risk despite his past Vezina-nominee status and solid numbers this year between Chicago and Vegas. That said, if he truly has put his issues behind him by year three this will be a tremendous bargain signing if he puts up big numbers. Plus at 29, Lehner could be heading towards his prime years. For whatever reason, goaltenders seem to be peaking in their early-to-mid 30s in the last decade. Lehner points toward exactly that.
Lehner was the clear favorite heading into the playoffs as the starter no matter what head coach Pete DeBoer said in regards to a competition. His numbers weren’t bad in the playoffs and Vegas did make the Western Conference Final with Lehner in the top role. In the end it was more the inability to score than the goals against that doomed the Golden Knights.
It also removes the pencil and puts in ink the message that Marc-Andre Fleury’s time in Vegas is over. Having $12M tied up in two goaltenders is not feasible in the cap era, especially when the higher-paid Fleury would be the backup. Fleury has two years remaining on his deal at an AAV of $7M with no bonuses. Fleury had signed a three-year extension with the Golden Knights in 2018 which kicked in this past season.
The Ripple Effect
As of this signing, Vegas is out of cap room per CapFriendly. They still have a few loose ends to tie up with the roster and will need to make more moves. As of today, RFAs Nick Cousins and Chandler Stephenson plus UFAs Tomas Nosek, Jon Merrill and Deryk Engelland remain to be addressed.
While it’s possible to allow players like Engelland, Nosek and Merrill to just walk and qualify Cousins and Stephenson or let them walk, I don’t see the Golden Knights following that path. Indeed, looking ahead both Cousins and Stephenson could find solid roles on this team for several more years.
I can see Nosek allowed to go as I really feel that Peyton Krebs will be ready for the NHL next year and only cost $894k on the cap. Jack Dugan might push for a spot as well, and if he does his hit is only $925k.
Not only does this underscore the importance of moving Fleury’s contract as quickly as possible, but also another high-priced contract might be on the move as well. The more I look at Paul Stastny at $6.5M for one more year the more I think he might be the guy on the go. Of course, it would make sense to clear out something from the defensive corps if you land Alex Peitrangelo or Torey Krug but that’s putting the cart before the horse.
If Vegas does want to make a big splashy signing they’ll likely need all of the aforementioned $13.5M in cap room plus a little bit more. The downside to moving Stastny is you’ll need one of your younger centers to step up next season or go outside for help – which will cost you more money. Krebs is listed as both a center and wing, but it’s rare that a young forward is brought up in a center role immediately because of the defensive responsibilities that go along with the position. Usually younger players are broken in on the wing first. Recently-acquired Dylan Sikura also plays all three forward positions but it would be a bit of a stretch to see him launched into full-time NHL duty next year.
In the immediate future, Vegas needs to get busy. Golden Knights GM Kelly McCrimmon has his work cut out for him to keep the team competitive while dealing with cap issues. Trades are in order, because even if you execute a buyout you still have to make more room. Look for the VGK to be extremely busy working the phones and trying to make deals this week. Keep your phones handy, you’re going to need it!
What do you think Golden Knights fans? Is Lehner the long-term answer for this team? What would you do with Fleury? Let us know in the comments!
Tom’s Daily: Bullying; Bertuzzi Arb; Daley Retires
Tom’s Daily features news and notes from around the NHL in digest form.
Looks like the Vegas Reverse Retro jerseys are due to be announced in mid-November, along with several other teams according to Sports Business Journal. Not to be confused with the just-released golds.
I know a lot of people balked at the Islanders only getting two second round draft picks back for Devon Toews, but that haul would come to look pretty good in the days after the deal. Now Colorado has inked the promising young defender to a four-year deal. (NHL)
Trevor Daley has called it a career, and the Pittsburgh Penguins hire him as a hockey operations advisor. Many in the hockey community see Daley as a future GM. (PittsburghHockeyNow)
Tyler Bertuzzi received a $3.5M award in arbitration today. The 25-year-old was seeking a one-year, $4.25M deal while the Detroit Red Wings had countered at $3.15M. (TSN)
Arizona Coyotes top draft pick Mitchell Miller was charged with assault and violating the Ohio Safe Schools Act in February of 2016 for bullying an African American classmate with developmental disabilities. (AZCentral)
That’s it for today’s Tom’s Daily. Keep your browser pointed to VHN for the latest in the world of hockey.
Vegas Reverse Retro Jersey Confirmed?
