Robin Lehner was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday, and the Chicago Blackhawks received goalie Malcolm Subban, forward prospect Stanislav Demin and a second-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.
"It came down to us wanting a higher comfort level that we were strong enough at that position," Vegas general manager Kelly McCrimmon said of trading for Lehner. "It's rare a goaltender enjoying one of the best seasons of any goalie in the National Hockey League would be available. Felt this was a way to solidify our team."
The Golden Knights also acquired forward Nick Cousins in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens for a fourth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, and signed defenseman Nick Holden to a two-year, $3.4 million contract ($1.7 million average annual value).
[RELATED: 2019-20 NHL Trade Tracker]
The Blackhawks traded Lehner to the Toronto Maple Leafs for forward prospect Martins Dzierkals, and the Maple Leafs then traded Lehner to the Golden Knights for a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Chicago then traded Dzierkals to Vegas for Subban, Demin and the pick. Toronto retains a portion of Lehner's salary.
Lehner is 16-10-5 with a 3.01 goals-against average and .918 save percentage in 33 games. He's faced an average of 36.9 shots on goal per game, most in the NHL among goalies to play at least 11 games.
"I spoke to Robin. He is very excited to be joining our organization," McCrimmon said. "He speaks to the quality of the team. He said, 'You've got an unbelievable goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury that I know is an unbelievable person, I want to contribute however you see me contributing.' That's the mindset that he's coming in with."
Lehner signed a one-year contract with the Blackhawks on July 1, 2019, and can become an unrestricted free agent July 1.
"He's on an expiring contract. That'll take care of itself," McCrimmon said. "His contract will expire. At that time, we'll have the opportunity to speak with him. We have the opportunity to speak with him any time. That wasn't part of the decision-making process. The decision was improving our goaltending in the stretch drive, improving our goaltending in the [Stanley Cup] Playoffs, and to complement the work that we've done to build the team that we've built."
Video: Knights acquire Lehner from Blackhawks
The 28-year-old had a 2.13 GAA, a .930 save percentage and six shutouts in 46 games with the New York Islanders last season, when he won the William Jennings Trophy (with Thomas Greiss) for fewest goals allowed, and the Bill Masterton Trophy, awarded to the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey. He was third in voting for the Vezina Trophy as the best goalie in the NHL.
Chicago general manager Stan Bowman would not say if they would pursue signing Lehner after the season.
"I understand the question, but he's not our player anymore, so I can't say if we'll be interested in him or not," Bowman said. "That's not the way the system works. That'll unfold over the coming months ... but I'd like to take a second here just to thank him for everything he did for his time in Chicago. I've gotten to know him, going back to last summer when we had several conversations and he believed in us enough to come to Chicago. He's a fantastic person, a really unique guy, a great goaltender. Really enjoyed getting to know him and I wish him well. I had a long conversation with him today after the trade was completed. I just said I certainly appreciated everything he did for the organization. He gave it his all, and I wish nothing but the best for him in Vegas."
Lehner is 113-120-45 with a 2.73 GAA, a .918 save percentage and 14 shutouts in 298 regular-season games (279 starts) with the Blackhawks, Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and Ottawa Senators. He is 4-5 with a 2.05 GAA and .934 save percentage in 10 playoff games.
"You need to take it for exactly what it is: We acquired a great goalie to partner with a great goalie, and that makes us better," McCrimmon said.
Cousins has 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 58 games this season. The 26-year-old has 95 points (40 goals, 55 assists) in 317 games with the Canadiens, Arizona Coyotes and Philadelphia Flyers.
Holden has 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 54 games this season. He was in the final season of a two-year contract and could have become an unrestricted free agent July 1. The 32-year-old has 138 points (44 goals, 94 assists) in 489 games with the Golden Knights, Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets.
"We thought it took us to a real good place to improve our club in the final 18 games," McCrimmon said. "We all want to win. When you have the chance to add really good players to your team, that's what we want to do."
Subban is 9-7-3 with a 3.18 GAA and .890 save percentage in 20 games this season. The 26-year-old is 30-23-7 with a 2.97 GAA and .899 save percentage in 65 games with the Golden Knights and Bruins. Subban was claimed off waivers by Vegas on Oct. 3, 2017.
Demin, a 19-year-old selected in the fourth round (No. 99) of the 2018 NHL Draft, has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 30 games at the University of Denver.
"I think going into a period like this at the trade deadline, you have to try to manage your assets going forward," Bowman said. "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."
Dzierkals, a 22-year-old selected in the third round (No. 68) of the 2015 NHL Draft, has 10 points (three goals, 10 assists) in 31 games for Jukurit in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland.