Calgary Flames Trade Rumour: Interested In Robin Lehner?


The Calgary Flames month of June has produced more headlines than any month during the regular season, and they haven’t even played a game. The Flames have been linked to David Backes of the St. Louis Blues, Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins and today, apparently are inquiring about Ottawa Senators goaltender Robin Lehner.

It is no secret that the Senators will be trading a goaltender this summer, and general manager Bryan Murray has stated he would like to get a deal done by the time the draft wraps un in Sunrise, Florida next weekend. After a breakout season by Andrew Hammond carried the team to a surprise playoff berth, the Sens re-signed him to a three year deal and can move either Craig Anderson or Robin Lehner.

Bruce Garrioch wrote in the Ottawa Sun today that the Flames were among the teams that have expressed interest in Lehner and have plenty of competition in the Edmonton Oilers, Buffalo Sabres and a handful of other clubs. The Sens could also opt to move Anderson who is older, but more of a sure thing in the short term and has teams like the San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues calling.

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Lehner is an interesting option for the Flames. He is just 23 years old and already has 86 games of NHL experience under his belt. He was drafted in the second round of the 2009 NHL Draft, 46th overall by the Sens, and quickly made a name for himself as a stud prospect in their organization.

The Swedish goaltender really broke out in the 2012-13 season which was the lockout shortened campaign. Though he was forced to begin the year in the minors with the AHL Binghamton Senators, Lehner posted a stellar 18-10-2 record with a sparkling 2.12 goals against average and a .938 save percentage.

He didn’t slow down when the NHL season finally began in January, putting up a 2.20 GAA and .936 SV% in spot duty behind veteran starter Anderson who was also having a fantastic season.

Mar 30, 2014; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators goalie Robin Lehner (40) makes a save on a shot from Calgary Flames center Matt Stajan (18) in the first period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past two seasons, Lehner’s numbers don’t look quite as impressive. You have to keep in mind that the Senators aren’t exactly the greatest defensive team in the NHL, and focus more on Lehner’s SV% than his bloated GAA. In 2013-14, Lehner notched a 12-15-6 record with a 3.06 GAA and a .913 SV%. His GAA looks awful by today’s NHL standards but a league average SV% with a bad GAA tells me he was peppered with shots like few goalies in the league and did an admirable job turning them away.

This season, Lehner’s numbers took another hit and fell once again as he posted a 3.02 GAA and a .905 SV%. Though his GAA was about the same, the dip in SV% and a 9-12-3 record in 25 games is a bit of a concern.

Lehner has two years left on a contract that will pay him a reasonable cap hit of $2.25 million. Lehner is definitely good enough to be an NHL goaltender, but is he ever going to be an NHL starter?

It seemed like just a matter of time before Lehner became an elite net minder following the 2012-13 season, but his last two seasons don’t give you much confidence that he will reach that lofty goal anymore.  At just 23 years of age, it’s not like he is over the hill, so he has lots of time to get his game back on track. The question the Flames have to ask themselves is: would Lehner get his game back on track in Calgary?

Feb 12, 2015; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing David Perron (39) scores the winning goal against Ottawa Senators goalie Robin Lehner (40). The Penguins defeated the Senators 5-4 in a shootout at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

The Flames goaltending situation is a bit wide open at the moment. Karri Ramo is a UFA and it would make little sense for him to re-sign with Calgary when he could get more money and more playing time somewhere else. That leaves Jonas Hiller as the number one heading into next season, but he lost his job to Ramo in the postseason, has just one year left on his deal and has been in the rumour mill as well.

There are a few younger options in Joni Ortio and Jon Gillies as well, but neither of them are likely ready to take over a heavy workload in the NHL as soon as next season. Adding a young goaltender like Lehner and trading Hiller for a mid round pick is an intriguing option for the Flames. Hiller posted better numbers than Lehner last year, but is ten years older and unlikely to stay in Calgary past the end of next season anyway.

Should the Flames move on from Hiller right now and hand the net over to a handful of younger options like Lehner, Ortio and eventually Gillies?

The last thing they have to consider is how much would it cost to acquire Lehner from the Senators. Murray claims the Senators will not trade a goaltender unless they get a top six forward and a draft pick.

Jan 13, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Ottawa Senators goalie Robin Lehner (40) faces the Dallas Stars attack during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeated the Senators 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

This reminds me of the time he said he wouldn’t move Dany Heatley unless he got a top six forward, top four defenseman and a draft pick, then moved him for Jonathan Cheechoo and Milan Michalek. Or when he said he wouldn’t move Jason Spezza unless he got a top six forward in return and the closest thing he got was Alex Chiasson who was coming off a season where he scored 13 goals.

What I’m saying is Murray is asking for a top six forward, but isn’t going to get one. The most he will get for Lehner right now is what the Los Angeles Kings got in return for Jonathan Bernier two years ago. Bernier was 24 at the time, and was coming off a season where he posted exceptional numbers, though he played just 14 games as Jonathan Quick’s backup.

The Kings shipped him to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a 2nd round pick, Ben Scrivens who was thought to be a solid backup for Quick and Matt Frattin who was a fringe NHL winger that the Kings hoped would score a few goals from the third line. Though Bryan Murray wants to get a top six forward for Lehner, he won’t. He will get a draft pick and a depth NHL player or mediocre prospect.

The Flames have three picks in the second round of the NHL Draft, and could offer up one of them along with a depth forward like Paul Byron or Drew Shore, it would be the best offer the Senators get for their young, once promising, still intriguing, Swedish netminder.

Considering the number of extra picks the Sens have in this draft, it would be a small risk worth taking. If Lehner bounces back to his incredible 2012-13 season form, the Flames could have an elite starter for a small return. If he struggles, or at worst gets even worse, it really wouldn’t have cost the team all that much and his $2.25 million cap hit is not going to stop the Flames from signing their top young players.

I think it is a risk worth taking, especially when you consider you might even offer some of the losses and recoup a third round pick for Hiller from a good team looking to add some veteran goaltending depth like the Sharks.

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