On Friday June 26th, Tim Murray made a few trades to help bring in 4 more talented players to help this young roster. The first trade happened hours before the draft, which had Buffalo acquiring Robin Lehner and veteran center David Legwand, while Ottawa received Buffalo’s 21st pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft (Colin White).
The Swedish goaltender was drafted in 2009, with the 46th overall selection in the 2nd round. Lehner is a hybrid butterfly goalie, who uses his big frame, 6’4″ 225 lbs, to cut down the angle on shooters. Coming into the 2009 draft, Lehner was regarded as a top goalie prospect with flaws in rebound control, with inconsistency in his aggressive style.
While with Ottawa, the general consensus was that Lehner was their goalie of the future. Lehner was hyped up by the media, and coaching staff during his stint with the Senators, allowing the excitement for his arrival to skyrocket. The fan base loved Lehner, and many fans saw Craig Anderson as the bridge between now, and when Lehner would arrive into the goalie of the future.
Lehner’s first achievement came in first season in the AHL, when he lead the Binghamton Senators to the teams first Calder Cup, with Lehner recieving the Honors of Playoffs MVP or Jack Butterfield trophy. The road was definitely bumpy, as he lost the starting gig to Barry Brust, who led the Senators to a playoff birth. Lehner excelled in the spotlight though, going 14-4 showcasing his ability to be a shutdown goalie.
Little known fact about Lehner, he’s related to the famous goalie coach Michael Lehner. Michael Lehner’s claim to fame, is being regarded as being credited for molding Henrik Lundqvist into the stud goalie he is today.
Many Sabres fans immediately took to twitter to show how upset they were with the loss of the 21st pick. The popular opinion was Murray gave up too much for Robin Lehner, an unproven, former 2nd round pick. Some even went as far as to say, that this move had some fans questioning their faith in Murray’s ability to rebuild this franchise. Sabres fans thought Murray was ruining the plan of building through the draft to acquire a goalie. No fans liked the idea of using a 1st round pick to acquire a goalie, especially the 2015 1st round pick with the talent pool of this class.
The fact is, Murray overpaid for Lehner. Martin Jones being traded to San Jose for a 2016 1st round pick, helps Murray’s case, but it doesn’t help make this trade easier to accept. Murray had a hand in selecting Lehner in the 2009 draft, which is why Murray was willing to depart with a 1st round pick for a goalie that is NHL ready, but still may need a few years before he is in his prime.
Murray wants Lehner to be HIS guy. Lehner’s success will be a big part of how long Murray will stay GM in Buffalo. I feel this relationship will be similar to a new NFL HC and a 1st round QB selected by that HC. If Lehner flops and costs the Sabres success, with nothing to fall back on, Murray’s days will be numbered. But something tells me Murray is extremely confident that this will be a trade that the Sabres won.
Looking back on past years late 1st round selections, you see a lot of swing and misses, or for those that don’t like baseball, draft picks that didn’t pan out. To play devils advocate, I researched the last 10 years, and took the picks 20-30 and broke down their NHL statistics. Below is a chart with the top performing players. Minimum 150 points and notable goaltender selections.[table id=98 /] [table id=99 /]
The key take away from this is there were 23 players that did not see more than half of 1 NHL season or 41 games played. That’s out of a total 66 prospects, having only 23 see more than 41 games. The later draft selections is a crap shoot, with 23 players being notable selections. Keep in mind I didn’t go past 2010, because some top prospects are being slowly brought along and the chart strongly starts to favor the non performers arguement.
Murray made a risky move in this year of his rebuild, which surprisingly is his second year. The first year seems like an eternity because of the mess he inherited, and initially made worse.
Lehner will be compared to Colin White, and the other top prospects selected in the late 1st round, that Buffalo could’ve selected.
I have a strong feeling Murray has a good feel for goaltenders, and this trade will be a positive when remembering his time as Sabres GM.