NHL Trade Deadline

Robin Lehner on things not working out with Blackhawks after trade to Vegas Golden Knights

Robin Lehner on things not working out with Blackhawks after trade to Vegas Golden Knights

Former Blackhawks goalie Robin Lehner has only been with the Vegas Golden Knights for three days after being traded by the Blackhawks ahead of Monday's deadline. 

In a complicated transaction, Lehner was first traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for winger Martins Dzierkals, a 22-year-old unsigned draft pick. Lehner and Dzierkals were then traded to Vegas, getting the Blackhawks goaltender Malcolm Subban, defenseman prospect Slava Demin and Vegas' second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

The 2019 Vezina Trophy finalist has drawn attention for talking about how things were handled with the Hawks twice already in the three-day span. 

RELATED - Robin Lehner opens up on getting traded by Blackhawks

After a Knights' practice on Thursday, Lehner was asked if his pending unrestricted free agent status was weighing on him. 

“To be honest, that’s not weighing on my mind," Lehner told Vegas media. "There was other things weighing on my mind. I mean, I haven’t played to my potential the last few weeks and there’s a few things that kind of played into that. 

"I went to Chicago to help them out and got promises of getting a fair chance to play. I came there with a good mindset to fit into the team. I mean, I didn’t play much in the beginning or the middle-beginning of the season, even if I played really well and had a good camp. 

"Eventually I took over and I think I won like nine out of 10, 12 out of 15, and we walked up one point behind a playoff spot. Then all of a sudden, I found myself on the bench for no reason. That was tough. Plus, negotiations had totally died out.” 

Lehner signed a one-year, $5 million free agent contract with the Blackhawks. He and Corey Crawford equally split the net, with Lehner getting the edge in quality performances the first half of the season. 

Crawford had a .939 save percentage from Jan. 15 to the trade deadline. Lehner's was .899 during that span.

“At the end of the day, we’re players playing for our lives and playing for contracts,” Lehner said. “I felt for two years I’ve played really well and I still can’t get something done, and I’m playing well and I can’t play. It hits your motivation part a little bit and I’ve got to do a better job of letting that kind of go away.

“I thought there was a future there and I did everything to get a future there, and I still couldn’t get a future there. In the end, the last couple weeks were tough, mentally, to kind of find a motivation needed.”

Lehner was 16-10-5 with a 3.01 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage in 33 appearances with the Blackhawks.

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Blackhawks react to losing Robin Lehner and Erik Gustafsson at the NHL trade deadline

Blackhawks react to losing Robin Lehner and Erik Gustafsson at the NHL trade deadline

ST. LOUIS — The Blackhawks aren't accustomed to being sellers at the NHL trade deadline. For a decade, they were always the team looking for acquisitions to strengthen their chances at a Stanley Cup run.

But for the past several seasons, the Blackhawks have been on the opposite end of the spectrum. 

On Monday, they declared themselves sellers by trading defenseman Erik Gustafsson and goaltender Robin Lehner to playoff contenders in separate moves to recoup future assets. And for players, saying goodbye to teammates is never fun, especially when they're well-respected.

RELATED: Did the Blackhawks play their cards right at the deadline

Jonathan Toews gave a long answer about what Lehner and Gustafsson meant to the team, both on and off the ice.

"Losing Lenny, losing Gus, I think those two guys have meant a lot to this team in the short time they've been here," Toews said. "Lenny came in right away and sometimes you're not too sure how those strong personalities are going to fit into a locker room, especially right away. A lot of guys kind of dip their toes in the water when they come to a new team but Lenny just jumped right in. Right away, you could tell he was genuine and he cared about winning and he brought a lot of leadership to the room.

"I told him many times, too, that he helped me as a captain. I think he helped some of our veteran guys that have been here a long time kind of wake up to get back to what makes us good players and good leaders, and try and get this team going in the right direction. He brought a lot in the short time he was here. Even today you feel that absence. Wish him the best.

"Same goes for Gus. He was one of those guys that had a ton of skill and just kept getting better every single day. Obviously, he's the type of player that has a ton of upside and he's going to keep getting better as he goes along. Calgary's getting a really good player and a great teammate with him."

Patrick Kane echoed those sentiments.

"You have mixed feelings," Kane said. "Thought those two guys that we traded away were really good players for our team. It's never fun to see teammates go, so there's definitely some mixed feelings there."

That's the difficult part of the business. The Blackhawks understand that. That doesn't make it any easier to accept reality.

"You never like to see friends leave," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "As teammates, that's tough, and both guys are very well-liked and played well for us. But at the same time, we're trying to collect assets and make the team better long-term. So, understand that."

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Did the Blackhawks make the right moves at the NHL trade deadline

Did the Blackhawks make the right moves at the NHL trade deadline

ST. LOUIS — The Blackhawks were always going to be sellers leading up to the NHL trade deadline but the question was to what degree? Chicago got its answer on Monday.

After a quiet morning, the Blackhawks struck two deals in the final hour: Erik Gustafsson to the Calgary Flames in exchange for a third-round pick in 2020 and, more notably, Robin Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights for a second-round selection in 2020, goaltender Malcolm Subban and defenseman prospect Slava Demin. The Blackhawks also retained 50 percent of Lehner's salary in a complicated three-way deal that saw Toronto eat 44 percent of that for a fifth-round pick in 2020 to help Vegas become cap compliant.

The immediate impressions on the return? Pretty underwhelming. But at the same time, the market didn't favor the Blackhawks by any stretch.

The Carolina Hurricanes had two first-round picks and were desperate to acquire a goaltender at the deadline after relying on a 42-year-old Zamboni driver to get them through their last game. No doubt the Blackhawks were hoping to land at least a first-rounder for Lehner but if the Hurricanes weren't biting on that price tag, neither was anyone else.

Six first-round picks were traded in February and not one of them was moved for a rental player. Five of those skaters had terms left on their contracts and the other signed a long-term extension after the trade to help justify it.

[MORE: Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Trade deadline recap plus Stan Bowman 1-on-1]

the reality is that the decision came down to whether the Blackhawks wanted to risk letting Lehner walk for nothing this summer, or take the best offer on the table and accept that they won't get 100 cents on the dollar, especially if they weren't seeing eye to eye on a potential extension. They chose the latter. Whether the Blackhawks should have re-signed Lehner is a separate discussion but both sides can always revisit things on July 1 if they choose.

It's also difficult to get excited about the return for Gustafsson after several similar impact defensemen were traded last week for more, and rightfully so. Did the Blackhawks wait too long to move him? Probably. But he wasn't going to fetch much on his own to begin with, and you have to wonder how hard the Blackhawks tried to package Gustafsson with another asset to sweeten the deal and get the first-round pick they were looking for.

There's a large portion of the fanbase who felt Gustafsson should have been dealt in the summer when his value was highest after he turned in a breakout 60-point campaign. And that's fair. But the Blackhawks were hoping to make the playoffs this season and subtracting a key piece from their roster wasn't something that would have aligned with those goals.

In the end, the Blackhawks went into trade deadline day hoping to recoup some draft picks and prospects, and continue building from within. They did that.

But the expectation in Chicago was that this could have served as a prime opportunity to restock the pipeline with future assets and get fans excited about the retooling process. And while the Blackhawks didn't exactly strike out, they didn't hit a home run, either.

"The goal was to try to get some asset value in return for them and we certainly did that," GM Stan Bowman said in a conference call. "Going into a period like this at the trade deadline, you have to try to manage your assets going forward. When you have expiring assets and you talk around the league to teams and find out if there’s interest in them, then you do your best to try and get the maximum return you can. "

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