Friday, June 9, 2017

Would you take a 2nd round pick for Robin Lehner

Published by, 6-8-2017

By now we should all be well versed in the trade for goalie Robin Lehner. Former GM Tim Murray was looking for a young-vet to put in net for Buffalo and on Draft Day 2015 he sent a first round pick (21st overall) to the Ottawa Senators for Lehner and aged forward David Legwand.

A quick note on Legwand before we move on:  Legwand was the first-ever pick of the Nashville Predators in 1998 (2nd) but never really lived up to that status.  Towards the tail end of his career he was a fourth-liner with solid defensive acumen. He played his last NHL season with the Sabres in 2015-16 and helped anchor Buffalo's penalty-kill which went from 30th the prior season to ninth that year. Last season the Sabres PK finished 25th-overall after spending most of the season at or near the bottom of the league.

At the 2015 NHL Draft the Senators used the 21st-overall pick to select center Colin White who appeared for Ottawa in the playoffs this year. White is a two-way center man with great hockey sense who could end up being in the top-six.

The general consensus is that you usually don't trade a first round pick for a goaltender although every couple of years a team does so. Cory Scnheider was traded by the Vancouver Canucks to the New Jersey Devils in 2013 for the ninth-overall pick (Bo Horvat) and Martin Jones was traded by the Boston Bruins to the San Jose Sharks on Draft Day 2015. The Bruins received the 29th-overall pick (Trent Frederic) and prospect Sean Kuraly. Prior to that the Washington Capitals traded the rights to Semyon Varlamov to Colorado for a first and second round pick.

Murray walked into the 2015 NHL Draft with two first round picks at his disposal along with two second-rounders and by the end of the day he selected Jack Eichel second-overall and defenseman Brendan Guhle 51st. He used the one first rounder on Lehner and a second rounder (31st) was sent to Colorado in the Ryan O'Reilly trade.

Lehner won the starting job in 2015 training camp and in his very first game as a Buffalo Sabre was felled by a high-ankle sprain that kept him out for months. He returned to the Sabres January 15, 2016 and had mixed results until he was shut down for he season in mid-March. This past season was all about seeing whether or not Lehner could/would/should be a starting goalie. He finished the season with some pretty solid numbers--2.76 GAA and .918 Sv%--but maybe more importantly, Lehner played in a career-high 59 games for the Sabres.

Along the way Lehner has been maturing as he plays more and looks as if he'll be a good No. 1 goaltender. But the season wasn't without question marks as he still looked shaky in some pressure situations, was known for giving up a weak goal more often than a goalie should, and was absolutely terrible in the shootout. Those weaknesses won't preclude him from being a bona fide starter, but it cold keep him from taking his team much farther than the first round if they make the playoffs.

The scoop with Lehner is that he was once completely secure in his starters role with Murray as GM, but now that Jason Botterill has taken over, there are question s arising as to how he fits in. Here's what Botterill told Sportsnet concerning Lehner, "“I have no problem starting next season with him in goal. There are more pressing needs. I liked what I saw from him when he won the Calder Cup.”

It's a statement that was far short of a ringing endorsement and it leaves plenty grey area for speculation. When Botterill said "starting next season in goal," it may be seen as Lehner might not be No. 1 after that. "I have no problem" may be looked at as "I'm cool no matter what happens with him." And Botterill didn't have anything to say about Lehner's NHL work as had to reach all the way back to the 2010-11 AHL season to give Lehner a compliment.

With that in mind, let the speculation begin.

If there's a team that needs a starting goalie, it would seem as if Botterill's answering the phone on Lehner. With all that's transpired since the Sabres traded for him, a first round pick might be asking too much in return. But, Sabres fans, would you take a second round pick in a trade of Lehner?

I wouldn't be opposed to that.

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