I can't say it enough, but Kari Lehtonen really, probably, most likely will be better this season than he was last season. That's an assumption, sure, but it's based on the larger sample size of Kari's career as well as the basic fact that seasons like Kari's 2014-15 are few and far between for goalies who don't play in Edmonton.
That said, we've looked at both Cam Talbot (well, Wes did) and Eddie Lack (DBD's resident tool did that yesterday), but today's candidate for the Stars' empty baseball cap might be the most appealing from a general manager's point of view, and not just because having goalies named Kari and Robin sounds utterly delightful no matter how sardonically you say it.
No, it's because Robin Lehner is both young (pre-goalie cliff) and cost-controlled for more than one year. In fact, Lehner has two years left on his deal ($2.2 million cap hit), and he'll still be an RFA when that deal expires. That means that, should the Stars acquire him, they would be getting a young goalie who would be both relatively inexpensive and a pretty decent insurance policy on Jack Campbell's development.
Look, the Ottawa Senators really have to do something. They've signed everyone's favorite McDonald's mascot to a three-year deal, and the newly ex-BU goalie Matt O'Connor has joined the fold as well. See, I'm not making this up:
Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray is reportedly gauging the market for goaltenders Craig Anderson and Robin Lehner.
According to Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, Murray is looking to trade one of the two netminders ahead of the June 26-27 NHL Draft.
With Andrew Hammond's roster spot locked, the Senators are looking to move one of their two goaltenders who opened the 2014-15 season with the team.
Garrioch reports the Senators have set the same asking price for both goaltenders – a top six forward and a draft pick.
Lehner, 23, is reportedly drawing interest from the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, amongst others. While, the veteran Anderson could draw interest from San Jose and St. Louis, according to the Sun.
Anderson is under contract through the 2018-19 season, while Lehner will hit restricted free agency in 2018.
And yes, I know what you are saying. You are saying, "Hark! The Sens would be foolhardy--nay, downright imbecilic should they proceed with dealing Lehner forthwith when such aged men as master Craig roam their stable." And you'd be right, assuming I understand your weird choice of words, but guess what? The Senators basically admitted that they didn't trust Lehner last year, and it's not like Anderson would bring back all that much in trade at his age even with his recent playoff performance.
Oh, and there's this, too:
Suspect Lehner is more likely to be dealt than Anderson, but talks on both are ongoing.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) June 22, 2015
It's hard to blame the Senators for going with the hot Hammond down the stretch considering the odious 90.89 5v5 SV% Lehner put up in his limited time last year; but you have to remember that this is a goalie that has been in the NHL since he was 19. Here, let's look at his overall body of 5v5 work alongside two other random goalies since 2010 (via War on Ice, of course):
That doesn't mean a whole lot--as with Lack and Talbot, less than 100 games (and spread over a few seasons at that) is a pretty meager sample size to use with any confidence--but given Lehner's contract and term, it's hard not to think that he's a prime pickup for a team looking for young goaltending depth with upside. And depending on how the Talbot and Lack markets shake out, Lehner's price might fit the Stars' wallet pretty well, although their top-six depth is pretty critically dependent on Valeri Nichushkin and Ales Hemsky playing up to their potential--not to mention Patrick Eaves's possible return.
The wild card in all this might be Jeff Reese, as he will surely be looked to for input on Lehner based on his relative familiarity with the East. We know Jim Nill relied heavily on Mike Valley for last year's ill-fated backup goalie tandem, so there seems to be a decent-ish level of transaction advisement involved in the goalie coach role. For my part, Lehner's 83.6 SV% on high-danger chances is encouraging if you're looking for signs of his ability to come up big under pressure, but I'm even more encouraged by his fairly solid numbers across the board given his youth.
Like any trade speculation (woop woop), it's all moot unless you know what both teams really want. Are the Stars looking for more of a solid stopgap a la Niemi while they figure out what Lehtonen is going to be this year, or are they already searching for a way to hedge their bets should Jack Campbell not take a step forward this year?
If the latter, then Robin Lehner would be a very attractive pickup. That's not just because the Stars would be getting a young 6-foot-4 goalie with loads of talent, but also because such a move could stabilize the crease long enough to allow them to get a better read on Phillipe Desrosiers. Isn't it crazy that we're already looking at Desrosiers? It's always about the next guy these days.