Robin Lehner

What will Lehner’s next contract look like?

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The 2018-19 season may not have ended the way Robin Lehner had hoped, but there’s no denying that he was one of the pleasant surprises in the NHL this season.

Despite suiting up in just 46 games, the 27-year-old played well enough to be one of the three nominees for the Vezina Trophy. He finished the regular season with a 25-13-5 record, a 2.13 goals-against-average and a .930 save percentage. Not bad for a guy who signed a one-year, $1.5 million with the Islanders last summer.

Here’s the big question: Will the Islanders commit to Lehner long term?

“It’s a little bit too much emotions right now,” Lehner said after the Isles were eliminated from the playoffs, per NHL.com. “I really like everyone here. This group is incredible, some of the best people I’ve been around. I’ve been in the League for a while now. We’ll see what God has in store for me.”

Even though the Islanders were swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, no one can really blame Lehner for the end result. He allowed just three goals in the first two games of the series and his team still couldn’t find a way to score enough to get themselves at least one victory.

So he had a good year and his story is an inspirational one, but how much term and money can you commit to a goaltender who played less than 50 games?

Thomas Greiss also managed to post strong numbers whenever he was between the pipes for the Isles. So were the goalies that good or was Barry Trotz’s system the real reason for their success?

As Paul Campbell from The Athletic and In Goal Magazine pointed out during this radio interview, Lehner was ranked second when it came to easiest quality of shots faced throughout the 2018-19 season. That means that the danger of the shots he faced weren’t as high as virtually every other starting netminder outside of Stars goalie Ben Bishop. So Trotz’s system definitely played a part in Lehner’s success.

There are a few things he should consider before he hits the market on July 1st. First, he’s played for Ottawa and Buffalo but he clearly became comfortable in New York. Could he get more money from another team? Yes, but being in a good environment on the ice should count for something. And most of the good teams in the league already have their starting goaltender in place. So leaving the Islanders would probably result in him going to an inferior team.

Second, he has to realize that as good as his season was, he still made less than 50 appearances. Would he be as effective if he had to play 55 or 60-plus games in a season? We don’t know for sure, but that would be a big gamble for a player looking for stability from an NHL club.

Lastly, sometimes you just need to realize that the situation you’re in might be the best fit for you. Lehner has opened up about personal demons that have haunted him over the last few years. In New York, he seems to have found the right balance between hockey and his personal life. Situations like this are difficult enough and moving to another city may only make it tougher.

So, assuming the Isles want him back and assuming he wants to be back, what’s a fair contract for both sides?

It would be mildly surprising to see New York commit to Lehner for more than three years. As well as he played this year, the sample size just isn’t big enough to garner a five-plus year contract. If he can get that type of deal, good for him. It just isn’t likely. On the flip side, he’ll likely want more than a one or two-year contract, so let’s say they agree to a three-year deal. That appears to make sense on the surface.

One comparable that comes to mind is Cam Talbot, who played 36 games with the New York Rangers in 2015-16. During that season, Talbot had a 21-9-4 record with a 2.21 goals-against-average and a .926 save percentage. He was also the same age as Lehner is now. That performance resulted in the Edmonton Oilers giving him a three-year extension worth $12.5 million ($4.16 AAV).

The Islanders have to realize that even though Trotz’s system helped their goalies out a lot, they still managed to find a guy that could produce results for them between the pipes. There’s no guarantee that the next guy you bring in will be able to do the same thing. So they have to be willing to fork out a decent amount of money too.

Since Lehner has way more experience than Talbot at the same age and he had a better season, you’d think that his deal would be worth more.

How about a three-year deal worth between $14.25 million and $15 million ($4.75 million to $5 million per season)? That gives Lehner some stability and a nice raise. If he continues to get better, he’d be scheduled to hit the open market again at 30 years old.

That seems reasonable.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

PHT Morning Skate: Where will Kessel end up?; Hurricanes’ defense can do it all

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

Here’s the NBC Sports Stanley Cup playoff update for May 6

• The Sedin twins have found a new way to stay active. (Sportsnet)

Robin Lehner had a big first year with the Islanders, but it ended with a thud. (TSN)

• ESPN breaks down all the players who were nominated for major NHL awards. (ESPN)

• Even though they’re facing elimination, the Blue Jackets don’t regret making major moves at the trade deadline. (NHL)

• Speaking of the Jackets, here’s what they have to do to avoid being eliminated in Game 6 against Boston. (The Cannon)

• WEEI’s Matt Kalman believes the Bruins will be able to close out this series against Columbus. (WEEI)

• Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault is reportedly hiring Michel Therrien to join his staff. (Montreal Gazette)

Evgeny Kuznetsov had an inconsistent season in Washington, so what’s next for the Russian forward? (NBC Sports Washington)

• Pensburgh breaks down the potential landing spots for Phil Kessel if the Penguins decide to trade him. (Pensburgh)

• How will the Coyotes split the workload between Antti Raanta and Darcy Kuemper next season? (AZ Central)

• Don’t expect the Calgary Flames to hand out any offer sheets this summer. (Flames Nation)

• The Hurricanes have had playoff success because of their group of defesemen that can do it all. (The Hockey News)

• The Romanian National team has been promoted to Division 1 A. (IIHF)

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

The Playoff Buzzer: Hurricanes sweep Islanders; Bishop baffles Blues

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  • The Hurricanes wouldn’t be denied, not by Robin Lehner, not by the Islanders. Carolina became the first team to advance to Round 3 this postseason, dispatching the Isles in four games.
  • The Blues couldn’t get much going against the Stars, and when St. Louis did, Ben Bishop was there to clean up the rest. Dallas mostly kept the St. Louis crowd, except for a somewhat strange “Bish-op” chant.

