Why The Islanders Were Wrong to Let Lehner Walk
By Patrick Hoffman
Just when I thought the New York Islanders were getting smarter with making deals and signing free agents thanks to general manager Lou Lamoriello, they go ahead and make a move that is quite puzzling and may be even wrong.
The team decided to let Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner walk to the Chicago Blackhawks. That's puzzling move number one.
Questionable move number two is the fact that they replaced Lehner with former Colorado Avalanche netminder Semyon Varlamov. The club signed Varlamov, 31, to a four-year, $20 million contract.
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What are the Islanders thinking here? Lehner, 27, is coming off his best season in which he went 25-13-5 with a 2.13 goals-against average, a .930 save percentage, and six shutouts.
Lehner carried the Islanders to the postseason and helped the Islanders sweep the Pittsburgh Penguins. Getting through the first round has not been an easy task for the Islanders, but Lehner certainly made it look easy this past season.
Lehner was an elite masked man last season. Not only that, but at just 27 years of age, he will more than likely get even better as long as he is healthy both physically and mentally.
In 265 career games, Lehner is 97-110-40 with a 2.70 goals-against average, a .918 save percentage and 14 shutouts. Considering the bad teams he played behind for several years, these numbers are quite good.
Now with the Blackhawks, Lehner will be given an opportunity to learn from Corey Crawford. Crawford has dealt with a lot of injuries over the last few seasons, but he is still a two-time Stanley Cup champion and is someone who has been one of the league's most consistent netminders over the last several years when he has been healthy.
As for Varlamov, it's hard to see why the Islanders think that he is going to be any better than he has been in his career. His best season came in 2013-14 when he went 41-14-6 with a 2.41 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage, and two shutouts. That season, he finished second in Vezina Trophy voting and fourth in the Hart Trophy balloting.
Ever since that season, his performance has been up and down. Sure, there have been seasons where he has had not much help in front of him, but for the most part, he's been inconsistent and has struggled with injuries.
Along with Varlamov, the Islanders have Thomas Greiss. Greiss, 33, was excellent last season in going 23-14-2 with a 2.28 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage, and five shutouts.
Those are solid numbers, but unfortunately for both Greiss and the Islanders, he's getting older. With Greiss being 33-years-old and Varlamov being 31-years-old, the team now has two older guys between the pipes, which can be both good and bad depending on how things play out.
No matter how you look at this. I believe the team will regret letting Lehner walk. Hopefully for the Islanders, it will not come back to haunt them.
Patrick covers the NHL for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave.
He has previously covered the league for WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.