NHL rumours: Is Robin Lehner becoming expendable in Vegas?

The Golden Knights of Vegas continue to impress in only their sixth year of existence. Going into the season, no one expected the Golden Knights to be in such good shape. Especially with the questions surrounding them. With Reuben Lehner missing for the season due to dual hip surgery, and Laurent Brossuyt losing a starter for the season as well, it was Logan Thompson tying the Golden Knights between the tubes.

Thompson’s performance to start the season exceeded expectations as the Golden Knights finished first in the Pacific Division. A very familiar place for Vegas since entering the league. Thompson’s play shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone because he did his best at the end of last season too with Lehner out with injury. Injuries caught up to the rest of the team against Vegas as they lost to teams they shouldn’t have missed out on in the playoffs.

With Thompson in the driver’s seat as the obvious number one in Vegas and backup Adin Hill playing well as well, there are few rumblings about Robin Lehner’s future in Vegas.

Lehner came on a trade during the 2019-20 season from the Chicago Blackhawks after returning to a professional career with the New York Islanders prior to that where he documented his struggles with mental health issues. At that time, Vegas Marc-Andre Fleury was number one and this tandem was the best in the NHL at that time.

During the team’s run in the 2020 Stanley Cup playoff bubble, Lehner re-signed with the Golden Knights. His new five-year contract carries a salary cap of $5 million. With the Golden Knights becoming a strapped team, Vegas moved on from Fleury in favor of Lehner. There was no way Vegas would pay $12 million for two goalkeepers.

Now two years later, Vegas is in a similar situation. Thompson would be due a raise because he’s currently playing on his entry-level deal that carries a maximum salary of $766,667. So, the Golden Knight has time as Thompson gets signed during the 2024-25 season. But if they want to keep Adin Hill as well, they’ll probably have to increase the max he’s made from $2.175 million to around $2.5 million or more, especially if he keeps those numbers high.

So that leaves Lehner out with $5 million, especially if Vegas wants to add chops elsewhere.

Another concern for Lehner is that he’s coming off double hip surgery. It takes a full season for goalkeepers to come back from that surgery. Just ask Jonathan Quick, Corey Schneider, and Becca Raine. Schneider is currently in the AHL and never really recovered from that surgery. It took Quick and Rinne some time.

So it would be difficult to get them straight back into the starter role, especially if Thompson got them back into the playoffs.

Now Lehner is in control of the narrative as he has a modified roster of eight non-commercial teams for the season. In the next two seasons that the no-trade list was adjusted, there were only five teams. So there are a large number of teams he can go to. But if they were on the list, he could veto any trade.

Again, teams will want to see what Lehner can do before trading for him. Or maybe they won’t. However, if a deal happens, Vegas may have to keep some of the money. In no way can a opposing team want to take on the $5 million salary cap. But that will be up to General Manager Kelly McCrimmon to decide.

Say Hill is pricing itself out of Vegas, and the Golden Knights might try to ride the Thompson-Lehner duo for one season and then try to trade Lehner. Especially if Thompson keeps up that pace.

We’ve seen Robin Lehner beat the odds before. It will be another point in such a wonderful story.

But that’s a situation to watch as the season progresses and when the off-season comes around.

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