Hurricanes 5, Islanders 2 (Carolina wins series 4-0)

The Hurricanes completed the sweep of the Islanders on Friday. After the Islanders played well in the first period but only managed a 1-1 tie, the Hurricanes scored two quick goals to open the second, and end Lehner’s night early. The Isles never really recovered, eventually falling behind 5-1 before Brock Nelson scored what was basically just a dignity goal. After two tight wins on the road in Brooklyn, the Hurricanes really ran away with the squabbles at home, winning both Carolina contests by scores of 5-2. Carolina only allowed the Islanders five goals all series long, essentially beating Barry Trotz’s team at its own game.

Stars 2, Blues 1 (Dallas leads series 3-2)

The game was at home for St. Louis. The Blues enjoyed a significant advantage in getting man advantages, as they went 0-for-4 on the power play, while Dallas failed to score on just one opportunity. For long swaths of Game 5, the Blues crowd had little to cheer for, as the Stars generally kept the Blues away from high-danger scoring chances. While Ben Bishop coughed up the puck for the Blues’ lone goal after the “Bish-op” chant, it still seemed silly (maybe a little desperate?), as Bishop turned aside whatever rare Grade-A chances St. Louis did manage. The Stars rank as one of the Cinderella stories of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, yet much like the Hurricanes, Dallas sure seems like it belongs deep into Round 2. The Blues will need to be better – and maybe get Bishop off of his game – if they hopes to keep the Stars from getting to Round 3.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Ben Bishop

Honestly, it felt like Bishop beat himself on the only goal the Blues scored, rather than St. Louis really solving him themselves.

That goal still counts, of course, so Bishop won’t get the shutout. He did make 37 out of 38 saves, and while the Stars’ stingy defense deserves partial credit for his strong work, Bishop holds it together. He’s the foundation of the Stars’ often-successful efforts to shut down opposing teams, and that’s not just a riff on Bishop being really, really tall.

Bishop looked a little labored after making a save during Game 4, but if he wasn’t 100 percent in Game 5 on Friday, he had a funny way of showing it. The Stars goalie was rock solid, making tough saves look easy, and rarely giving the Blues much hope of winning.

There’s been some concern about Jordan Binnington‘s play, yet more than any failings by Binnington, the concern might really revolve around how small the margin of error is when Bishop’s at the other end of the ice.

2. Teuvo Teravainen

Let’s consider this a combined second star for Teravainen and Sebastian Aho. Both red-hot Finns scored a goal and an assist in Game 4, enjoyed +2 ratings, and blocked two shots apiece. They’ve been dominant at times during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and it’s nice to see Teravainen get some of the recognition after Aho had risen a bit in the eyes of hockey watchers before him.

I’m giving Teravainen an edge because Aho’s goal was a little funky (it seemed to go off Adam Pelech?), and also because Teravainen’s assist was a primary one, compared to Aho’s helper being secondary.

You could argue for Aho instead, as he doubled Teravainen’s shots on goal (four to two) and enjoyed a strong game in his own right.

It feels worthwhile to wedge one more strong two-point performance from Carolina in this top three, and you could make argument that this player should be in second, instead of the two forwards.

3. Justin Faulk

The Hurricanes have been leaning on their vaunted defense corps as the postseason’s gone along, with Jaccob Slavin getting a ton of recognition, in particular. That’s richly deserved, but Faulk had quite the Game 4, and will probably enjoy the rest that comes from this sweep.

Faulk generated two assists in Game 4, getting a helper on Aho’s power-play goal and the lone assist on Andrei Svechnikov‘s insurance tally in the third period.

Faulk checked all the boxes, really. He logged a game-high 27:07, getting looks on both the power play and penalty kill. Faulk generated a +2 rating, two SOG, seven hits, two blocked shots, and two takeaways in Game 4. None of that is sexier than that goal right after leaving the penalty box from Game 3, but Faulk deserves a mention in the three stars all the same.

Taunt of the Night

In response to Brock Nelson sarcastically tapping Curtis McElhinney on the head after scoring a goal earlier in the series, Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton returned the favor on Nelson during the handshake line. Savage, Dougie. Savage.

Factoids

Saturday’s games

Game 5: Columbus Blue Jackets at Boston Bruins (Series tied 2-2)  7:15 p.m. ET on NBC (stream here)
Game 5: Colorado Avalanche at San Jose Sharks (Series tied 2-2) 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN (stream here)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Hurricanes end Islanders’ magical run with sweep

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The New York Islanders exceeded just about all expectations this season, and getting swept doesn’t erase all of the great memories, but the run is now over.

