Robin Lehner is now a Buffalo Sabre, but the new digs doesn’t mean better fantasy value.
Buffalo has spent the last couple of years stocking prospects and picks. The end-game was obvious: once this draft passed (with either McDavid or Eichel in the fold), the team would be starting to really rebuild their talent pool.
This process started in earnest when they acquired Evander Kane during the season. Today, they added more real-life NHLers to the lineup by trading the 21st overall pick from this year’s draft to the Ottawa Senators for goalie Robin Lehner and centre David Legwand. Lehner has two years left at $2.25-million per season while Legwand has one year left with a $3-million cap hit.
Buffalo desperately needed a goalie. They traded any goalie last year who dared try to win games, and they badly needed to re-tool at that position. Adding Robin Lehner does exactly that.
Like a few out there, I have been a big fan of Lehner over the years. He plays an aggressive style that could probably best be described as Jonathan Quick on speed, and with a similar temperament. Lehner is bigger, standing 6-foot-5, but he still plays very aggressive at the top, or often, outside of his crease.
Lehner had a couple of good short spurts earlier in his career, but his overall save percentage over the last two years has been below league average. In fact, when looking at his five-on-five save percentage over those two years, Robin Lehner is sandwiched between Antti Niemi and Curtis McElhinney. Assuredly, that’s not good company to be keeping.
*upate: That save percentage I cited was in all situation over those two years. Lehner’s five-on-five save percentage was sandwiched between Anders Lindback and Ray Emery. Not that it improves things.
Going to Buffalo won’t help. That team does have a bright future, but even a massive leap forward this year still has them well out of the playoff race. That blue line has promising players like Rasmus Ristolainen and Mark Pysyk, but they, too, are a ways away from really being stellar. Just ask Devan Dubnyk, Ben Scrivens, or James Reimer how easy it is to post stellar numbers behind a team that has the defensive properties of a straw house when the Big Bad Wolf is prowling around.
It’s not impossible to be good behind a bad defensive team. Ryan Miller’s save percentage was good in Buffalo before he was traded (though, of course, his goals against average was not). The same goes for Jonathan Bernier in 2013-2014. Lehner is far from proven though, and he hasn’t looked very good over the last couple of seasons.
For fantasy purposes, it looks like Lehner is the only guy worth consideration for drafts next year. Remember Jhonas Enroth though. Even a guy who should be a serviceable NHL goalie can look like a fish out of water against a team that can stop the opposition’s offence like Buffalo. In leagues that may just count saves and wins as part of point totals, Lehner could be passable as a late second goalie. In standard rotisserie leagues though, I would be surprised to see Lehner finish inside the top-25 goalies, from a fantasy perspective, next season.
Legwand is just a fill-in for Buffalo for now. The team probably won’t want to expose Eichel to top competition immediately, and Legwand and Zemgus Girgensons should help provide a buffer for Eichel to get his feet wet. Not saying that he isn’t ready for primetime, but that putting him up against guys like Steven Stamkos and Patrice Bergeron out of the gate probably isn’t very good for him.
I don’t really see much fantasy relevance for Legwand. He could be a 35-40 point player if he gets a load of time on ice, but that could be accompanied by a minus-15 rating. He doesn’t shoot much or take many penalties. Outside of the deepest leagues, Legwand can stay on the waiver wire.
Buffalo had to get another goalie, they achieved that and got some protection for Eichel. In all, not a bad haul for a late first round pick. This has been Buffalo’s plan all along, and the dominoes have just started falling. As far as fantasy relevance goes, in most leagues, there’s not much here.
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