Blackhawks' Lehner likes Chicago, but he won't sign a discount deal to stay here

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • The Blackhawks' Robin Lehner said if he re-signs, the deal will not come with a hometown discount.

    The Blackhawks' Robin Lehner said if he re-signs, the deal will not come with a hometown discount. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/10/2020 5:16 PM

Robin Lehner cut right to the chase after an optional practice Friday: He will not be giving the Blackhawks a discount when it comes to signing a contract extension.

"I've taken discounts my whole life," said Lehner, who signed a one-year, $5 million deal to come to the Hawks July 1. "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."

Locking up a high-quality goalie -- theoretically for at least a few years -- is by far general manager Stan Bowman's biggest priority heading into next season. And while Lehner is open to signing with the Hawks before free agency opens, he strongly implied he may test the open market.

"It's a different summer this summer than last summer," Lehner said. "(I have) another year under my belt in my new journey.

"The market is (also) wide open. There's a lot of teams that need goalies (and) not that many goalies available."

The top free agents this summer should be Lehner, Braden Holtby, Thomas Greiss, Jacob Markstrom and Corey Crawford. The 28-year-old Lehner and the 30-year-old Holtby figure to command the most money.

Lehner was a Vezina Trophy finalist with the Islanders last season when he allowed a scant 2.13 goals per game and has more than proven his ability as a top-notch netminder once again with the Hawks this season.

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Four goaltenders currently have a cap hit of $8.5 million or higher: Montreal's Carey Price ($10.5 million), Florida's Sergei Bobrovsky ($10 million), Tampa Bay's Andrei Vasilevskiy ($9.5 million) and the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million).

What should Lehner command? Something north of $7 million a year seems plausible. The Hawks, who probably can't afford much more than that, are Lehner's third team in as many seasons. There's no doubt he would like stability for himself and family.

Lehner and I talked about that and more before Thursday's game against Nashville.

Q: What's it like having to change teams so often?

A: It's tough. (Well,) let's not get ahead of ourselves. I still get to play in the National Hockey League. Still, it's mentally draining. Tough with my two kids to keep moving them around. My son is 5 years old and has been in four different cities. He's starting to miss his friends; it's tough to see.

But it's felt good (here). It's such a good organization. Made me feel good right from the get-go. I have a little experience (moving around) so it was a bit easier transition.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It was definitely a different type of team to come to. It's such an accomplished team -- obviously it's been struggling for a bit -- but it has a lot of accomplished players that pretty much have won everything you can win.

You come into kind of a different era, if you want to say. But it's been really good. Good guys. The core group of guys are really good people. They want to win. Competitors. It's been fun.

Q: Is moving around harder for you or your family?

A: It's more the wife and kids: "What's going to happen next? Where are we going to go next?"

There's not really any stability, but that's how it goes sometimes. We're fine with it. I get to still play hockey and do what I love. I'm not complaining. It's a privilege to play in this league.

Q: Would you like to know where you're going to be for the next five years or so?

A: For the majority of players in this league, (they) want to be somewhere and know where to be. It's more of having an investment somewhere where you feel like, 'This is where I can have my goals and this is where I want to win and help this team win.'

First contract year might be a little bit of pressure, but it's not a big deal for me (now). I would like to be somewhere for a longer period of time -- have a base and start a life. We'll see what happens.

Q: Is it more important for you to have long-term security or more important for you to have a chance to win a Stanley Cup?

A: I wouldn't say it's for long-term security. I think when you know you're going to be somewhere for a while, that affects everything.

It affects your mental health. It affects your motivation. It affects a lot of things. When you take that stress away and the wonder of where you're going to be, obviously it's going to translate to a better life but also better performances.

Of course I want to win a Stanley Cup. That's why I came here. I think the ingredients are here. Obviously it hasn't gone the way we want yet. But we have young guys that are getting better. We've shown we can beat anyone, it's just about consistency. I would love to stick around, but I also know the business. I know how this works. Wherever I end up, I end up. We'll see what happens.

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