Robin Lehner deal a rare win for the Islanders

ByGreg Wyshynski ESPN logo
Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The player: Robin Lehner, 26, G

The terms: One year at $1.5 million with the New York Islanders

Where does he fit in?

With the departure of Jaroslav Halak to the Boston Bruins via free agency, the team was desperate for a veteran complement to Thomas Greiss, the 32-year-old signed through 2020.

Truth be told, they were probably also looking for an upgrade, and it could be argued that Lehner is one. He had a 3.01 goals-against average with a .908 save percentage and three shutouts in 53 games with the Buffalo Sabres last season, going 14-26-9 with the last-place team. His percentage of quality starts (.480) was hired than that of Greiss (.380). Neither of them were better than a league-average goalie facing the same shot volume, but Lehner's minus-6.08 goals-above-replacement was much closer to respectability than Greiss (minus-17.85).

Simply put: Lehner is a starter, having topped 50 starts in each of the last two seasons, while Greiss never has.

But there are downsides to Lehner, of course. The stats weren't good enough to warrant the salary and term he was seeking after the Sabres declined to extend a qualifying offer to him, making him an unrestricted free agent. (A move that was expected, given that he was acquired by former GM Tim Murray rather than current GM Jason Botterill).

Then there's his, ahem, eclectic demeanor, which has been outrageous at times -- even when you consider he's a goalie. In other words, the Islanders just signed a player who claimed on the record last season at the NHL had "predetermined" video reviews would go against the Sabres in a vast multi-sport conspiracy against the city of Buffalo.

Does this deal make sense?

The Islanders had one of the worst weeks in franchise history in losing star John Tavares to Toronto and defenseman Calvin de Haan to the Hurricanes, while insufficiently addressing these losses by acquiring Valtteri Filppula, Leo Komarov and former Islander Matt Martin.

At this point, anything remotely positive should be lauded, and Lehner has the potential to be a positive addition, and he came in cheaper than nearly every goalie on the UFA market (including Halak).

The one-year term is not only a "show me" deal, but a way to ensure that there's space in the crease in case Linus Soderstrom or (Islanders fans pray) Ilya Sorokin are ever ready to take it over.

Overall Grade: B

Sometimes, you take what you can get. That goes for the Islanders in signing Lehner after other options were exhausted, and that goes for Lehner, who saw the carousel spin until it landed on a franchise in more disarray than the last one he played for. At least for Lou Lamoriello, the price is right.