Vegas Reverse Retro Jersey Appears Confirmed by Sports Business Journal Tweet
For the last few weeks there have been alleged leaks of different jerseys across social media including a red Vegas Golden Knights jersey. There have also been images of jerseys for the Anaheim Ducks, Pittsbrugh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers and even San Jose Sharks.
However, according to San Jose Sharks President Jonathan Becher, the alternate sweaters were a hoax:
Entertained by the alternate jerseys designs on social media labeled as based on inside info. We have creative fans! None of these designs are real
— Jonathan Becher (@jbecher) October 22, 2020
This tweet appears to refer to a Sharks jersey echoing the California Golden Seals that had been making the rounds, but also in saying “none” of these designs are real seems to be nodding towards all the designs floating out there. We’ve seen photos of jerseys for sale on eBay, posted on various websites, and proliferating on fan accounts. While I don’t always buy in to jersey rumors, in this case you could sense there might be fire and not just smoke.
This morning, Sports Business Journal put out the following tweet:
Sources: The #NHL and @Adidas are planning for a broader mid-November unveiling of the widely-rumored reverse retro-style jerseys. The fourth jerseys, as they’ve been referred to online, will be worn by teams in select games (@markjburns88).https://t.co/m92zAGgykS pic.twitter.com/mcz5hnIsNE
— Sports Business Journal (@sbjsbd) October 27, 2020
Interesting photo choice, eh?
This all but locks in that the NHL is indeed going to release the series of jerseys in a few weeks, including the red Vegas Reverse Retro jersey we spoke of last week. The jersey pays homage to the IHL’s Las Vegas Thunder with its “V” shaped striping, updated to Vegas Golden Knights colors. The jersey also features the team’s secondary star logo as the main crest. The Knight helm is on the shoulders.
While reception has been mixed, I think that once fans have a chance to see them for real they’ll be a stunner.
The Vegas Reverse Retro jersey will be worn for “select” games this season. Perhaps they will be worn against other teams with the jerseys. Since the original leak photo juxtaposed Vegas and an updated Wild Wing Anaheim Ducks jersey, it’s fair to assume that will be a matchup featuring the jerseys.
Another potential matchup for the red Vegas Reverse Retro jersey could be against the Colorado Avalanche. Nathan MacKinnon posted a picture of Quebec Nordiques-color gloves on his Instagram with the caption “new colors crazy”. The Avs moved out of La Belle Provence in the mid-90s because of economic considerations. But the baby blue jerseys remain popular with the retro crowd to this day… and those of us old enough to remember what a fierce Adams Division rival the Nordiques were.
We’re also seeing Dallas teasing a jersey release for Wednesday by showing us just a black piece of jersey fabric. This morning they posted the following video:
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) October 27, 2020
So it looks like the Stars are going to be going either monochromatic, or perhaps have just a very slight reference to the team’s signature green in them. But this release doesn’t match up with the Reverse Retro. It seems more in line with the VGK Golds that were released a few weeks ago.
Give it a few weeks Golden Knights fans. We will see the new Vegas Reverse Retro jersey out there soon.
Who Joins the Vegas Golden Knights in a Pandemic Division?
We here at VHN are in “fun mode” at this point of the off-season. It’s fun to follow thoughts and ideas that swirled at various points in the last few weeks but had to be shelved for stuff like “breaking news“, “Alex Pietrangelo” and “Robin Lehner vs. Marc-Andre Fleury IN A STEEL CAGE!”.
Well, maybe the last one combined reality with one of those crazy ideas…
But at this point, we don’t have any real idea of when the season will start. It appears less likely with the second wave of COVID-19 things actually do hit that January 1 initial projection. Vegas owner Bill Foley has speculated it could be February 1 if not later.
I think it’s a given that we will see a shorter season, likely 48 games. Historical precedence exists and for TV reasons the season has to end by the start of the Tokyo Olympics.
Likewise I don’t think you can play this season in a bubble, but you might be able to hub for part of it. If the teams did hub, I believe it would be at the start of the season. Once the border between Canada and the US is open again for non-essential travel I see things going back to what we consider “normal”.
So with that in mind, here are my predictions for Pandemic Division distribution for when the NHL would resume play in January/February.
Yes. A Canadian pandemic division would be essential and is actually a great size. Plus, it gives the Canadian networks must-watch matchups almost all the time to start the season. So we have Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver in the CD. Plus if the US/Canada border really does remain closed until at least January 1 if not beyond, it’s pretty much how the NHL has to proceed. So we might as well warm up to the idea now.
