One of the biggest needs the Vegas Golden Knights will need to address this off-season is their goaltending.
While future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury is still under contract through the 2021-22 season, the Vegas Golden Knights are likely going to need a new backup netminder for next year.
We have covered this particular subject extensively and exhaustively already, but Robin Lehner is a pending UFA and will likely test the open market for the fourth time since 2017.
Looking for both security and an Average Annual Value of anywhere between $6-$7 million per year, Lehner will be out of the Golden Knights price range.
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Vegas could of course trade a top-six forward in order to free up cap space to re-sign Lehner, but robbing Peter to pay Paul doesn’t make sense given how this roster is currently constituted.
Plus, paying $13-$14 million to two goaltenders isn’t conducive to success in a hard cap sport, especially when the salary cap is likely to be frozen at $81.5 million for the 2020-21 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, if I was a betting man I would put a large amount of money on Lehner not returning to Sin City next year.
That would be a crying shame given Lehner’s elite ability and the fact he is just hitting his prime, but this is life and you win some and you lose some.
Let’s just hope that hockey does return this year and Lehner can help the Golden Knights win the Stanley Cup as a parting gift.
Looking ahead, however, and if Lehner isn’t back in 2020-21 then Vegas will need to dip their toe in the free agency pool for a new backup.
Of course, the Knights won’t be flush in cap space so they will need to sign the right player at the right price.
But what exactly constitutes the right player?
Let us explore that question.
First and foremost, the Golden Knights crave a reliable backup that can carry a lot of the workload in order to keep Marc-Andre Fleury fresh down the stretch and for the postseason.
When we say reliable we mean a goalie that can not only play between 25-35 games a season, but perform at a high-level and on a consistent basis.
As talented as Malcolm Subban was, the now Chicago Blackhawks goalie was maddeningly inconsistent and he was guilty of struggling when coming in cold.
As a result, the Golden Knights should be on the hunt for a veteran with a wealth of experience under his belt, who knows how to prepare for games and has a vast knowledge when it comes to the life of a backup goalie in the NHL.
He should be cool under pressure given that he will be playing under the bright lights of Sin City, while he needs to be ready to be called upon at any given moment.
Boasting good size to fill the net and mobile so he can execute his lateral movements well will also be important markers to check.
Now, granted, Fleury will still be the main man for the Golden Knights going forward and it is possible that Oscar Dansk is called up from the AHL on occasion too.
However, given Fleury’s advanced age, it is imperative that the elite goalie is given ample rest down the stretch so that he can be at the peak of his powers for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It was clear that both the coaching staff and the front office were not comfortable with riding Subban through key stretches, so whoever comes in as the new backup needs to be trustworthy from the get-go.
They also need to have plenty left in the tank too in-case they are needed in the postseason, while having the ability to play the puck and help out his defense would also tick a significant box.
All in all the Golden Knights will need to make sure they do their homework in order to sign the right man in free agency.
They have plenty of options to choose from, and we will be going through some of them later this week, but if the Vegas Golden Knights can match the criteria we’ve listed above then they will have a more than capable backup goaltender on their hands for the 2020-21 NHL season.