Optimism in the Blackhawks’ return from Monday’s trade deadline is in question after the dust settled in the hockey world. Stan Bowman traded goalie Robin Lehner to the Vegas Golden Knights for goalie Malcolm Subban, defenseman Slava Demin, and a second-round pick in 2020. Shortly before, defenseman Erik Gustafsson was dealt to the Calgary Flames for a third-round pick in 2020.
Receiving a third-round pick for Gustafsson is disheartening, but understandable. Gustafsson’s offensive numbers (6 goals this year and 17 last year) as a defenseman make him a valuable asset, but the defensemen that were swapped for higher picks are arguably more reliable defensively. The Blackhawks will get the earlier of Calgary’s two third-round draft picks. The Flames acquired Edmonton’s third-round pick in the James Neal/Milan Lucic trade.
The Robin Lehner deal comes with some questioning.
Lehner’s .918 save percentage this year is good for 11th in the NHL. He and Corey Crawford have kept the Hawks in multiple games this year. Lehner’s numbers have slightly slipped as of late, coughing up 20 goals in his last five games, but a reliable goaltender with inspirational locker room flare is very valuable for a team looking to be Stanley Cup contenders.
Let’s start with Subban. He’s a 26-year-old goalie that has been a back-up in his five-year NHL career. Subban, who is P.K.’s younger brother, had his best year in 2017-2018 with Vegas. In his first year with the Golden Knights, Subban stopped .910% of shots, giving up 2.78 goals a game. He’s is more than likely a gap filler to bridge Lehner’s departure. Corey Crawford will be the main goaltender moving forward. But Collin Delia still sits in Rockford. The Blackhawks may choose to bring him back up instead using Subban.
“It’s a little bit early to be handicapping what’s going to happen with the goal tending situation. We just acquired Malcolm a few hours ago. I think we have to have a little bit of time to rest here and analyze that. We’ve got two really competent goalies (Delia and Kevin Lankinen) that are really pushing to be NHL caliber. We’ve got Corey here that we all know very well. Malcolm is still a young goalie and still trying to establish himself as not only a backup, but probably pushing to be a starter. So that’s something that’s going to play out over the next couple of months and leading into the summer. We’re not going to make those determinations in the next few days or weeks. We have to figure that out leading into next year,” Stan Bowman explained on Monday.
Defenseman Slava Demin will turn 20 in April. Vegas drafted Demin in the fourth round (99th overall) last year in 2018. In his sophomore year at the University of Denver, Demin has two goals and nine points in 30 games. He is teammates, and apparently line mates, with Blackhawks’ prospect Ian Mitchell. Reports of Demin’s talents seem promising, but it’s unsure what type of ceiling he has.
“Slava is a talented young defenseman. A lot of upside. You like his all around game. We’ve had the ability to watch him quite a bit at Denver. We’ve been in there to work with Ian Mitchell over the last couple of years. Slava’s caught our eye in recent play, but also in his draft year,” Bowman addressed.
The 2020 second-round pick the Blackhawks get is the one Vegas received from Pittsburgh for the Marc-Andre Fleury deal in 2017 (which is a little ironic). As of Monday, Pittsburgh has 80 points and Vegas as 76. This is the only Blackhawks’ pick in the second-round of 2020, after trading their original one to Montreal for Andrew Shaw in the summer.
In another minor deal, the Blackhawks acquired defenseman T.J. Brennan from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Nathan Noel.
Not landing a first-round pick is frustrating and a little surprising, considering the multiple assets the Blackhawks had and their playoff situation. Gustafsson was the surest bet for movement in the Blackhawks’ roster. With Lehner and Corey Crawford both being free agents after this season, both were expected to be involved in talks this week. Lehner being moved solidifies Crawford as the number one goalie to finish the year, but it doesn’t answer who will be in net in 2020-2021. Maybe Lehner enjoyed his time in Chicago so much, he’d be willing to hear the Blackhawks out, but Vegas will get first dibs on negotiations with him at the end of the year. Crawford has expressed his desire to be behind no one next year in terms of a goal tending tandem. The two-time Stanley Cup would be a cheaper and shorter term solution for the Hawks moving forward.
The last minute exchange of Lehner makes one wonder if Stan Bowman played hard to get with his goaltender and Vegas was the last team willing to make a deal. Vegas’ GM Kelly McCrimmon reportedly said the organization acquired an elite goalie for less than what it would have taken to acquire an elite skater.