NHL Trade Deadline primer: Robin Lehner, Chicago Blackhawks

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With the NHL trade deadline getting close (February 24, 3 p.m. ET) the Pro Hockey Talk crew will be taking a closer look at some individual players that could be on the move. Today we focus on Chicago Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner.

Player: Robin Lehner
Current team: Chicago Blackhawks
Position: Goalie
Contract: Unrestricted free agent after this season with a $5 million salary cap number

Why the Blackhawks might trade him. This is complicated because I do not think the Blackhawks are going to trade him. I am not sure they want to even consider the possibility of trading him. Even with their current spot in the standings, even with the deficit they are facing when it comes to catching the the playoff teams, and even with all of their flaws as a team I don’t think the front office has it in them to punt on a season as long as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith are on the roster.

On some level, I can respect that. I can respect that a lot, actually. You do not get players of that caliber very often, and when you are fortunate enough to get them, you do not get them for very long. You do not want to waste any season with them and you owe it to them to try and win.

The problem, however, is that this (*gestures wildly at the entire Blackhawks roster as currently constructed*) is not working. They tried to keep their window for contention open, they tried to fix the problems and complement the offense they still have, but a third consecutive non-playoff season seems to be the inevitable result here. That means any potential free agent should be available to the highest bidder, especially if there is a better than 50-50 chance that free agent might leave for nothing in return this summer.

That brings us to Lehner.

He is an unrestricted free agent this summer and does not seem to be willing to take a discounted contract, wanting to get his fair market value. It is something he has absolutely earned and should try to capitalize on while he can. Given that Stan Bowman seems completely unwilling and unable to permanently part with a player he has won with, it seems likely that Corey Crawford (also an unrestricted free agent this summer) will have a spot in Chicago as long as he wants one. I just do not know that the Blackhawks have the salary cap space to pay Lehner what he wants and what he has earned.

Given all of that the question now has to become, why wouldn’t the Blackhawks try to trade him?

Teams that could/should be interested: Carolina Hurricanes, Edmonton Oilers, Nashville Predators

What he provides. He has been one of the best and most productive goalies in the league over the past five years. His .920 all situations save percentage since the start of the 2015-16 season is tied for the third highest in the league (out of 54 goalies that have appeared in 100 games). Only nine goalies in the league have a better even-strength save percentage than his .924 mark. He has been a game-changer. He helped carry the New York Islanders to one of the league’s best records a year ago. The split in the Blackhawks’ record in games he starts versus games he does not start is drastic.

Any potential playoff team in need of a starting goalie or a 1B platoon goalie should be on the phone with Bowman right now. Carolina could still use an upgrade in net. He would be a huge upgrade for an Edmonton team that might actually have a chance to make some real noise in the playoffs with a true No. 1 goalie. Even Nashville where Pekka Rinne and Jusse Saros have been the Achilles heel of an otherwise still good team. He could make a huge impact for all of these teams.

Predicted destination. Even though the playoffs seem like a long shot at this point, and even though re-signing him is far from a guarantee he ultimately stays in Chicago, continues to play well for a mediocre team and boosts his value, then signs somewhere else in free agency. An opportunity to bring something back is missed.

More NHL Trade Deadline:

• Trade Deadline primer: Chris Kreider
• Trade Deadline primer: Tyler Toffoli
• Trade Deadline Primer: Ilya Kovalchuk
• Trade Deadline Primer: Alec Martinez
• Trade Deadline Primer: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Trade Deadline Primer: Joe Thornton
• Teams that need to be active at trade deadline


Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Looking back at the Blackhawks’ Scott Foster game

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With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to take an occasional look back at some notable “this day in hockey history” moments. Today, Scott Foster gets to play a game for the Chicago Blackhawks. 

Before there was David Ayres with the Carolina Hurricanes, there was Scott Foster with the Chicago Blackhawks.

It was two years ago Sunday that Foster, an accountant by day, was forced into action as the emergency goalie against the Winnipeg Jets.

