It is official: Robin Lehner is staying with the Vegas Golden Knights.
The team announced on Saturday that the goalie has signed a five-year, $25 million contract to remain with the team, keeping him off the unrestricted free agent market.
The Golden Knights acquired Lehner just before the NHL trade deadline from the Chicago Blackhawks in an effort to provide more depth behind Marc-Andre Fleury. But as Lehner played more games with the Golden Knights throughout the remainder of the regular season and into the Return To Play and playoffs, it became clear that the team considered him their best option.
Lehner ended up taking over the starting job and kept it throughout the entire postseason (it was not always a popular decision) as the Golden Knights reached the Western Conference Final.
Now that Lehner is officially back with the Golden Knights the focus turns to Fleury and his future.
He still has two years remaining on a contract that pays him $7 million per season. Fleury has already said he will not ask for a trade, but it is hard to see how the Golden Knights can realistically keep both.
The duo — while being one of the league’s best — would account for $12 million in salary cap space in each of the next two seasons, a level that almost no other team in the league has committed to the position (Only Montreal really compares for this season with Carey Price and Jake Allen). Given how close the Golden Knights already are to the cap, they would have to clear salary elsewhere to keep both and still make improvements to the team.
The long-term contract provides Lehner with the long-term security he wanted — and has earned — after signing short-term one-year deals (with the Islanders and Blackhawks) the past two offseasons.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.