The Logical Scenario
So, let’s fast forward to the off-season and the Vegas Golden Knights have decided that they can’t lose Robin Lehner.
They also don’t want to cut ties with franchise goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, plus having two elite goalies on the roster will extend their Stanley Cup window further.
And, given that Lehner is a whole seven years younger than Fleury, the Knights would have their future starter in place once the future Hall of Famer hangs up his skates.
However, in order to lock down Lehner long-term, the front office would have to be prepared to pay significant dollars.
Let’s settle on an AAV of $6 million for say four years, meaning that the Golden Knights would be spending $13 million on two goalies through the 2021-22 season with Fleury’s contract up then.
With the cap for 2020-21 likely to be frozen at $81.5 million in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vegas would have to make a tough decision in order to keep Lehner on the roster.
In other words, they would have to rob Peter in order to pay Paul.
With a loaded top-six forward unit, arguably one of the best in the NHL, the Golden Knights would have to trade one of those pieces to create the cap room needed to re-sign Lehner to a long-term deal.
Veteran center Paul Stastny would be the most obvious candidate given that he regressed in 2019-20 with 38 points (17 goals, 21 assists) in 71 games, although his $6,500,000 AAV would be tough to move.
The Knights would likely have to retain some of Stastny’s salary in order to move him, and that won’t help with their salary cap situation.
Instead, moving a top-six winger in the ilk of Reilly Smith, who carries an Average Annual Value of $5,000,000 through 2021-22, could be the better option.
It would be a tough decision given what Smith brings to the table in terms of both skill and leadership, but the Golden Knights would have no choice to deal away a potent piece of their top-six forward unit if they wanted to keep intact their deadly one-two punch between the pipes.
Unless of course…