Through sources, here at The Rink, we heard this week that the Blackhawks had made an opening offer to Robin Lehner and his camp on a contract extension in the neighborhood of 4 years at $5 million per.
As big Lehner fans and the progenitors of the #PayRobin hashtag, we were also quick to cry foul—perhaps temporarily forgetting the true nature of contract negotiations in the NHL, and what’s most likely at work here.
Go ahead #Blackhawks front office: bollocks up re-signing Lehner and it’ll be the deserved END of some careers, while his will go on elsewhere.
— John Jaeckel (@jaeckel) January 10, 2020
First, it’s all a negotiation.
As much as we want to see Lehner in Chicago long-term, GMs (for the most part) and agents (completely) are not in the business of fulfilling fan narratives. If I’m Lehner’s agent, my job is to get my client the most money and term on his next deal (because that’s also how I make my money) and hopefully in a situation where my client can thrive, win playoff games, and get endorsement deals. Period.
So that said, why wouldn’t I use Sergei Bobrovsky’s 8-year, $80 million contract as a starting point in my conversations with Stan Bowman? Because it’s not nice? Lehner is, fact, going to get paid this summer like he’s one of the top 10 goalies in the NHL—because he is one of them.
All that said, that’s the high end of the market. And if you’re Stan Bowman, you want to frame this negotiation by starting out at the low end of the market—say the deal we heard was initially offered.
And through negotiation, you likely end up somewhere in the middle, which would be about $7-7.5 million per for 5-6 years. Seems reasonable.
“But, but, you can trade Lehner. He doesn’t want to stay in Chicago anyway.”
We believe—and we’ve heard—Lehner wants to stay in Chicago. You don’t want to believe us or our sources? Listen to Lehner then:
Robin Lehner on whether he's open to discussing contract extension with #Blackhawks in-season.
He also said he's not interested in taking a discount, but doesn't want to be overpaid either: "I want to gain some respect that I think I deserve." pic.twitter.com/q0ZnMno1FC
— Charlie Roumeliotis (@CRoumeliotis) January 10, 2020
No, he’s not going to give the Hawks a hometown discount, nor should he. Can the Hawks trade Lehner for a bucket of pucks at the deadline?
Sure, and then you’re left with Colin Delia, Kevin Lankinen and the shell of Corey Crawford (if he doesn’t retire anyway) next year—and going forward. Unless you decide at some point to pay a top goalie—who wants to be in Chicago—the going rate for his services. And you already have that guy. Let’s be logical, mmmm-kay?
To hesitate on this would be front office malpractice. But, in all likelihood, the Hawks are going about this the right way, for now, even if at the risk of offending Lehner. It’s a negotiation. And it’s between the Hawks and Lehner’s agent. Not just the Hawks and Lehner.
And certainly, the situation can change—the two parties can move toward each other and come together in the middle of the range outlined above—which seems to make a lot of sense. And there is time yet for that to happen.
Or one side or the other can get angry and shut it down, allowing Lehner to go to UFA this summer, or trading him or his rights before then. And that’s the time to panic.
Because #PayRobin is better than the alternative.
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