With the 2019-20 season being written off, looking ahead at the 2020-21 offseason, the Detroit Red Wings goaltending answer is Robin Lehner.
The Detroit Red Wings have a goaltending core that will need a replacement this offseason as Jimmy Howard is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. The answer for their search may be clear cut already, with plenty of cap room, signing veteran Robin Lehner might create a strong tandem for the team.
Current Red Wings goaltender, Jonathan Bernier, has emerged as the starter after Howard has struggled immensely. Bernier will be under contract for the 2020-21 season, but the team will need another goaltender to split time with him. The organization did bring Calvin Pickard in this past offseason, but he is nothing more than an American Hockey League (AHL) pick up for the organization.
Looking at the market, Lehner seems like the perfect get for the Red Wings, who could create an exceptional tandem between Bernier and Lehner. Lehner has had quite the past two seasons in the National Hockey League (NHL) and a steady two to three year contract might be best for the netminder.
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Lehner was recently moved from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Vegas Golden Knights, where he is serving as the team’s back up to Marc-Andre Fleury.
Serving as the back up to Fleury, he will ride out the remainder of the 2019-20 season and then hit the market as a twenty-nine-year-old unrestricted free agent.
This year, with the Blackhawks, he carried a 16-10-5 record with a .918 save percentage (SV%) and a 3.20 goals-against average (GAA) before getting moved to the Golden Knights.
This comes just a year after he finished third in the league for Vezina voting, and won the Jennings and Masterton awards for his performances on and off the ice. For those who are unaware, the Masterton award is given to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the game.
Lehner has battled some mental health issues while playing hockey, and in 2018-19 he opened up about this battle, all while posting Vezina candidate numbers with the New York Islanders. Lehner posted a .930 SV% and a 2.27 GAA for the Islanders that season. He has regressed a little bit from the dominant goaltender he as in 2018-19, but could still be a valuable asset to the Red Wings goalie tandem.
If the Red Wings want to ensure that the younger players can continue to develop, knowing their goaltenders will not be letting in five goals a game before being pulled as Howard has been, it may be the best move. Now the defense in front of the goalies has not been the most stellar, but with Bernier and Lehner as the two netminders, the Red Wings should be able to stay in more games and compete.
General Manager Steve Yzerman needs to start his free-agent scouting now and take note of goaltender Lehner from the Golden Knights as the season concludes. Hopefully, Lehner can become part of the “Yzer-plan.”