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Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman isn’t one to negotiate contracts with players through the media. So it wasn't surprising when he, earlier in the week, declined to discuss the statuses of the Blackhawks' pending restricted and unrestricted free agents out of respect for the process.

Perhaps the biggest name of that group is Robin Lehner, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season for the third straight year. He signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Blackhawks on July 1 and has been worth every penny.

With the window to begin negotiating contract extensions with pending UFAs having opened on Jan. 1, Lehner was asked after Friday's optional practice whether he'd be open to discussing an extension in the middle of the season.

"I'd definitely be open to it," Lehner said. "But let the agents and Stan figure that out. It's a different summer this summer than last summer. Me personally, another year under my belt in my new journey. The market is wide open. There's a lot of teams that need goalies. It's not that many goalies that are available this season. So I mean we'll see what happens.

"All I know is, I really like it here. I've learned enough. This is a business and no matter how good things are going, how well you like it, sometimes it's not up to you and it's not in your control. But I know where I stand, and I really like this team and I still really believe in this team and the pieces this team has. Would like to be a part of the turnaround."

 

Lehner was also asked a follow-up question on whether he'd consider taking a discount to remain in Chicago and sounded like a guy who just wants to be paid market value for the first time in his career, both in dollars and in term.

"I've taken discounts my whole life," said Lehner, who ranks No. 10 in NHL history with a .918 save percentage. "I'm not a guy that wants to be overpaid either. I want to gain some respect that I think I deserve and we'll see if that happens or not. We'll see what happens."

If the Blackhawks aren't prepared to pay him, somebody else will. And if they're still serious about being playoff contenders for years to come, it would be wise of the Blackhawks to do everything they can to lock up Lehner on a long-term extension sooner than later because it will be a bidding war for his services if he gets to July 1.

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