The ’12 Days of Christmas’ is a classic holiday song first published in its current form in 1908. In a nod to the classic carol, join The Hockey Writers as we count down the 12 Days of Hockeymas. Each day, we will provide you with a piece of hockey history as we eagerly await the start of the 2020-21 NHL season.
Top Dollar Duo
On the 12th day of Hockeymas, the Vegas Golden Knights gave their fans a goaltending tandem worth $12 million. This duo consists of Robin Lehner and Marc-Andre Fleury. The Golden Knights formed the pair after they acquired Lehner from the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline during the 2019-20 season.
With Lehner and Fleury between the pipes, Vegas arguably has the best pair of goaltenders in the NHL. Since his time with the New York Islanders, where he was a Vezina finalist and Masterton winner, Lehner has been considered an elite goalie. Fleury, who is a three-time Stanley Cup champion, hasn’t missed a beat, even as he is in the tail-end of his career.
However, all that glitters is not gold for the Golden Knights. Lehner and Fleury take up a significant portion of Vegas’ salary cap. This was showcased during the 2020 off-season, as Vegas had no choice but to trade key players away just to stay cap compliant.
Controversy in the Crease
This duo also does not come without some controversy. During the 2020 playoffs, Allan Walsh, Fleury’s agent, posted a picture on Twitter of his client being stabbed in the back with a sword that said “DeBoer.” This now-deleted tweet was posted in response to Lehner being named the starting goalie for the playoffs. This had led to the speculation amongst the Golden Knights community and hockey insiders that this signaled the end for Fleury in Vegas.
Despite the controversy, the Golden Knights announced that they will keep both Lehner and Fleury for the upcoming season. But the decision could have been forced on the team, as Lehner announced he was having shoulder surgery to repair damage from the playoffs. Bill Foley, the owner of the Golden Knights, seemed happy in the decision to keep both goalies.
“I love having the two G1 goalies like we have. We’ve been talking about it in these meetings. If we’re playing four nights out of seven nights, we need two good goalies. It’s going to be important because the season is going to abbreviated,” Foley said.
What This Means For the Future
As the 2021 season gets closer, it seems as if the Golden Knights have addressed and handled their goalie situation as best they could. With no teams wanting to take on Fleury’s $7 million cap hit, Vegas has found a way to keep both of their goalies at the cost of some veteran players. Rumors are now starting to pick up some steam regarding Max Pacioretty. If the team trades him, it would leave the Golden Knights with some breathing room regarding the salary cap.
Overall, the Golden Knights have dug themselves into a hole by keeping both Lehner and Fleury. In what originally seemed to be a rent-a-goalie deal with the Blackhawks in order to win the Stanley Cup, Lehner was able to play his way into the starting job. This earned the 29-year-old Swede a five-year contract with an AAV of $5 million. This is big news for other reasons, as the Golden Knights finally gave Lehner the long-term deal he has deserved.
With the season rapidly approaching, the Golden Knights stand strong as an early favorite to win the Stanley Cup. The prospect of a shortened season and two starting goalies brings up the possibility of the Golden Knights having single-digit losses in 2021. Only time will tell.