Sens Trade Talented Robin Lehner to Sabres
As first reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Robin Lehner is on his way from the Ottawa Senators to the Buffalo Sabres with veteran forward David Legwand in exchange for the 21st pick in this NHL Draft.
It’s a high price to pay for a soon-to-be 24-year-old goaltender coming off a down season that ended with a .905 save percentage and with Lehner on the sidelines recovering from a late-season concussion.
Unlike other rumoured trade targets Cam Talbot of the New York Rangers and Eddie Lack of the Vancouver Canucks, however, Lehner comes with cost certainty. While Talbot and Lack are each set to become unrestricted free agent after the 2015-16 season, Lehner has two more years left on a contract with an average annual value of $2.25 million, and two more years of team control as a restricted free agent. It also helps that Sabres general manager Tim Murray knows the 6-foot-5 goaltender well from his time in the Senators front office.
“Robin was our target. He was the number one goalie available in out eyes,” Murray told reporters. “He just needed a change of scenery. … You have to dig deep into this kid’s background, what a starting goaltender is in the NHL. We’ve done our homework. … Big, tall goalie. Highly competitive. Talented. Think he’s a No.1 goalie. … You don’t win without a good goaltender. Lehner has proven he can win and he’s highly competitive.”
Lehner played one season in the OHL after being picked 46th by the Senators in the 2009 NHL Draft, then started his pro career in the American Hockey League, winning a Calder Cup Championship in 2011. Lehner posted save percentages of .935 and .936 while playing 17 games over the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons, but his numbers slipped to .913 in 36 games last season and even further in 25 games last season.
“If he was 27 or 28 years old I probably would have taken a step back,” Murray said of Lehner, whose father once coached Henrik Lundqvist back in Sweden. “He’s young. He fits what we’re trying to do.”
Interestingly enough, the Senators open their season against the Sabres on October 8th, so Lehner’s first game with his new team may come against his old team. InGoal Magazine writer Paul Campbell already wrote a statistical analysis of how the available goaltenders might fit in on new teams based on low-, medium- and high-danger save percentages, and it included a breakdown of how Lehner might perform in Buffalo:
This trade hopefully marks the kickoff of what may be a very busy day for goaltender movement across the league. As the draft draws nearer, expect to see more action, and check back for instant reaction from the InGoal team, including reactions from our writers.
InGoal Magazine Take on Lehner:
Bigger than many realize at 6-foot-5 and blessed with exceptional power both on his skates and from his knees, Robin Lehner has all the physical tools to be a standout goaltender in the NHL, but has not progressed technically during his time with the Senators. That’s not shocking given the way Ottawa’s goalies play, with an emphasis on more aggressive positioning than in many other places and more flow and movement as a result. Nor is it a criticism given the success many goalies have had with the Senators. But it will be interesting to see if some technical fine tuning in Buffalo, where the Sabres are expected to move on from goalie coach Arturs Irbe this season, allows a still maturing Lehner to reach the levels so many forecast early in his career based on the obvious skill and size.
~ Kevin Woodley, InGoal Magazine Managing Editor