A “show me contract” is when a player and team agree to a one-year deal. That one-year deal often is because the team believes that the player needs to show that he can produce before being offered a long-term deal. The “show me contract” gained national popularity when last year Alexander Radulov, a former NHL player who had returned from the KHL, signed for the Montreal Canadiens. Radulov played well for the Canadiens and proceeded to get a lucrative contract from the Dallas Stars in free-agency. Now it’s time for Robin Lehner to do the same. Lehner re-signed for the Buffalo Sabres for $4M over one-year.
Robin Lehner’s Show Me Contract
Lehner played in 59 games for the dismal Sabres, who finished 15th in the Eastern Conference. Lehner’s 59 games were his career best in a season, with 36 games for Ottawa in 2013-14 being the second highest. In his 59 games, Lehner was 10th in the league among starting goaltenders for save percentage, recording a percentage of .920. A disgusting blue-line left Robin Lehner having to carry the load from behind. Lehner stole a few games as all good goalies should, but ultimately not enough to help the Sabres.
Now with Tim Murray gone and Jason Botterill in charge, Lehner must prove his worth once more. Especially, since Lehner was acquired by the Sabres back in June of 2015 by Murray. Murray must have seen something special in Lehner, as he traded away a first-round pick to acquire Lehner from the Ottawa Senators. Murray was with the Senators as an assistant GM the year before.
Jason Botterill most likely has only seen Lehner in the NHL, which hasn’t been anything amazing. Lehner has only had four seasons of consistent play in the NHL. That’s including his injury shortened 2014-15 season with the Sabres. Lehner won’t get a long contract without insurance that he can be called upon without falling to injury, and the Sabres can’t afford to let go of a goaltender with the depth in the organization being poor.
In The Eyes Of A GM
From the naked eye, it looks as if the deal was just to avoid arbitration. However, there might be more to it. It’s no secret the Sabres have been miserable since 2007, failing to make the playoffs in all but two seasons since. Lehner had a good year last season, but one year is certainly not enough to entice the Sabres to commit to him long-term, especially after he had a few violent outbursts against opposition this season. From the fan’s viewpoint, it was something exciting to watch. From management’s point of view, not so much. Discipline handed down from the NHL can often take a goalie out of important games. Also, Lehner has had injuries in the past, so the smartest idea by the new GM was to offer a one-year contract. This deal will allow the Sabres time to decide between Lehner and the prospects waiting in the system.
In The Eyes of Robin Lehner
The Sabres have struggled. Despite tanking to get the number second-overall pick in the 2015 draft, Buffalo has not shown any life. After a loss against Vancouver, Lehner had some choice words, “It’s not even disappointing anymore, it’s starting to get … I’m starting to get angry.” Lehner knows the difficulty of being a Buffalo Sabre. If he has another good season he may look for an exit if the Sabres can’t match his performance. With the likes of Ryan Miller, former Sabre, earning $2 million/year, Lehner could cash in big. A one-year deal gives him time to feel out he direction of his team and increase his stock value.
The Sabres have quite a few options in front of them. If the season starts off poorly, trading Lehner at the deadline for prospects or more NHL ready assets could set them up for future success. If the Sabres find footing, don’t be surprised to see Lehner in Buffalo for years to come.
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