Headline: Hawks sign Robin Lehner to a one-year, $5M deal.
Like all these things, I hesitate to write it up because it definitely feels like there’s another shoe or two to drop. On the surface, it doesn’t make that much sense. An $11M goaltending tandem on a team that’s screaming for other things–like any d-man who can skate or actual top-six help instead of the generic answer of Andrew Shaw–is weird. Sure, Lehner is a far surer answer than Collin Delia for whatever games the Hawks thought Delia would get. Is that worth $5M?
Lehner isn’t a sure thing himself. This is not a Trotz team in front of him, and he’s only a year removed from a .908 season behind a porous Sabres team. He also had a .924 behind that Sabres team, so he’s done this thing before. He’s a pretty good goalie, let’s say that.
So let’s deal with the questions. The big one being….
What does it mean for Corey Crawford?
Anything? One, it could be that the Hawks know that Crawford’s health is permanently tainted or gone, and might not even play. There hasn’t been a whisper of that all summer, and given the way he finished the season that didn’t seem to be the case at all. Things obviously could have changed, and maybe Crawford has hinted to the team he doesn’t want to play anymore. Again, there hasn’t been a sliver of that in the wind at all, and would be a surprise.
Two, the Hawks don’t trust Crawford’s health, which makes way more sense. They think they have a chance at the playoffs (and in the West, anyone should), and don’t want it to be torched by another Crawford absence and they don’t think Delia is up to the challenge of carrying them. Delia flashed some things last year but he didn’t prove that he can carry and NHL workload yet. If you think it’s imperative the Hawks make the playoffs this year, or more to the point if they do, they don’t want to risk that on a kid with 18 games in the NHL. Fair.
Three, they’re going to try to move Crawford. He is in the last year of his deal. He’ll be 35 when the season ends. Even given perfect health, the question of re-signing him is going to be a very tricky one all season and especially next summer. And teams would still want Crawford. You an’t just trade for goalies with two Jennings and two rings every day, even with his very dicey health status. Fuck, wouldn’t the Flames leap at the chance right now? The Canes? The Sharks? That’s off the top of my head. It’s not a possibility I want to think about, but it’s there.
We’ve seen this here before, which was Huet and Khabibulin. The latter was going into the last year of his deal, but that combined with having his starting role challenged inspired Khabby to a pretty good year as the Hawks returned to the playoffs. Still, it seems odd. If Crawford is healthy and staying, then there’s no way the Hawks are going to evenly split these starts. Maybe 50-32? You can see why they’d do that, because there would be little if any drop and the Hawks are determined to get .920 goaltending most if not every night.
Isn’t Lehner a raging dickbag?
Why yes, he is. But we lost that fight long ago, and he probably isn’t the only one. No ethical capitalism and all that.
Still, the Hawks are now down to just $1M in cap space, which makes an Anisimov trade almost mandatory now for any in-season flexibility. And they’re a cap team with no top pairing d-man and a hole on the wings. That’s…abstract. And if they can’t find a home for Arty, are they going to have to lose Connor Murphy just to open up any kind of space? Saad?
Yes, the Hawks are improved by having Lehner over Delia, whatever that role ends up being. Are they if it’s Lehner and Delia with Crawford traded? Depends on the return. Or if Crawford is on LTIR all year, depends on what they do with it.
We’ll need answers. Because these seem a lot of questions.