He stopped all seven shots he faced in 14 minutes of ice-time to help the Blackhawks hold on for a 6-2 win. You can see the highlights of his performance in the video above.

At the time of Foster’s appearance the entire thing was pretty unheard of because the NHL hadn’t really seen an appearance like this — a non-professional player forced into a game — in the modern era.

It all happened because of a series of goaltending injuries that left the Blackhawks shorthanded at the position. Chicago signed Foster to an amateur tryout contract the night before the game due to injuries to Corey Crawford and Anton Forsberg. He was supposed to serve as the backup to rookie Collin Delia as he made his NHL debut. Everything was going as planned until Delia was also injured early in the the third period, forcing Foster into the game.

His performance earned him No. 1 star honors for the game.

Because the Blackhawks were already comfortably ahead when he entered the game he did not get credit for the win. It was probably the biggest highlight of the season for the Blackhawks as they missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade.

At the time Foster’s appearance and performance was mostly celebrated and treated as the feel-good story that it was.

But when Ayres had to enter a game for the Hurricanes this season — and ended up being the winning goalie against the Toronto Maple Leafs — there was a very vocal minority that thought it was an embarrassment for the league and that, maybe, the emergency goalie protocol needed to be changed. It was eventually decided that no change needed to be made. Even with two instances in the past couple of years it is still a very rare occurrence that needs a very specific set of circumstances to actually happen.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Olympic hockey on NBC: 2018 women’s gold medal game

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Hockey Week in America continues Sunday with the unforgettable Olympic women’s gold medal game in 2018.

NBC will present the women’s gold medal game at the 2018 Olympics between Team USA and Canada, won by the Americans in a 3-2 shootout in PyeongChang. With the victory, the women’s ice hockey team claimed its second ever Olympic gold medal and ended the Canadians streak of four straight gold medals.

Kenny Albert, AJ Mleczko and Pierre McGuire called the gold medal game in PyeongChang.

You can catch a replay of the 2018 women’s Olympics gold medal game Sunday on NBC at 1 p.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SUNDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Maple Leafs vs. Bruins (Game 7, Round 1, 2013 playoffs) – 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN
• Golden Knights vs. Sharks (Game 7, Round 1, 2019 playoffs) – 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN
• Kings vs. Blackhawks (Game 7, Western Conference Final, 2014 playoffs) – 12 a.m. ET on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

Capitals vs. Penguins on NBCSN: Kuznetsov’s overtime series clincher

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Hockey Week in America continues Saturday with memorable playoff performances in the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

In 2018, the Capitals and Penguins met in Round 2 for the third straight postseason. Pittsburgh won the previous two series en route to back-to-back Stanley Cup titles. But this time Washington would have its revenge. Evgeny Kuznetsov would score in overtime of Game 6 to help the Capitals advance as they went on to win their first championship in franchise history.

You can catch Game 6 of the 2018 Penguins vs. Capitals playoff game Saturday night on NBCSN beginning at 12:30 a.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SATURDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2018 playoffs) – 12:30 a.m. on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

Capitals vs. Penguins on NBCSN: Bonino Bonino Bonino!

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Hockey Week in America continues Saturday with memorable playoff performances in the Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin rivalry.

The Capitals needed a win to force Game 7 in Round 2 of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Facing the Penguins yet again, the clawed back from a 3-1 third period deficit to force overtime. It was there, however, that Pittsburgh once again topped their Metro Division rivals. This time it was Nick Bonino breaking their hearts to put the Penguins on a path to the franchise’s fourth Stanley Cup title.

You can catch Game 6 of the 2016 Penguins vs. Capitals playoff game Saturday on NBCSN beginning at 10 p.m. ET or watch the stream here.

SATURDAY NIGHT SCHEDULE
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2016 playoffs) – 10 p.m. on NBCSN
• Capitals vs. Penguins (Game 6, Round 2, 2018 playoffs) – 12:30 a.m. on NBCSN

More information about NBC Sports’ Hockey Week in America can be found here.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.