With Robin Lehner locked up to a new three-year contract and Craig Anderson a pending unrestricted free agent, general manager Bryan Murray could have a nice problem on his hands.
That’s if Lehner, 23, can make the leap and take the reigns as a starting goaltender in the NHL.
Speaking to the Sens website following the announcement of his new deal, Lehner didn’t exactly sound like a goaltender who is ready to take the reigns as a No. 1, which could prove to be a whole new problem for Murray.
“I think if I can develop more and get better we have a strong tandem,” he said. “I’m not in a place where I think I should play every game even if it goes really well, I think we have a strong tandem and I think we have a good team going forward.
“I’ll just be happy with competing every day and getting a chance to get a fair battle.”
Lehner has appeared in 61 regular season games for Ottawa where he has a record of 21-24-10 along with a 2.82 GAA and a .918 save percentage.
If Lehner can’t handle a heavier workload, Murray will be forced to re-sign Anderson, who will see his four-year, $12.8 million contract expire next July. At 33, Anderson is a veteran in the league and isn’t the type, who’d likely be willing to sign for just one year.
With a young family, he’d probably require the security of a multi-year deal, which could in the long run handcuff Murray.
Murray’s other option would be to acquire a goaltender via trade or free agency next summer.
Lehner, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound Swedish native has never really had the opportunity to be a starter in the NHL mainly filling the backup role with the Senators.
Last month, Lehner wasn’t ready to talk about the possibility of being the top goaltender in Ottawa.
“We’re talking future and it’s a little irrelevant,” he said. “I just want to keep proving myself, keep getting better and what happens happens.
“I don’t know what will happen in a few months or a few years, the only thing I know is I’ve tried my best so far and I’ve done everything I can for the organization to prove to them and they’ve rewarded me with a very good contract I think. I think I’ve got a lot to show that I deserve it too. I think it’s good for both sides.”
At the same time, Lehner admits he’d like more playing time in the future.
“The guy that says he doesn’t will be lying to you,” Lehner said.
Lehner does have an impressive resume at the AHL level. He backstopped the Binghamton Senators to a Calder Cup victory in 2011 and was named playoff MVP for his efforts.
He appeared in 36 games for Ottawa last season compiling a 12-15-6 record to go along with a 3.06 GAA and a .913 save percentage.
Lehner was Ottawa’s second-round pick (46th overall) at the 2009 NHL Draft.