Who will the Golden Knights turn to with Robin Lehner in the offseason? Exploring the options

Just two years ago the golden knights he had too much talent in the crease. Vegas had the advantage of choosing between Marc-Andre Fleury Y lehner robin each night, a tandem that allowed the fewest goals in the NHL. Now Fleury is gone, a victim of the salary cap reduction, and Lehner is expected to miss the entire 2022-23 season after it was determined he needs hip surgery, the team announced Thursday.

So where do the Golden Knights go from here? Laurent Brossoit, who served as Lehner’s backup for most of last season, also had offseason surgery. His timeline for his return is unclear, but there is a possibility that he may not be ready for the start of the season. That leaves Las Vegas with Logan Thompson — who impressed many with a 10-5-3 record down the stretch last season — and free-agent signing Michael Hutchinson.

Thompson showed himself well as a rookie in 2021-22, posting a .914 save percentage and an above-average 3.9 goals saved in 19 appearances. He has fast legs, covers the back of the net incredibly well and showed that he has the athleticism to play at the highest level. The more action he saw, the calmer he became in the crease, and it was one of the main reasons Vegas had any chance of making the playoffs in the closing days of the regular season.

Having said all that, it’s still an incredibly small sample size, especially at a position as volatile as goalie, so Las Vegas has its hopes of returning to contender status on a young goaltender with 17 NHL starts is Risky, to put it mildly.

Thompson has been successful at every level to this point, posting a .927 save percentage in 40 ECHL games and a .929 save percentage in 50 AHL games. The Golden Knights might decide to give him a chance to prove himself as a legitimate NHL starter.

A major selling point of going with Thompson is that it would leave Las Vegas with plenty of cap space to upgrade the roster elsewhere. If Lehner’s $5 million salary cap is placed on long-term injured reserve, he would leave the Golden Knights with roughly $7 million in usable cap space.

Vegas could use that space to acquire a goaltender, and we’ll go over the current options, or it could work with Thompson and his $766,667 net salary cap. If he picks the latter, the Golden Knights would have plenty of room to add another free agent, with Paul Stastny, sonny milano and Phil Kessel, among others, still out there.

If Vegas decides it needs to add another gatekeeper, here are the options:

Option 1: Free agency

Nearly a month into free agency, the goalkeeping landscape is barren. Remember what toilet paper aisles looked like in grocery stores in early 2020? That’s pretty much what Vegas is looking for in terms of bouncers available to sign.

Braden Holtby will be a popular name because of his track record, but the athletic one pierre lebrun reported earlier this summer that he likely won’t play this season due to injury, and that retirement could be an option for the 32-year-old. While Holtby would be a solid, cheap veteran addition, he doesn’t seem like an option.

The next biggest name yet to be signed is ex DevilsThe caretaker of the network Cory Schneider. The 36-year-old played just one game last year for the Islanders and spent most of the season in the American Hockey League. Unsurprisingly for a goalie with as much NHL experience as Schneider, he was strong in the AHL with a .921 save percentage in the regular season and .927 in the playoffs.

Schneider has had a couple of solid seasons as the starting goaltender in the NHL, even finishing sixth in voting for the Vezina Trophy in 2016, but has posted negative goals saved above average in four straight seasons before the NHL’s hiatus of last year.

Outside of those two, the goalkeeping free-agent market doesn’t have much to offer. there are former red wings prospect Filip Larsson, who remains unsigned, but Las Vegas likely won’t see him as an upgrade over their current goalies.

Option 2: Trade

After a wild couple of weeks around the draft and free agency, most teams have settled on their goalie tandems at this point, but there could still be an opportunity for the Golden Knights to acquire a goalie via trade. .

The situation that strikes me the most is that of Long Island, where Ilya Sorokin he has clearly taken the reins as a starting but veteran goalkeeper Semyon Varlamov He still has one year left on his contract.

Varlamov’s numbers were solid last season, posting positive goals saved above expectations, despite the Islanders’ dismal 10-17-2 record with him in the crease. He is just one season away from finishing fifth in the Vezina vote after saving an above-average 22 goals in 2020-21, so even at 34, he looks like he has some good hockey left in his tank.

Varlamov’s $5 million salary cap would fit easily into Las Vegas’ salary cap once Lehner is placed on LTIR, and could be available if the Islanders look to open up cap space. New York currently has more than $11 million to work with, fourth-most in the league, but the Islanders have been linked unsigned free agent Nazem Kadri, who will demand a hefty contract.

Option 3: Offer Sheet jake oettinger

This is the least likely option, but an option nonetheless. Oettinger is just 23 years old and coming off an impressive second season in the NHL. His regular season was strong, but his performance in the seven-game playoff series against Calgary it was from another world. Oettinger stopped 272 of the 285 shots he faced in that series for a .954 save percentage and 10 goals saved above expectations. That was good enough for him to finish third in the league at GSAx for the playoffs despite only playing seven games.

Now a restricted free agent, Oettinger, is in a contract dispute with the stars. lebrun reported in early July that league teams were “debating the merits of Oettinger’s offer.”

Here’s what offer sheet compensation looks like this year, based on the average annual value (AAV) of the offered contract.

AAV offer sheet Compensation

$1,386,490 or less

no compensation

$1,386,491 to $2,100,472

Third round pick

$2,100,473 to $4,201,488

Second round pick

$4,201,489 to $6,302,230

First and third round picks

$6,302,231 to $8,402,975

First, second and third round picks

$8,402,976 to $10,503,720

Two first, second and third round picks

More than $10,503,721

Four first-round picks

The problem is that in order to offer the sheet to a player, the team must have their own draft picks to give as compensation. Vegas does not have its 2023 second-round pick, which was included in the trade for Jack Eichel — so any offer sheet to Oettinger would have to exceed the $4,201,489 threshold and cost the Golden Knights their first- and third-round picks in the next draft.

It seems unlikely that a team would commit that kind of money and pick compensation for Oettinger when Lehner is still under contract for three more seasons, but Vegas traded for Lehner and signed him to a five-year deal with Fleury still under contract, so it is not inconceivable. Even if Vegas sends Oettinger an offer sheet, Dallas will most likely match it. He is one of the best young goalkeepers in the league with a bright future ahead of him.

This would be a long shot, but worth mentioning. The most likely outcome is that the 2022-23 season rests on Thompson’s shoulders.

(Photo by Jeff Bottari/NHLI via Getty Images)

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