Ottawa Senators v Calgary Flames

Looking to make the leap: Robin Lehner

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.

Related: New responsibilities coming for Sens’ Turris

Panarin impresses ‘Hawks with his preseason debut

Artemi Panarin
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Will Artem Panarin‘s overwhelming success in the KHL translate to North America? The 23-year-old forward has a lot to prove, but his first big test was a success.

Playing on a line with Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov, Panarin made his preseason debut in Chicago’s finale on Saturday. He registered two assists while giving his teammates reason to be optimistic about him.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Marian Hossa told CSN Chicago. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Panarin as well and liked that line as a whole.

The fact that the trio seemed to hit it off quickly has to come as a relief after an upper-body injury prevented Panarin from getting the most out of this year’s training camp. At the end of the day though, the fact that he was able to at least get in one preseason contest is a big silver lining. How smoothly his adjustment goes from here is still a big X-factor, but at least now he’s going into the regular season with a better idea of what to expect.

Panarin is attempting to establish himself in the NHL after leading the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg to a championship last year. He was the team’s scoring leader, topping ex-NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk.

Gustavsson secures one-year contract with Bruins

Jonas Gustavsson
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There was stiff competition for the backup goaltending job in Boston, but with a signing this afternoon, it seems likely that the matter has been resolved.

The Boston Bruins announced that Jonas Gustavsson has agreed to a one-year, $700,000 deal. It’s a one-way contract, according to the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin.

That contract is still small enough that the Bruins could bury it in the minors if they so desire, but it does set him apart from his last competitor for the goalie position, Jeremy Smith, who has a two-way deal. The fact that Boston went this route seems to imply that Gustavsson will serve as Tuukka Rask‘s understudy, although both netminders attended Sunday’s practice.

In Smith, the Bruins would be getting a 26-year-old goaltender who was dominant with the AHL’s Providence Bruins last season, but has no NHL experience. By contrast Gustavsson, 30, has played in almost 150 NHL games.

Boston sent Zane McIntyre and Malcolm Subban to the minors last week, but an argument could be made that either one of them is worthy of the backup job. However, both of them have a lot of potential and it’s not surprising that the Bruins felt they were better served by staying in the minors where they can play regularly and focus on honing their game.