Report: Top UFA goalie meets with Red Wings

Don’t be surprised when the Wings shore up their goaltending on July 1st.

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According to a report from Detroit Red Wings insider Craig Custance of The Athletic, former Buffalo Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner made an in person visit to Detroit on Tuesday to meet with Red Wings coaching staff and management. 

Here’s the full account of things courtesy of Custance:

There was also a visitor who would be an intriguing signing if the Red Wings and his agency, Newport Sports, make a deal. Multiple sources confirmed that 26-year-old goalie Robin Lehner made an in-person visit to Detroit on Tuesday, meeting with Red Wings management and coaches. Lehner has been the Sabres starting goalie but became an unrestricted free agent when the Sabres declined to give him a qualifying offer.

Of course, the Red Wings are in the hunt for a backup goalie this offseason after shipping the inconsistent Petr Mrazek to the Philadelphia Flyers at the 2018 Trade Deadline. Custance sees Lehner as the perfect complement to Red Wings starter Jimmy Howard and the pair could end up providing the Red Wigns with a solid tandem in 2018-19.

The Red Wings have a backup goalie position to fill, one that is among the more appealing spots in the market since starter Jimmy Howard’s contract is up after this season. There’s also the outside expectation that the backup goalie signed in Detroit will get plenty of playing time because of Howard’s propensity to get injured.

The upside with Lehner is that, at just 26 years of age, there’s still time yet for him to develop into a bonafide NHL starter. He’s running out of time to be sure, but with no safety net behind Howard, Lehner seems like a natural fit for the Red Wings.

Lehner is an especially interesting option because he’s still young enough that he could re-emerge as a legit No. 1 goalie after struggling last season in Buffalo with a .908 save percentage. In his first two seasons with the Sabres, Lehner had a .921 save percentage in 80 games played. He has personality quirks, isn’t afraid to speak his mind and may have the occasional meltdown — all things that are part of the equation on a young team. But he might have the most upside of any goalie on the market. New Red Wings assistant coach Dan Bylsma, who coached Lehner in Buffalo, knows him well.

Lehner isn’t the only goalie on the Red Wings’ radar, however. Custance also reports that the team has reached out to the agents for for Carter Hutton and Jonathan Bernier, also both unrestricted free agents this offseason.

It remains to be seen which direction the team goes in this offseason, but you can almost certainly be assured that they’ll have a different look between the pipes in 2018-19.