Look at the immediate benefits of Toronto/Montreal and Edmonton/Calgary hammering away at each other as they’ve always done. Then we have the potential for new rivalries with the Jets who are the only centralized team in Canada. Everyone else is closer to the coasts. Plus with Ottawa spending the way they are and with an owner saying they’ll win a Stanley Cup in four years, they’re a team to watch.
Obviously this leads to questions, such as structure for the remaining divisions, each of which will have eight teams because I’m having four divisions. What happens to the Golden Knights and the former Pacific Division?
What Happens To Vegas
The VGK will end up in a pandemic division with current rivals San Jose Sharks, Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. But to fill out the last three teams in the division, I’m going to draw a new map and create some awesome rivalries. Coming in as the last teams will be the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, and St. Louis Blues.
This would undoubtedly be the most fun possible for VGK fans because it grows the rivalry with Dallas; Colorado/Vegas will turn out to be the marquee matchup in my opinion; St. Louis wants its mojo back and has something to prove. Plus imagine the Pietrangelo vs. STL storyline playing out six times or more in a season.
I realize you might think this sounds like the creation of someone with inherent bias, but geographically it makes sense. Ignore for just the start of the season how Dallas hated being in the Pacific and left for the Central. It rekindles those old Ducks/Stars matchups that used to get out hand. Everyone will be gunning for Dallas and for Vegas. Colorado could be the best team in the NHL to start the season if healthy, yet in a division like this it will be survival of the fittest. Plus, even if you write off Arizona and the California teams (sorry Sharks fans) for the season, this setup gives you the potential for a great clash somewhere every single night.
This pandemic division was also altered from my first call. Originally it was an easy time to lump Buffalo, New Jersey, NYI, NYR, Boston, Philly, Pittsburgh and Columbus together. Nice and tidy. But that left me with that oddball “South” division which wasn’t very southern for half of it.
So as I always say, sacrifices have to be made, but the division might be better for it.
Now, I have a lineup I’m pretty happy with. I take the Minnesota Wild, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Buffalo Sabres, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins.
Wow – really shook up some things there! And broke off the traditional rivalries that go all the way back to the Patrick Division days with PIT/PHI and the NY teams. But let’s look at some of the crazy awesome upside here.
FOUR of the Original Six teams are in a division together. For Detroit, they only recently came back to the Eastern Conference. Chicago has been in the West for a long time and is now the only O-6 team out there. But look at it now! Hawks, Wings, Rangers and Bruins all in the same division. Rangers/Bruins has deep, angry roots and would be awesome to see renewed. Wings and Hawks much the same. Plus now Minnesota and Buffalo fans get a different perspective on things as well. I like how this works out for my “Southern” division as well. And for Buffalo it’s a chance to really finally establish that downstate rivalry in hockey.
Hopefully the NHL embraces the rare chance to realign and perhaps stoke some other unique rivalries. Initially I had this pandemic division looking somewhat differently than my final alignment. I had constructed a division that included the obvious Carolina Hurricanes, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers triangle.
Is now the time to say I miss the Atlanta Thrashers? RIP ATL hockey.
I was going to lump Washington in here with pretty much the rest of the Central Division, but I now realize that’s not going to play out as well as I first imagined.
So for my remaining five teams, I bring in the Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins.
And believe it or not, I think there’s some nice synergies here.
Nashville and Pittsburgh rivalry? Well, the Penguins (and former Pred Patric Hornqvist) did deny Music City a Stanley Cup. This also keeps the Crosby/Ovechkin thing going – but I’m really over that narrative. However it appears the NHL and NBC are not.
Nashville and Columbus used to be rivals in the Barry Trotz/Ken Hitchcock days, but that’s faded with the CBJ in the east. Perhaps now they could rekindle that, especially with John Tortorella as the new protagonist.
I also think that Philly, Washington and Pittsburgh are good teams that will compete with each other every night. Now you have a division with legit contenders and a defending Stanley Cup champion going head-to-head to start the season almost every night. And let’s face it, Columbus can completely spoil an evening for anyone every time out.
In creating my pandemic division setup I allowed for some rivalry retention as well as nods towards recent clashes. I think this is the best balance of geography and rivalry, but what do you think? How would you align your four divisions? Let us know in the comments!