Last season, the Vegas Golden Knights had the best goaltending tandem in the NHL. Now, they’re looking for a new starter in goal.
Former Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner was set to take over the number one goaltending duties after the offseason trade that sent four-year starter Marc-Andre Fleury to the Chicago Blackhawks. Unfortunately for Lehner and the Golden Knights, that has not gone smoothly.
On the season, the 30-year-old is 21-15-1 with a 2.77 goals against average, a .909 save percentage, and one shutout. His play has not been stellar, but injuries have really hampered his effectiveness, limiting him to 38 appearances in his team’s 61 games this year.
Now, Lehner finds himself on the injured reserve, which leaves Vegas with Laurent Brossoit and Logan Thompson. For a Golden Knights team that has championship aspirations, that won’t be good enough.
How can the Golden Knights replace Robin Lehner?
Whether it’s a replacement while Lehner is injured, a player that could help rebuild a goaltending tandem once Lehner is healthy, or a new starter to take over for Lehner, Vegas needs to improve between the pipes.
It would be one thing if this team had some wiggle room in the standings and could weather the storm while it is without its starting netminder, but the Golden Knights have lost four straight games in regulation and are playing poor hockey right now.
There is no time to waste, as Vegas is in real danger of falling out of the playoff picture. Here are three options to replace Robin Lehner.
Linus Ullmark, Boston Bruins
The Boston Bruins just added Linus Ullmark in the offseason, but it is time to let him go, and Vegas should be prepared to jump in as a suitor.
Ullmark has been decent this season, posting a 2.81 goals against average and a .907 save percentage to go with a 17-9-2 record. Those numbers are a bit below his career numbers, which are impressive given his time with a bad Buffalo Sabres team.
In reality, Ullmark’s availability is less about his performance and more about the breakout season that his partner, Jeremey Swayman, is enjoying. As the 23-year-old Swayman looks poised to be the Bruins’ goalie of the future, Ullmark and his $5 million cap hit becomes expendable.
He would be a bit pricey for Vegas, plus his contract runs through the 2024-2025 season, but he has proven to be a quality player and can certainly be useful for a floundering Golden Knights squad.
Braden Holtby, Dallas Stars
This one is a stretch, not because Vegas may not want Braden Holtby, but because the Dallas Stars may not want to give him up.
The future of Anton Khudobin is questionable at best in Big D, so Holtby figures to be the backup behind Jake Ottinger for the rest of this season. Still, it would be worth the call for the Golden Knights.
Holtby is 10-10-1 in 24 games this season, posting a 2.78 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. It’s been a nice bounce-back campaign for the 32-year-old Stanley Cup champion in his first year with the Stars.
He is in the final year of his contract, which pays him $2 million this season. At that price, Holtby could be an affordable and effective solution for Vegas in the short term.
Jaroslav Halak, Vancouver Canucks
Jaroslav Halak would be another affordable, short-term answer for the Golden Knights. The 36-year-old is on an expiring contract that pays him $1.5 million.
Halak has struggled this season with the Vancouver Canucks, as he is 2-6-2 in 12 games with a 3.42 goals against average and an .883 save percentage. His club has had its ups and downs this season, but a move to Vegas could ideally help him return to a form that won him the Jennings Trophy two seasons ago while with the Boston Bruins.
The 16-year NHL veteran is certainly battle-tested, which I would expect is important for the Golden Knights. He has 39 career playoff games under his belt, and he would be cost-effective for a team that desperately needs some financial flexibility.
It’s now or never for the Vegas Golden Knights. The trade deadline has never been as important as it is at this moment for the league’s 31st franchise, and addressing its goaltending is a must if it is going to avoid missing the playoffs for the first time.