The Chicago Blackhawks couldn’t stop anybody from scoring goals last season and have spent the entire summer trying to fix that problem. After focussing on defense in the first part of the offseason with the additions of Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan, they turned to the goal crease on Monday and pulled off one of the more surprising signings of the day when they agreed to terms with Robin Lehner on a one-year, $5 million contract.
Lehner is coming off a career year with the New York Islanders where he was not only a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as one of the league’s top goalie, but also helped backstop the team to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It’s a bit of an out-of-left-field signing not only due to the one-year term (Lehner reportedly turned down a two-year, $10 million offer to return to the Islanders), but also because it is with Chicago where Corey Crawford is still under contract for one more year at $6 million.
“I’m very excited to play together with Corey Crawford,” Lehner said Monday. “Big role model for me throughout my career. Hell of a goaltender.”
Combined with Lehner’s new deal the Blackhawks now have $11 million tied up in goalie for this season. That brings up questions regarding the status of Crawford’s health, or at the very least, the Blackhawks’ faith that he can get through a full season without missing significant time. He has been limited to just 67 games over the past two seasons, and without the Blackhawks have had no reliable backup to turn to. It has cost them dearly on the scoreboard and in the standings.
Lehner probably will not duplicate his 2018-19 performance, but he should be a better insurance policy than what the Blackhawks had for Crawford in recent years.