There will be gobs of free agent talk over the next couple of months, and, for the most part, the focus of the conversations may shift now that it seems clear the NHL will be dealing with a flat salary cap over the next two seasons, maybe more.
A lower salary cap means less money to go around for bigger-name free agents, at every position.
Sean O’Leary of The Score took a look at the top UFA goaltenders of the offseason and at the top of his list was Vegas’ Robin Lehner. A netminder who came over at the trade deadline, the Golden Knights have arguably the best one-two punch in the NHL for goaltenders. The luxury comes at a price.
Marc Andre-Fleury has been a top-tier netminder in the NHL for years. Meanwhile, Lehner is quickly proving he should be in the conversation. After this season, if the Golden Knights are to keep both players, it will require a large investment, specifically because Lehner is seeking a pay bump that would finally reward him for a few seasons of high-end production that has seen him go largely underpaid.
O’Leary asks, what if Lehner has better stats this season in the playoffs? Could the Golden Knights be convinced that Lehner is the better option moving forward? If Lehner outperforms Fleury, that’s a distinct possibility.
Then again, a trade to move Fleury won’t be the easiest thing to navigate. Fleury has two more years on his contract at $7 million per season. So too, he’s 35, has a 10-team no-trade list, and as mentioned earlier, the cap looks to be staying flat, not going up.
There might be a team out there willing to acquire Fleury’s services, but not many can afford to. The Knights aren’t exactly swimming in cap space either. With over $75 million committed for the 2020-21 season, the team can’t retain a ton of Fleury’s salary in an effort to move him — nor would they probably want to.