ANALYSIS: Lehner signing is another big move in Bowman’s rebuild



The Chicago Blackhawks fanbase and overall media universe were caught off guard yesterday by the team’s signing of free agent goalie Robin Lehner. Here at The Rink, we may not have been the only observers to theorize that a surprise move in net might be in the offing, but we were definitely in the minority.

If you listen from about the 1 hour/14 minute mark of RinkCast 54 (recorded last week), you’ll hear the likely rationale for why the Hawks would acquire an expereinced alternative to Corey Crawford and Collin Delia this summer.

After yesterday’s news, the writing on the wall could not be more clear: Corey Crawford’s tenure between the pipes in Chicago is likely winding down. He is now in the final year of a big money contract, 35 years old, and has had recent, serious concussion issues that have basically wiped out over a season of hockey.

GM Stan Bowman has done a lot of work on his defense the last couple of years, with 5 defensemen drafted in the first two rounds of the last 3 drafts and two trades this summer for experienced NHL blueliners. All these moves, at least on paper, suggest improvement to the Blackhawks’ NHL fortunes near-term and long-term.

Bowman has also begun re-building the bottom six forwards—seemingly trying to recapture the formula of 2015 with Andrew Shaw and Ryan Carpenter, who may remind some of 2015 Cup winner Andrew Desjardins. And yes, Marcus Kruger could be back as the teams’s 12th or 13th forward. These aren’t “offensive” moves.They are all about building lower lines and penalty killing forwards that help keep the puck out of the Hawks’ net.

It’s also extremely likely that Artem Anisimov will get his needed change of scenery in the next few days, and the Hawks may now have the luxury to move another depth defenseman. And thus, the Hawks’ may yet add another forward.

Bowman is busy, and dealing, and slowly the face of a rebuilt team is emerging—the way championships are built, from the net out.

Let’s get clear now on what signing Lehner really means.

Lehner is not Cam Ward. Or Scott Darling.

He is a 27 year old Vezina Trophy Finalist and Jennings Trophy winner in 2019. His recent body of work is at least an echelon above both of the aforementioned former Hawk netminders. He is big, talented and competitive. This is why his signing raised so many eyebrows and questions. Lehner is likely not a 1B goalie—he’s a #1. So then what’s going to happen to Crawford?

Lehner is signed for one year.

What this means is next July 1st (or more likely before) the team and Lehner will make a decision whether he will be extended and remain in Chicago as the #1. This strategy gives Lehner the freedom to decide where he wants to be, and gives the Hawks some flexibility in terms of clarifying their goalie situation. On the surface, it can be described like the Ward signing a year ago.The difference is Lehner is 27, not 34, and he is a better goalie at this point than Ward was last year.

A lot could happen: Collin Delia could really continue to refine his game and emerge as a #1. It’s possible. LIkely? Ehhh, those are longer odds.

Crawford could rise up, stay healthy, and play 65 stellar games—and make the case for a short contract extension. But that new contract could also be elsewhere in the NHL. But all that rides on Crawford staying completely healthy this season, which again are longer odds.

Lehner could be in Chicago long term. It’s probably up to him.

Finally, it’s very likely that the team and Lehner’s agent discussed the very real possibility of a longer term extension. The Hawks, I was told then, investigated trading for Lehner 2-3 years ago. They like his talent. At the same time, Lehner is also a recent Masterton Trophy winner, a result of his recent  “comeback” from alcoholism and related emotional issues. Although Columbus and his incumbent Islanders offered Lehner deals in the last 24-48 hours, even the Islanders were allegedly only willing to go to 2 years in term. Why? Because likely any team is going to need to see some more sobriety and stability from Lehner before committing significant dollars and term. And likely no one understands that better than Lehner himself.

What all this activity over the last few weeks means is that the old paradigm of the Chicago Blackhawks is rapidly changing. Sure, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, are still around. But aside from that, everything else with this team has evolved, and at some point in the not too terribly distant future, one or two more chunks of the remaining Cup core will fall away as Bowman continues to make major moves.

