Timing Of Robin Lehner’s Announcement Hurt Vegas Golden Knights More
Las Vegas is a town built on luck, though it’s not always necessarily “good” luck. The Vegas Golden Knights announced on Thursday that goaltender Robin Lehner would miss the entire 2022-2023 NHL season after undergoing hip surgery.
There’s that bad luck Vegas is famous for! Except this time, the bad luck wasn’t followed by a comped steak dinner.
After missing the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, the Lehner injury news puts a huge damper on their season prospects. They’re still trying to get prized trade acquisition Jack Eichel to the playoffs.
We can’t help but wonder about the timing of Lehner’s injury announcement.
At this year’s free agency, there were a number of serviceable goaltenders available. The Washington Capitals even hedged their entire goaltending strategy of landing the big fish of Darcy Kuemper. Now, the big names, and even the medium names in goaltending, are gone.
Lehner is out for the year, and the Golden Knights have no options.
Lehner dealt with a hip issue all of last season, so they must have known surgery was an option. Why didn’t he get the surgery sooner?
Sure, he would have been out for the season still, but the Golden Knights would have known earlier and could have potentially addressed the issue via free agency, or via trade prior to the draft like the New Jersey Devils did with Vitek Vanecek.
Even a reunion with the inaugural face of the franchise Marc-Andre Fleury could have been an option. Don’t say “Vegas couldn’t sign another goalie because they have no cap space,” since Lehner is headed to the LTIR anyway, which opens up some financial relief.
The Golden Knights missed the playoffs last year largely because of bad luck, especially in their goaltending department. With Lehner gone, the next internal option is Logan Thompson, as even third-string option Laurent Brossoit is on the injured reserve.
In 19 NHL games, Thompson put up a respectable 2.68 goals against average and .914 save percentage.
His stats in the AHL over the past two seasons have been impressive as well. His 2020-2021 season with the Henderson Silver Knights was nothing short of elite with a 1.96 goals against average and .943 save percentage through 23 games.
Vegas could always look to fix the situation with a trade. Trade rumors have long surrounded Anaheim Ducks goaltender John Gibson. Of course, the rebuilding Ducks would want a high price of draft capital or young prospects, two things Vegas has or has had a low supply of in the past.
Anaheim might take advantage of Vegas’ desperate situation and in-division rivalry and raise the price. Then again, those same factors, especially Vegas being desperate with no other options, may lead to the best possible trade package for the Ducks.
Gibson has been rumored to be on the move for over a year now, with no deal ever taking place. If Anaheim was waiting for the right moment, it’s hard to imagine there would be a better one than this.
Point is, had Vegas known Lehner would be out just a few weeks earlier, it would have been much easier to find a solution.
Maybe they have a lot of faith in Logan Thompson? Maybe Lehner wanted surgery to be his last resort and unfortunately got to the point he couldn’t avoid it any more? Those are the questions we’d like Vegas to answer.