Blackhawks agree to terms with goalie Robin Lehner, a Vezina Trophy finalist, and center Ryan Carpenter on 1st day of free agency

Jimmy Greenfield, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Hockey

A little more than three months remain until the Blackhawks step on the ice at Prague's O2 Arena to launch their 2019-20 season against the Flyers.

Depending on how you view the Hawks' moves so far this summer, you're either giddy with anticipation and the first game feels like a lifetime away or there's no reason to rush to get on with another mediocre season.

Chances are, the Hawks will fare somewhere in the middle. But make no mistake, the Hawks are better than they were when last season ended. The question is how much better. The start of NHL free agency Monday did little to provide an answer.

The Hawks signed Ryan Carpenter, a fourth-line center who had some success with the Golden Knights the last couple of years but was a healthy scratch during their seven-game first-round loss to the Sharks in April.

Carpenter, 28, will fit into a bottom-six role as a capable faceoff man who isn't likely to add much scoring. He has 37 points (16 goals, 21 assists) in 132 career games with the Sharks and Golden Knights, including five goals and 13 assists in 68 games last season.

The surprise of the day came when goaltender Robin Lehner agreed to a one-year deal worth $5 million. That's a signal that either the Hawks weren't comfortable going into the season with Collin Delia as Corey Crawford's backup or that they weren't comfortable Crawford could stay healthy all season. Crawford has one year left on a deal with a $6 million cap hit.


Lehner, 27, had a breakout season in 2018-19, when he won a career-high 25 games while posting a 2.13 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage for the Islanders. He had six shutouts and was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy.

Off the ice, Lehner was awarded the Masterton Trophy given to a player who best exemplifies "perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to ice hockey" for overcoming his battles with mental illness and substance abuse. At the NHL awards ceremony, he gave a stunning speech in which he said, "I'm not ashamed to say I'm mentally ill, but that doesn't mean mentally weak."

The Hawks didn't bring in any other new players Monday, and that's just fine with general manager Stan Bowman. He hasn't sat idly by the last couple of weeks waiting to hand out huge contracts to the few players whose contracts happened to be up.

Instead, Bowman used the trade market to address some of the issues that have kept the Hawks from the postseason two years in a row. The three main players acquired in the trades -- defensemen Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan and former Hawks forward Andrew Shaw -- are the ones to focus on when assessing this offseason.


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