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The Blackhawks' Future in Net: Analyzing the Robin Lehner Trade

It seems the Robin Lehner saga is over in Chicago... for good.
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Photo: Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images

Photo: Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images

The NHL Trade Deadline has come and gone, and the Blackhawks played seller at this year's deadline. On Monday, February 24, the Blackhawks traded defenseman Erik Gustafssonto the Calgary Flames and goaltender Robin Lehner to the Toronto Maple Leafs, only for him to truly go to Vegas.

In return for both players, the Blackhawks acquired a third-round pick from the Flames and goaltender Malcolm Subban, defenseman prospect Slava Demin, and a second-round pick. The return for both players wasn't out of this world, but it was something, I suppose.

Now, Gustafsson was not going to return to the Hawks in any way. He is a defensive liability, his offense hasn't been as good as last season, and he wasn't worth anything more than the $1.2 million he was already being paid. Lehner, on the other hand, looked to be the goalie of the future for the Blackhawks and the heir apparent to Corey Crawford as the Blackhawks' number one goaltender.

However, Blackhawks' general manager Stan Bowman decided to move on from the goaltender, despite a desire to stay. When Lehner was asked about knowing he'd be traded, he answered:

"[If you] asked me a few weeks ago, no. I had high hopes, but nothing happened. Never got an offer of anything, so I figured last few days that's probably going to be the case."

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Lehner has mentioned that he was willing to take a shorter deal to get something done in Chicago. However, according to the 28-year-old goaltender, that type of contract was never offered by the Hawks' front office.

As a fan, seeing Lehner leave was truly heartbreaking. The signing last summer was setting up perfectly for the Blackhawks to have a number one goaltender for years to come, allowing Chicago to move on from aging netminder Corey Crawford. Instead, fans are now asking, "what now?" for the remainder of the season and into the summer of 2020.

There is certainly the possibility, and more likely a wish, for the Blackhawks to still bring back Lehner after July 1st. This would give Stan Bowman time to clear the necessary cap space to bring back the goaltender and ensure he gets the fair deal he has publicly asked for. Something in the ballpark of $7–$8 million per year would likely get the job done.

However, based on the lack of offers to Lehner, the lack of communication between the two parties, and the ultimate trade that sent Lehner packing, there is a good chance the Blackhawks/Lehner reunion will not happen. If I were Robin Lehner, I wouldn't want to come back after feeling neglected by the front office that I was so eager to work with on agreeing to a contract extension.

Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

Photo: Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

Here at On Tap Sports Net, and other outlets everywhere, the frustration with the front office is well documented. This Robin Lehner situation is another feather in that cap for the front office, as they have been frustrating fans ever since the Artemi Panarin trade three years ago.

Unfortunately, it seems that the Robin Lehner saga is over in Chicago... he wanted to stay, the fans wanted him to stay, but the front office seemingly dropped the ball on extending the Swedish goaltender to an extension. Now, we will see where Robin Lehner goes after his stint with Vegas and what the Blackhawks will do in goal for 2020 and beyond.