Robin Lehner's summer was getting off to a great start.
At the NHL Awards ceremony last month, Lehner's eloquent speech about his mental health and addiction issues while receiving the prestigious Masterton Trophy touched the hearts of hockey fans everywhere. Now all he wanted was to return to the Islanders, with whom he had found success on the ice and peace of mind off it.
But contract talks stalled and Lehner said the Islanders gave him an ultimatum to take their two-year offer for not quite as much money as he wanted. While Lehner patiently considered his options, the Islanders signed his replacement.
Not long after that, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman learned Lehner was available and let his interest be known.
"To be honest, when I heard from my agent that Chicago was interested and I got on the phone with Stan, it just felt right," Lehner said.
The Hawks signed Lehner, a Vezina Trophy finalist last season, to a one-year deal worth $5 million Monday that was one of the biggest surprises of the first day of free agency.
Lehner shot down reports he turned down offers for more years. He's comfortable letting his play speak for itself, and if he has to go through free agency again, so be it.
"I don't see it as a gamble at all," Lehner said. "It's only a gamble if you don't believe you're going to be able to perform."
With Corey Crawford signed for one more year at $6 million and Collin Delia prepared to be his backup after an impressive season, there was little indication the Hawks would pursue another goalie, let alone one whom any NHL team would welcome as a starter.
"We have the best 1-2 punch in the league is the way I look at it right now," Bowman said. "I certainly feel really comfortable going into next season, whether Corey Crawford's in net or Robin Lehner's in net."