Following his departure from the Sabres, which is a kind way of saying they didn’t want him back, it seemed inevitable that Robin Lehner would find a job somewhere. On Tuesday night, he signed a one-year deal with the New York Islanders with a cap hit of $1.5-million.
The Islanders appear set to go into 2018-19 with Lehner and Thomas Greiss as their tandem.
As far as keeping other goalies down, there isn’t much in the system that seem to be pressing matters. Christopher Gibson is the youngest goalie they had in Bridgeport last year and he turns 26 in December. They still have the rights to 21-year old Linus Soderstrom who is over in Sweden. There really isn’t much else to worry about as far as goaltender depth goes so this is pretty much just status quo for the franchise, save for having a veteran tandem to work with.
Lehner fared well over his three years in Buffalo; his .925 save percentage at five-on-five has him between Henrik Lundqvist and Semyon Varlamov and his .916 save percentage at all strengths was in the middle of the league, tied with Tuukka Rask. Fantasy hockey owners know how much almost any goalie’s stats can vary one year to the next but considering the quality of the team in front of him from 2015-2018, Lehner performed about as well as one could hope.
Though getting out of Buffalo to almost any other franchise should help Lehner, at least in terms of shots faced, going to the Islanders is one of the few destinations where things might get worse. Last year, the Islanders were bottom-3 in shot attempts allowed at five-on-five while also having the second-highest expected goals against. They allowed a lot of shots and a lot of those shots were high-quality. Since the final game of the year, they lost John Tavares and added Tom Kuhnhackl (?), Leo Komarov (??), and Matt Martin (???). They have done nothing so far to address their blue line and Calvin de Haan is still uncertain to return in free agency. Despite a strong draft, everything since has gone about as poorly as possible. Barring new coach Barry Trotz somehow instilling lockdown defence with a worse roster than last year, it’s hard to see how this team improves defensively.
Therein lies the problem with Lehner in Brooklyn. He could actually perform well as he has in prior seasons with Buffalo, like when he had a .920 save percentage in 2016-17, but his GAA was just under 2.70 because he faced so many shots. They’ll be better offensively than that Buffalo team, which should lead to more wins, but right out of the gate, anyone with Lehner on their roster is surrendering any hopes of a decent GAA.
With a legitimate tandem, it seems a timeshare is likely here, where the hot hand gets the nod in goal. Given the defensive issues of this team, drafting either goalie with hopes they’ll be a solid fantasy contributor is a longshot. Honestly, I’d rather have a backup from a good team than Lehner, and that speaks more to the team’s defensive issues than Lehner as a goalie.
Also, there was this from Joe Yerdon at The Athletic, and I can already picture Lehner’s freakouts at the d-zone coverage, or lack thereof:
Well… he can make a lot of brilliant saves. He can also give up some real head-scratchers. He always seems on the precipice of being a really good/great goalie and then things go sideways for a little bit. I fear his reactions if the Isles D plays the same way as last year. https://t.co/iiFBFo2m78
— Joe Yerdon (@JoeYerdon) July 3, 2018
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