There seemed to be a specific plan in mind for the Buffalo Sabres and starting netminder Robin Lehner for this summer. However, plans changed and on Thursday, it has been revealed that there is a shocking twist in the situation involving both parties...
Bill Hoppe of The Olean Times Herald believes the Sabres may allow goaltender Lehner to hit the open market on July 1, rather than give the restricted free agent a $4 million qualifying offer.
Time is ticking on this important decisions as the Sabres have until Monday to make their decision. However, Hoppe thinks the decision has been long in the making as the Sabres view Linus Ullmark as their future No. 1. After all, Buffalo chose to sign Lehner to only a one-year deal last summer after a career year... Ullmark played in just five games for the Sabres this season, registering a 1-2 record with a .935 save percentage and a 2.00 GAA.
Lehner, who still believes he can be a team's starting goalie, might prefer to test the market to find a club in need of a leading netminder in between the pipes.
There could be a need with the New York Islanders, though Lehner does not have the best reputation...
Lehner joined the Sabres in the 2015 off-season and started 50 games for the Sabres this season, recording a 14-26-9 record with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage. He became the Sabres' No. 1 goalie in 2016-17 and posted a career-high 23 wins in 58 starts with a .920 save percentage.
While the veteran goalie might want to test his value on the free-agent market, his outspoken nature could be a problem for some teams interested in having him fill a backup role. However, Hoppe believes that Lehner's 205 career starts under his belt should allow him to find work in the NHL.
Back in February, it had been reported that Lehner had requested a trade, demanding that his team move him before the deadline. While the controversial goalie denied the rumors, the Sabres might still be annoyed by his demand.
Lehner is not the only goalie the Sabres will need to think about before July 1st. Hoppe thinks the Lehner’s backup goaltender Chad Johnson will also walk as a free agent this summer and expects the Sabres to sign a veteran backup to serve behind Ullmark next season. A few likely candidates to receive a phone call from the Sabres general manager Jason Botterill are Carter Hutton, Jonathan Bernier, Kari Lehtonen and Michael Hutchinson.
What is next for Lehner? We will know soon...