Golden Knights’ Lehner lands 5-year contract after strong playoff performance

Lennox Lehner is almost 6 years old and already has five hockey jerseys because his father has bounced around the NHL so much.

He won’t have to add another to his collection, and Robin Lehner will get to keep putting on Vegas Golden Knights jerseys.

“It couldn’t be a better fit,” Robin said.

Lehner signed a five-year, $25-million US contract with Vegas on Saturday that gives him some much-desired stability. Committing to Lehner gives the Golden Knights the same at the goaltending position while plunging one-time face of the franchise Marc-Andre Fleury into uncertainty.

After signing a deal that pays him $5 million annually through the 2024-25 season, Lehner soaked up the accomplishment of finding a long-term landing spot. He had played for four different teams the past three seasons and is on his fifth organization, while battling addiction and mental health issues that were made more difficult by the constant movement.

Lehner has a modified no-trade clause as part of the contract and believes staying in one place will help him personally and make him a better goalie.

“I haven’t had stability and I’ve still been able to manage it with all the people around me,” said Lehner, who has talked openly about his bipolar disorder. “Now I have one of the biggest things for my condition, and that’s stability. And what I can do with that going forward in terms of my performance on the ice and all that stuff, I think it’s just going to make it a lot, lot better.”

Comments point to trading or buying out Fleury

Re-signing Lehner, who they acquired at the trade deadline in February and who became the starter, means the Golden Knights will likely soon move on from Fleury, who took them to the 2018 Stanley Cup final in their inaugural season.

Fleury, who will be 36 by the time next NHL season starts, has two years left on his contract at a $7 million cap hit with a 10-team no-trade clause. General manager Kelly McCrimmon said one of the options is Vegas going into next season with these two goaltenders, but other comments during his virtual news conference — and the financial realities of the flat salary cap — point to trading or buying out Fleury.

“We have a ton of respect for Marc-Andre Fleury,” McCrimmon said. “We will try to make good decisions here as we move along.”

The Golden Knights decided some time ago Lehner was their man in net. While head coach Peter DeBoer, hired to replace Gerard Gallant in January, said leading up to and during the playoffs he’d use both goalies, he started Lehner in 16 of the Golden Knights’ 20 post-season games.

Lehner went 9-7 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .917 save percentage as Vegas reached the Western Conference final before losing to the Dallas Stars. Golden Knights brass looked around at the goaltending play in the NHL’s Edmonton bubble in and wanted to keep Lehner in the fold.

“I think he proved himself,” McCrimmon said. “I think he played extremely well for our team. That’s what we need. It’s his age, it’s where he’s at in his career, it’s the length of the contract, it’s the fact that it solidifies that position for our organization. It’s the most important position on the team.”

‘I’ve battled through a lot of things’

And this is the most important contract of Lehner’s life, two years after he left the Buffalo Sabres, began to get help for and got another opportunity with the New York Islanders. Despite getting the Islanders to the second round of the 2019 playoffs, that relationship lasted just one season, Lehner went to free agency and signed a one-year contract with Chicago before the trade to Vegas.

“I worked very, very hard for this,” Lehner said. “I’ve had my bumps and bruises, I’ve battled through a lot of things and it’s been a long journey.”

Vegas gave Lehner the multi-year deal other teams wouldn’t and hope to reap the benefits of believing in him. Lehner is motivated to prove the organization right.

“They’ve seen that I can perform,” Lehner said. “Pressure doesn’t faze me. And I’m as normal as anyone else out there, no matter what my conditions and my past has been because the past has been the past and the future is good. There’s always a risk and reward, and I’ve shown that the reward is a lot bigger than risk.”

There is some risk in moving on from Fleury, a popular teammate who has three Stanley Cup rings from his time with Pittsburgh. Fleury showed in limited post-season action he can still be a No. 1 goalie, going 3-1 with a 2.27 GAA and .910 save percentage.

“He’s been the face of the franchise,” McCrimmon said. “His reputation as a person along with his abilities as a goaltender make him a fan favourite and a guy that’s played some tremendous goal for us.”

Penguins re-sign goalie Jarry for 3 years

The Pittsburgh Penguins re-signed goaltender Tristan Jarry on Saturday to a three-year, $10.5 million US contract.

Jarry, who became an NHL all-star for the first time in the 2019-20 season, started 31 of his 33 games and had a 2.43 goals-against average, a career best. The 25-year old also had career bests in save percentage (.921) and shutouts (three).

The second-round draft pick in 2013 was scheduled to become a restricted free agent this month. He was 20-12-1 in the 2019-20 season and is 57-34-20 in his four-year career in Pittsburgh.

Flyers extend deal of backup goalie Elliott

The Philadelphia Flyers signed backup goalie Brian Elliott to a one-year, $1.5-million US contract extension.

The 35-year-old Elliott went 16-7-4 with a 2.87 goals-against average and two shutouts this season. He went 1-1 in two playoff starts as the backup to Carter Hart.

Elliott has played in 100 games for the Flyers over the past three seasons, going 50-29-12 with a 2.80 GAA, a .906 save percentage and four shutouts.

“Brian is a quality, veteran goaltender who is also an important part of our leadership group,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said Saturday. “His preparation and work ethic are exemplary. With Brian and Carter, we believe we have a strong goaltending duo who have each had success and work very well with each other.”

Elliott’s career has also included stops in Calgary, St. Louis and Ottawa. He helped St. Louis reach the Western Conference finals in 2015-16 with a regular season record of 23-8-6 in 42 appearances.

Coyotes waive forward Grabner

The Arizona Coyotes placed Michael Grabner on waivers Saturday for the purpose of buying out the speedy forward’s contract.

He had one year left at $3.775 million US in salary and a cap hit of $3.35 million. Assuming Grabner clears waivers Sunday, the buyout will cost Arizona just over $2.5 million, trim money off the books next season and cost an extra $1.26 million in 2021-22.

Grabner, 32, had 11 points during the shortened regular season and three goals in nine playoff games. He signed this deal coming off a 27-goal season in 2017-18.

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