TSN’s Darren Dreger was first to report the move.
All together, it is a three-team trade involving the Golden Knights, Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs. Chicago initially traded Lehner to Toronto, only for the Leafs to retain half of Lehner’s $5 million cap hit. Lehner was moved to Vegas for a 2021 fifth-round pick, and Toronto sent the rights to 22-year-old forward prospect Martins Dzierkals to the Golden Knights.
In return, the Blackhawks received Malcolm Subban, prospect defenseman Slava Demin, and a 2020 second-round pick from Vegas that was originally owned by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Golden Knights went into Monday’s trade deadline seemingly targeting a defenseman — one of Tyson Barrie, Sami Vatanen, or Eric Gustafsson. The price was clear for Barrie at about 6 a.m. Monday, per TSN’s Bob McKenzie; a first-round pick and a prospect. The Maple Leafs decided to retain Barrie at the buzzer.
Goaltending, however, did not appear to be the calling card for Vegas at the deadline, but apparently enough to trade for Lehner, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in 2019 when he was a member of the New York Islanders. Lehner was the recipient of the 2019 Masterton Trophy.
Lehner started 46 games for the Islanders last season, going 25-13-5 as New York reached the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Lehner signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Blackhawks on July 1. He’s 16-10-5 this season with a .918 save percentage and a 3.10 goals-against average in 2019-20.
At first glance, while unexpected, this is a win-now move for Vegas that can work. While Subban, 26, has time to eventually become a No. 1 goalie for an NHL team, the Golden Knights were not going to get anywhere over-utilizing Marc-Andre Fleury as they were. Subban filled in admirably while Fleury was on his leave of absence after the death of his father — 4-2-1 in seven starts with a .909 save percentage — but the consistency has not been there for Subban and his .890 save percentage this season.
One can make the argument that it would’ve helped Vegas to play Subban more — Subban had 63 starts with Vegas to Fleury’s 152 — but Subban allowed four goals or more in 21 of those starts. While another argument can be made about the play of the Golden Knights in front of Subban, it’s a numbers game, and they did not support Subban in that fashion.
And while the numbers also don’t support Lehner as of late (32 goals allowed in his past nine starts), consider who was playing in front of him. The Blackhawks, unsure whether they’re in a rebuild or not, are eight points back of the first wild card in the West. For as good as Lehner can be, he wasn’t going to save that team.
With 18 games remaining this season, the Golden Knights now hold two No. 1 goalies in their collective back pocket. While Fleury has rebounded to win his past four starts, his numbers remain pedestrian at best (25-14-5, .906 save percentage, 2.79 GAA). With Lehner, Pete DeBoer has more of a luxury knowing he has another goalie to go to should Fleury need rest.
The other glaring question: Is Lehner a rental? The Golden Knights will have $12 million committed to two top-tier goalies. Fleury, 35, has two years remaining on a four-year, $28 million extension ($7 million AAV) he signed following the inaugural season. How Vegas handles the goaltending situation this year and, really, beyond next, will be interesting.
This story will be updated following general manager Kelly McCrimmon’s availability this afternoon.