The Senators signed Robin Lehner to a $6.675-million contract Thursday morning, locking up the 23-year-old restricted free agent goalie for the next three seasons. Lehner has been hailed for years as Ottawa’s goalie-of-the-future, but by the end of this coming season – or perhaps sooner – he’ll be firmly, finally ensconced as their No. 1 netminder.
Given that veteran Craig Anderson – who’ll be 34 years old at the end of the coming season – is entering the final year of his contract, Lehner won’t have to wait much longer to be given the starter’s job. Playing on a poor Sens squad in 2013-14, he posted a better save percentage (.913) than Anderson (.910) and his workload has increased gradually (from 12 games-played in 2012-13 to 36 last year). His new contract, which carries an annual average value of $2.225 million, is perfect for his budget-conscious franchise and won’t raise fan expectations to unattainable levels.
What does Lehner’s new deal mean for Anderson? Not much in the short term, as the goalie market is as flat as it’s ever been (just ask Martin Brodeur). But there’s every likelihood, as the season progresses and teams are seeking out goaltending help, that GM Bryan Murray finds a new home for Anderson and hands over the netminding reins to Lehner before or by the trade deadline.
Now that Jason Spezza is out of Ottawa, the Sens will be a younger team whose best years are ahead. Lehner fits into that picture quite well. The affable Swede, who got his first taste of NHL action in the 2010-11 campaign, has apprenticed long enough.
Lehner isn’t the Sens’ starter at the moment, but he’s going to be in very short order.