Saturday, October 1, 2022

Robin Lehner injury: Exploring Golden Knights’ goaltending options for the 2022-23 season

With the news that Robin Lehner will miss the entire 2022-23 season due to hip surgery, the Vegas Golden Knights are left searching for answers at goaltender. At this point, the team does not have many options, and the ones they do have are less than ideal.

The Golden Knights are coming off a highly disappointing season that ended with them missing the playoffs, and a mess of a goaltending situation contributed to those struggles. Lehner battled injury and only played in 44 games, and Laurent Brossoit also got injured and struggled mightily when healthy.

Rookie Logan Thompson played 19 games and provided a bright spot between the pipes for Vegas, but he remains an extremely inexperienced option.

Despite some offseason turnover, Vegas will enter next season as one of the top teams in the Pacific Division, but hopes of a bounce-back year could be derailed if it can’t find reliable goaltending while Lehner is on the mend.

Let’s take a look at some of the Golden Knights’ goaltending options in the 2022-23 season.

Roll with veteran Laurent Brossoit

Brossoit is definitely the most experienced netminder in Vegas these days. He has 106 career games played, but the issue is that Brossoit has never once taken one a starter’s workload. The most games Brossoit has played in a single season is 24, which he achieved while Lehner was hurt last year. Brossoit was a serviceable backup with the Winnipeg Jets from 2018 to 2021, but he played sparingly behind Connor Hellebuyck, one of the best goalies in the NHL.

The other issue is that, even when he was healthy, Brossoit was bad last season. His -7.32 goals saved above average, according to Natural Stat Trick, put him well behind both Lehner and Thompson. No matter where he has played, Brossoit has failed to show that he is capable of being a No. 1 option at the NHL level.

On top of all that, Brossoit underwent offseason surgery himself. Even if he is ready in time for training camp, there are health concerns with the 29-year old.

Give the crease to Logan Thompson

Based on how he performed in limited work last season, Thompson does seem like the best option at the moment. With Lehner and Brossoit out with injuries, Thompson came in and acquitted himself well. In his 19 appearances, Thompson saved 3.91 goals above average, which was the best mark on the team. His high-danger save percentage of 83.1% was also quite impressive.

The biggest issue with Thompson is that he is unproven. Just a few years ago, Thompson played 32 games at the ECHL level for the South Carolina Stingrays. Thompson has performed well for the Henderson Silver Knights at the AHL level, but the jump to the NHL is a big one. Thompson only has 20 NHL games under his belt, and that is not a big enough sample size to know whether he can backstop Vegas to contender status.

Look for outside help

This would probably be the preferred option for the Golden Knights, but it is a complicated one for a number of reasons. For starters, the goaltending market has completely dried up in free agency. None of the players left would provide a reliable upgrade over Brossoit or Thompson. If the Golden Knights wanted to get crazy, they could offer-sheet Dallas’ Jake Oettiger, but that doesn’t seem likely. That means Vegas will have to pursue a trade, and that makes acquiring a new goaltender even more difficult.

The Golden Knights have very little salary cap space to play with. They already traded Max Pacioretty to the Carolina Hurricanes for nothing just to get rid of his cap hit, so that shows how dire the situation is. If Vegas is going to trade for a netminder, the deal has to meet a few criteria. The player must be available, the player must be an upgrade over the current situation, and the deal has to work on the financial side of things.

Right off the bat, Florida’s Spencer Knight, Boston’s Jeremy Swayman, Pittsburgh’s Casey DeSmith, Carolina’s Antti Raanta, and the New York IslandersSemyon Varlamov come to mind as goalies who might check at least one or two of those boxes. Still, who knows whether those teams would be willing to move on from them, or if Vegas could make an appealing offer that is also cap compliant.

There are some intriguing options outside of Las Vegas, but it won’t be easy for the Golden Knights to solidify their crease by going that route.

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