When you start the year as badly as the Buffalo Sabres have this season, other teams assume you will start selling your assets for picks and prospects. For the Sabres, that means teams are calling on everyone. As Elliotte Friedman of SportsNet reported, the Sabres are open to listening to offers on anyone not named Jack Eichel.
This means anyone is on the table for the right price, including both goaltenders. TSN’s Darren Dreger tweeted out a report that teams are calling the Sabres to ask about both goalies on the NHL roster, Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson.
Teams are calling Buffalo, inquiring on Chad Johnson and Robin Lehner. Just checking on availability.
— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) December 4, 2017
Robin Lehner was acquired in the 2015 draft by former general manager Tim Murray in exchange for a first round pick. Lehner was Craig Anderson’s backup with the Ottawa Senators in the two seasons before his trade, posting average results. Last season was his first time starting more than thirty games, but he held up to the task and posted good numbers for a starting goalie. This season, his numbers have dropped, but the team around him is half to blame with the defensive play in front of him.
Whether or not General Manager Jason Botterill would trade Lehner remains to be seen. Lehner was not his choice for a goalie, and he has said he will listen to offers for any player. But Lehner is the best option for a starting goalie that the Sabres have at the moment. Chad Johnson has performed poorly, and Linus Ullmark is not ready to be a starter in the NHL this season.
Lehner’s contract would be easy to move since it ends this season, and a few teams like the Pittsburgh Penguins and Florida Panthers are looking for a solution in-goal. The value Lehner would bring back would be low, but if Botterill does not see a future for Lehner with this team, he should be traded.
Chad Johnson is a true NHL journeyman backup, spending parts of eight seasons with six different teams in the league. In 2013 he found his first full-time NHL job as a backup with the Boston Bruins. Two seasons later he would join the Buffalo Sabres in their first season after the tank job. Johnson was the starting goalie on that team, going 22-16-4 with a .920 save percentage and a 2.36 goals against average; very good numbers for an average at best team. He then had a successful year with the Calgary Flames as a co-starter before being brought back by Buffalo this past offseason. This season Johnson’s play has been ugly. With one win and below average stats in all categories, it is hard to blame the Sabres’ defense when it comes to his stats.
Johnson would be easier to trade out of Buffalo than Lehner. His backup role could be given to Ullmark as a way to ease Ullmark into the NHL full-time. Additionally, he has only a one year, $2.5 million contract. As a backup goalie his value is limited, but the Edmonton Oilers are looking for a short-term backup option, and Johnson could be just what they want.
Neither of these two goalies will give much back to the Sabres organization in terms of valuable players, but since both their contracts come to an end when the season is over, their trades seem inevitable. The only question left to answer before they are gone is how will the Sabres fill Lehner and Johnson’s spots in goal?