The Vegas Golden Knights are in deep trouble, and they’re still more than a month away from the start of training camp.
On Thursday, Vegas announced goalie Robin Lehner will miss the entire 2022-2023 season after he undergoes hip surgery. Injuries prevented Lehner from playing nearly half last season. Now, he’s gone for all of the upcoming one. The Knights’ modus operandi of mortgaging the future to win the Stanley Cup at all costs is coming back to bite them.
Without Lehner, Vegas’ goaltending situation is rough for a team with Cup hopes, never mind one that's trying to get back to the playoffs after missing them for the first time last season.
If you gave a regular NHL fan a pop quiz and asked them to name any of the goalies behind Lehner, chances are they would fail. Laurent Brossoit, Logan Thompson and Michael Hutchinson will compete for the bulk of the starts.
While Thompson’s numbers were very good for Vegas (10-5-3, .914 save percentage in 19 games), they represent 95 percent of his NHL experience. He’s been very good for Vegas’ AHL team in Henderson the past two seasons as well, so there’s reason to be optimistic, but if that sounds like it leads to more questions than answers, you’d be correct.
Free agency is of no help to Vegas. The Golden Knights are in salary-cap hell, with minus-$5.8 million in space, and although Lehner’s injury and the addition of Shea Weber’s contract ($7.9 million AAV) will eventually provide them with a boatload of LTIR spending, it won't do them any good on the open market.
Ten free-agent goalies played at least one game last season, and seven of them are unrestricted. Braden Holtby is the biggest name on the list, but he’s unlikely to play this year because of a lower-body injury, and his career may even be over.
The rest of the unrestricted goalies are career backups or minimally experienced, and restricted free agents are generally a no-go unless there’s a trade.