Golden Knights’ Lehner lands 5-year contract after strong playoff performance

The Vegas Golden Knights re-signed Robin Lehner on Saturday to a five-year, $25-million US contract that makes him their goaltender of the present and future and plunges one-time face of the franchise Marc-Andre Fleury into uncertainty.

Lehner’s deal carries a $5 million annual salary cap hit and runs through the 2024-25 season. Committing to Lehner makes it likely Vegas will at some point move on from Fleury, who took the team to the Stanley Cup final in 2018 in its inaugural season.

Head coach Peter DeBoer made clear his preference for Lehner when the NHL returned for an expanded playoffs. While he said he’d use both goalies, he started Lehner in 16 of the Golden Knights’ 20 post-season games.

DeBoer opting for Lehner led Fleury’s agent, Allan Walsh, to tweet an illustration during the second round of his client with a sword featuring the coach’s name through his back. It was deleted the next day, and Fleury said he and Lehner have a good relationship.

Lehner went 9-7 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .917 save percentage as Vegas reached the Western Conference final before losing to the Dallas Stars. Fleury was 3-1 with a 2.27 and .910.

‘This team is all about winning’

The long-term contract means some security for Lehner, who played for four teams over the past three seasons. When word of this contract being agreed to came out, the 30-year-old Swede said during the playoffs it wasn’t finalized but he was comfortable with Vegas as soon as he arrived after a trade at the deadline in February.

“I felt it right away when I came here: This team is all about just winning and you deserve what you get,” Lehner said last month. “That’s, I think, what winning teams do, and it hasn’t always been the case, so it’s refreshing when I got here and I felt that vibe and that culture around here. I had to work hard.”

Lehner won the Masterton Trophy last year for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey after detailing his battles with addiction and mental health problems.

“Stigma is real in the world but this gives me hope for the future,” Lehner tweeted. “Thanks Golden Knights for believing in me.”

Despite helping the New York Islanders get to the second round in 2019, he went to free agency and signed a one-year deal worth $5 million with Chicago, which later flipped him to Vegas.

Lehner won’t be bouncing around for the next little while, though Fleury’s status is a major question mark. Fleury, who will be 36 by the time next NHL season starts, has two years left on his contract at a $7 million cap hit with a 10-team no-trade clause.

Fleury is a three-time Stanley Cup winner with Pittsburgh, which also re-signed all-star netminder Tristan Jarry to a three-year, $10.5-million pact on Saturday. Matt Murray, who Fleury teamed up with to win it in 2016 and 2017, faces an uncertain future like his former teammate.

Flyers extend deal of backup goalie Elliott

The Philadelphia Flyers signed backup goalie Brian Elliott to a one-year, $1.5-million US contract extension.

The 35-year-old Elliott went 16-7-4 with a 2.87 goals-against average and two shutouts this season. He went 1-1 in two playoff starts as the backup to Carter Hart.

Elliott has played in 100 games for the Flyers over the past three seasons, going 50-29-12 with a 2.80 GAA, a .906 save percentage and four shutouts.

“Brian is a quality, veteran goaltender who is also an important part of our leadership group,” general manager Chuck Fletcher said Saturday. “His preparation and work ethic are exemplary. With Brian and Carter, we believe we have a strong goaltending duo who have each had success and work very well with each other.”

Elliott’s career has also included stops in Calgary, St. Louis and Ottawa. He helped St. Louis reach the Western Conference finals in 2015-16 with a regular season record of 23-8-6 in 42 appearances.

Coyotes waive forward Grabner

The Arizona Coyotes placed Michael Grabner on waivers Saturday for the purpose of buying out the speedy forward’s contract.

He had one year left at $3.775 million US in salary and a cap hit of $3.35 million. Assuming Grabner clears waivers Sunday, the buyout will cost Arizona just over $2.5 million, trim money off the books next season and cost an extra $1.26 million in 2021-22.

Grabner, 32, had 11 points during the shortened regular season and three goals in nine playoff games. He signed this deal coming off a 27-goal season in 2017-18.