All we have for now. Comment below.





Center Ice Forums ANALYSIS: Lehner signing is another big move in Bowman’s rebuild

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    John Jaeckel

      The Chicago Blackhawks fanbase and overall media universe were caught off guard yesterday by the team’s signing of free agent goalie Robin Lehn
    [To continue reading full article, click here: ANALYSIS: Lehner signing is another big move in Bowman’s rebuild]


    Spot on! In general Hawks are moving in the right direction.

    Jeff Osborn

    [quote]Lehner is not Cam Ward. Or Scott Darling.[/quote]

    THANK YOU! As I said last night…

    At this point in time Robin Lehner is a better, younger, more healthy goalie than Corey Crawford. So if the Blackhawks are going to pay him $5M (and he willingly signed here) just to sit on the bench and play 30 games, that would be epically stupid on both parties.

    Something is more up.


    If crow becomes the backup he could buy a new snowmobile, eh?

    Stan is killin it so far.  What he gets for big arti is gonna be interesting.
    (Is anyone impressed with jokiharu? I’m not.)
    Pitter patter squirrelly Stan.




    Great write up as always JJ.  As I mentioned in one of my responses to a recent post you made – the Hawks had to upgrade in net.  If you were planning on going into the season with CC and Deila – well…yikes.

    Crawford has been stellar in his time here bringing two cups, but with his recent injury history you would hope he hangs it up and spends time with his family after this year.

    I like the move.  It’s a one year feeling out process for Lehner based on his past and where the Hawks are at.  Next year Lehner is the starter and CC is gone, or Lehner is the starter and CC is the backup on a smaller deal.  OR they’re both gone…who knows but you’ve got a goalie to make a run should you get into the dance.

    I’m still hopeful they clear some space for possibly Dzingel.  As Hocktock mentions what if you package one of those young dmen along with AA…what’s the return or is it picks so you can sign someone?

    I’m also still wondering how the defense shakes out.  I would think Gus will be moved at some point because they’re not going to have the money for him next season – great point producer but lost in his own end.  And where does Murphy end up?  Do you move that cap hit – although Murphy is the only guy that will clear the front of the net besides #7.



    Mister Ricochet

    No doubt good call men on your podcast on the goalie position.   The Hawks needed to address the possibilities of what could wreck em next season, Crow quite possibly goes down, Delia is not quite there as an NHL goalie yet, if ever, and ditto for Lankanin.  But thought it would be a better version of Ward, a Khudobin type not a Lehner……… They know first hand what that can look like from a few short yrs ago when Glass, Foster, Delia and Berube scrambled to fill the position when Crow went down.  …… This is another conversation but IMO leaving the system that short on goalies is a firing offense IMO.  Complete incompetence and while I’m at it whoever recommended and then drafted goalie Wooter Peeters in the THIRD rd should be fired as well.  saw him live and in film 5-6-7 times before he was drafted and was embarrassed for the kid as he could not skate, would fall down 4-5-6 times a game, Hawks drafted him that yr!

    So those who follow know the organIzation is, lets say,  challenged evaluating and drafting goalies.  So when out of nowhere Lehner becomes available and the Hawks don’t have an organIzational pow wow they jump, and in a couple hours of the 240lb Lehner becoming available he’s a Hawk.

    My opinion, the Hockey Gods dropped the beast into their lap cuz they know the Hawks can’t draft and develop a goalie.

    Would not surprise me a bit if the kid is signed to a 5 yr deal and proves a top 1/3 goalie in the league.  Maybe not but at the very very least he’s an elite backup for this yr.  Absolutely no risk here and the reward can be a top level #1 for 5-6-7 yrs.

    Guys with better memories than me know better but so far this looks like Stan’s best offseason ever and best of all nobody acquired has a crippling hit or term.

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