Robin Lehner was only able to suit up for one-quarter of the Sabres’ games in his first season as presumptive starting netminder for the club. But in an attempt to avoid that in his second campaign, Lehner is making sure he takes his time to heal the ankle injury that sidelined him late in the season.
It was announced Friday that Lehner, 25, has decided to withdraw from Team Sweden’s World Cup team. Sabres GM Tim Murray said Lehner made the choice because he wants to be ready to go come training camp.
“As Robin continues to progress during the off-season in his rehab from last season’s ankle injury, he felt that it was best to withdraw from Team Sweden for the upcoming World Cup,” Murray said in a statement. “Robin felt it was important to continue his rehab in Buffalo to prepare for training camp. He has been working out both on and off the ice and we look forward to seeing him on the ice with our team next month.”
Despite the fact that he had a disappointing season — mostly due to the end-of-season ankle injury paired with an early season high-ankle sprain — there were some positive signs for Lehner in his first campaign as a Sabre. His record was nothing spectacular at a mere 5-9-5, but his 2.47 goals-against average and .924 save percentage were promising. His .928 SP at 5-on-5 was also promising given that he wasn’t really able to get in a groove, either.
Lehner would no doubt want to have a big campaign following last season’s disappointment regardless of his contract status, but the coming season is even bigger for the Swedish netminder given he’s in the final season of his three-year, $6.675-million deal.
He’ll become a restricted free agent at the end of 2016-17 and in line for a big payday if he can find his game in Year Two with Buffalo. However, if he struggles or misses time during the upcoming season, the Sabres may consider looking elsewhere for a starting netminder as their rebuild starts to enter the next steps.
As for Lehner’s replacement at the World Cup, Sweden has turned to Jhonas Enroth, who recently signed a one-year, $750,000 contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Enroth may not be the biggest netminder — he stands just 5-foot-11, 181 pounds — but he’s often praised as one of the more fundamentally sound netminders in the league.
Enroth didn’t get a long look in goal this past season with Los Angeles, but the 28-year-old fared well. He posted a 7-5-1 record in 16 games for the Kings, as well as two shutouts, a 2.17 GAA and .922 SP.
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