Robin Lehner’s performance in the AHL playoffs likely hasn’t earned him a job serving as Craig Anderson’s back-up next season, according to general manager Bryan Murray.
The club’s decision is based mostly on the fact that Lehner is just 19 years old and they do not feel that sitting on the bench for 50 to 60 games is best for his development at this stage of his career.
“I don’t want him to be the back-up because of his age,” Murray told sportsnet.ca after the NHL general managers meeting in Boston. “I don’t want him to start out as a backup. I think he should play a minimum of 30 to 40 games before we think of bringing him up.”
Lehner’s Binghamton Senators captured the AHL’s Calder Cup on Tuesday night, with the netminder also securing playoff MVP honors. Lehner joins Carey Price and Patrick Roy as the only teenage goaltenders to capture the Calder Cup in the past 50 years. Both Roy and Price went on to star in the NHL shortly thereafter, although the Senators appear to be more cautious with their second-round pick from the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
But Murray did suggest a scenario where Lehner could get some playing time in the NHL next season. If Anderson happens to suffer an injury that would sideline him for an extended period of time, the club would not have any issues recalling Lehner to be their top starter in Ottawa.
“If we had a second goaltender and our first guy (Anderson) happened to go down, our second goaltender would still be the second goaltender. And Robin could come up and play games.”
Murray appears intent on signing a backup goalie who will clearly fill the role of the No. 2 netminder. At this point, it does not appear as though Curtis McElhinney – who served in that role during the final six weeks of the season – will be offered a contract to come back next season.
However, Murray is interested in keeping one of his pending free agents. Ryan Shannon, who scored 11 goals and 27 points last season, will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. But the Senators general manager indicated that talks are on-going with Shannon’s camp and a deal for next season should not be ruled out.
“What I told his agent is that I’ll call them tomorrow (Thursday). Ryan is a very useful player and a great team guy,” said Murray, who cautioned that the emergence of Bobby Butler and Colin Greening in Binghamton could squeeze Shannon out of a job.
“But we’ve got a couple of young kids that might deserve a little more.”
Murray will be busy working the phone on another front on Thursday, as he will schedule an interview with Kurt Kleinendorst, who just guided the Binghamton squad to the Calder Cup.
“Yes, I’m going to call Kurt tomorrow and see what his schedule is,” added Murray. “Any time a guy wins a championship at any level, it’s a real accomplishment. He’s a real legitimate candidate.”
Murray indicated that he has narrowed his choices down to Kleinendorst and two other candidates, from an original pool of six or seven that is believed to include Paul MacLean, Dave Cameron, Kirk Muller and Gerard Gallant. The Senators general manager intends to contact the candidates who won’t get the job in the next day or two so they can start pursuing other opportunities.