After the Islanders swept the Penguins in Round 1, they suffered that fate against the comparably magical Carolina Hurricanes, who managed an emphatic 5-2 Game 4 win to clinch the series 4-0.

For much of this Round 2 feud, every goal and bounce seemed to count. The Hurricanes won both games in Brooklyn despite only scoring three goals combined, and things were tight going into the third period of Game 3, as both teams were tied 2-2.

The Hurricanes really ran away with the series from that point on, though.

Carolina scored three third-period goals to win Game 3 by a score of 5-2, and convincingly closed down the sweep with another 5-2 win in Game 4. Overall, the Hurricanes scored eight of the last 10 goals to end the Islanders’ season, limiting the Islanders to just five goals overall in Round 2.

It really felt like the series was over once the Hurricanes transformed a 1-1 tie to a 3-1 lead with two quick goals in the second period, chasing Robin Lehner in the process.

Curtis McElhinney looks sharp since replacing an injured Petr Mrazek in Game 3, making 26 saves to close this one out. It’s a testament to McElhinney’s work, as he’s been a gem since the Hurricanes claimed him off of waivers. It’s also a testament to the Hurricanes that they’ve weathered so many injuries without really missing a beat.

Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen remain red-hot for the Hurricanes, as both generated one-goal, one-assist point nights in Game 4. They factored into the first goals of Game 4, when things were still looking very close. Those two are becoming more prominent to casual hockey fans during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and at this rate, could become household names.

Ending this series quickly could be huge for Carolina

Getting this sweep isn’t just about the optics of a perfect round.

The Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes are currently locked up at 2-2, and the earliest that Round 2 series can end is on Monday. (The two teams bid for a 3-2 series lead in Game 5 on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET on NBC; Stream here).

The Hurricanes were battered thanks to that seven-game series against the Capitals, with Andrei Svechnikov missing most of Round 2 because of that ill-fated fight with Alex Ovechkin, while Jordan Martinook and Micheal Ferland also suffered injuries. That only continued against the Islanders; Petr Mrazek’s injury was the most significant of the series, while Trevor van Riemsdyk and Saku Mäenalanen also missed time.

From players who were playing flat-out injured to those who were simply less than 100 percent, this break is big.

And, yes, this means the Hurricanes avoid games where they could have suffered new injuries. Sure, you can make a “rest versus rust” argument, but I’d be confident this is a net-positive for Carolina.

[The Hurricanes discussed finishing this heading into Game 4.]

Islanders run out of gas

Barry Trotz’s system can throw offense in a wood chipper. Even stars like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can struggle to score against a Trotz team when it really clamps down.

That said, the Islanders often had to walk a tightrope where they had very little margin of error. Maybe the Hurricanes’ strong defensive personnel and deep rotation of two-way players simply presented a bad matchup for the Islanders. Perhaps Lehner and others were tired. It could be that the bounces dried up.

And that’s what GM Lou Lamoriello and others need to grapple with. This was a magical, affirming run, but he also must do his best to take a sober look at this team once the sadness from the sweep dissipates.

Is this club in more of a “rebuild” mode like people anticipated when John Tavares left for Toronto? How much should they weigh their success with troubling thoughts, such as only managing five goals in that entire series against the Hurricanes? Are they a few moves from being a contender, and thus should spend big to keep some key players from leaving? Lehner is on a list of pending free agents who could put a dent in the wallet, joined by prominent names such as Jordan Eberle, Anders Lee, and Brock Nelson.

[Dive into the big decisions the Isles face here.]

For now, though, it’s all about mixed feelings. After finally winning a Stanley Cup, Trotz may have indeed topped himself with the work he did with the Islanders, and is almost certain to win the Jack Adams as a result. Sweeping the Penguins proved to be an emphatic statement. By my eyes, Mathew Barzal also confirmed his status as a legitimate star after his sensational Calder-winning 2017-18 season. Islanders fans had to love this ride, whether they were jeering Tavares or their team’s many doubters.

But for now, the magic’s over; we’ll have to wait and see if the Islanders have even more tricks up their sleeves. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, await the Bruins or Blue Jackets in the 2019 Eastern Conference Final.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Greiss replaces Lehner as Islanders fall behind in Game 4

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Update: Things didn’t really get better for the Islanders, as the Hurricanes completed the sweep with a 5-2 win in Game 4.

***

Quite a few people thought Thomas Greiss should play in Game 4, but the New York Islanders certainly didn’t want it to happen this way.

After the Islanders and Hurricanes locked things up 1-1 through the first period on Friday, Carolina got off to a hot start in the second period, scoring two goals in a short burst (2:11 and 3:17 into the middle frame), putting the Islanders down 3-1 while they’re at the brink of elimination. And it got worse from there.

That was enough to end Robin Lehner‘s night. It’s fair to say that Barry Trotz probably replaced Lehner to try to spark a comeback and send a message to his own team, as much as any fault of Lehner’s own.

Now, did Lehner look a little tired at times lately? That’s for others to say, and you could argue that there might be a little bit of confirmation bias taking place in such discussions.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.