There is no live hockey to talk about so instead we have to make do with looking to the future for the Vegas Golden Knights.
Part of that involves looking ahead to what the Vegas Golden Knights might do in both the NHL 2020 Entry Draft and in free agency.
While there is a lot more to come, we have started to produce some content when it comes to the off-season and that has included taking a look at the seven pending free agents the Golden Knights have to deal with.
Chief among them, of course, is goalie Robin Lehner who is a pending UFA and is set to hit free agency for the fourth time in as many years.
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We have covered this already but, just to recap, the Golden Knights did what they never do by pulling the trigger on a pure rental at the Trade Deadline, sending a package containing a 2020 second-rounder and netminder Malcolm Subban to the Chicago Blackhawks for Lehner.
Despite knowing that there was a very real chance Lehner could opt to test free agency in the off-season, Vegas General Manager Kelly McCrimmon felt it was a risk worth taking given that Lehner would give the Golden Knights a deadly one-two punch between the pipes alongside Marc-Andre Fleury.
However, and like everything else in the world, things have changed drastically in the NHL in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Due to the impact of no games and no income, the NHL is likely to freeze the salary cap at $81.5 million for the 2020-21 season, even if hockey does return this year.
As a result, the Golden Knights will have around $8 million in cap space to re-sign seven free agents and try to fill out the roster.
Given that Lehner’s average annual value in 2019-20 was $5 million, the chances of the 28-year-old returning to Sin City next year are slim.
And some Golden Knights fans need to accept that Lehner probably isn’t going to come back.
Even if the 2018-19 Vezina Trophy finalist was interested in a hometown discount, it is likely that the Golden Knights wouldn’t have the wriggle room to go above $2 million per year.
That is a huge pay cut and, when you consider that he’s in his prime years and that his stock is still high, Lehner could easily go and get his worth elsewhere in free agency.
While all teams will feel the impact post-COVID-19, you can’t win without elite goaltending and there will be a franchise out there willing to pay Lehner his worth.
It is a tough pill to swallow given Lehner’s ability and the talent he showed in a three-game sample size for the Knights, but it just isn’t feasible to overpay for a backup goalie in a hard cap sport.
Now, some will argue that Lehner should be re-signed and Marc-Andre Fleury traded or bought out, but that just isn’t going to happen.
Fleury is a future Hall of Famer and this franchise has been built around the three-time Stanley Cup champion – he is worth more to the Golden Knights than just his stellar play on the ice.
Plus, under contract through 2021-22 with an average annual value of $7,000,000, no team will be willing to take on that kind of cap hit, especially in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19.
Instead, the Golden Knights are better suited to trying to find a long-term heir to Fleury via the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, or by exploring this option.
The only way the Golden Knights could pay Lehner what he is worth is by trading away a piece of their potent top-six forward group, but that would be weakening one area just to strengthen another which isn’t a good way to construct a team.
As a result, it is time to just get used to the fact that, barring a miracle, Robin Lehner’s days with the Vegas Golden Knights are likely numbered whether hockey returns this year or not.
That is just the cruel nature of sports.