CHICAGO — Robin Lehner thinks he is heading into his prime.
The Chicago Blackhawks hope he is right.
Lehner agreed to a $5 million, one-year deal with Chicago on Monday, jumping on the opportunity after talks with the New York Islanders broke down and giving the Blackhawks one of the best goaltending tandems in the NHL.
"I’m 27 turning 28, and I truly in my soul know I am just scratching the surface," Lehner said. "Last year was a good start for me. I know I am only going to get better, and just the sheer firepower in the organization that I’m about to join, it just really excites me."
Chicago also agreed to a three-year contract with free-agent forward Ryan Carpenter, continuing an active summer after it missed the playoffs for the second straight year. The Blackhawks traded for defencemen Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan last month, and brought back pesky forward Andrew Shaw in another deal with Montreal.
"I think we’ve come a long way in the last month," general manager Stan Bowman said. "If you look at where we were a month ago and where we are today, we’re a much, much better team, and we’re well-positioned to have a good season."
Lehner earned a career-high 25 wins last season with the Islanders, finishing with a 2.13 goals-against average, .930 save percentage and six shutouts. He has 97 wins and a .918 save percentage over 265 games with Ottawa, Buffalo and New York.
Lehner also won the Masterton Trophy this year as the player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey. He became a Vezina Trophy finalist after revealing during training camp that he has struggled with addiction and bipolar disorder.
"I have my own journey to walk still, every day, and I am confident that it’s going to be a great one with this organization," Lehner said, "and they have everything in place for me to be successful."
Lehner explored returning to New York. He wanted multiple years, but he said he still wanted to work it out with the Islanders when they made it clear they were only going to offer him a short-term deal.
"It was a little bit off in money and it was kind of an ultimatum put in front of me," he said. "I took a couple of days to kind of think about it and when I came back and wanted to make something work they already went for another goalie."
The Islanders announced Monday they had agreed to a four-year contract with veteran goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who spent the past eight seasons with Colorado.
The arrival of Lehner gives Chicago an enviable situation in goal. Corey Crawford helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in 2013 and 2015, but has been hampered by injuries in recent years.
"We have the best 1-2 punch in the league is the way I look at it right now," Bowman said.
The 28-year-old Carpenter should help the Blackhawks on special teams after they finished last in the NHL with a 72.7 per cent penalty-kill rate. His contract has an average annual value of $1 million.
"My role as a player is a bottom-six forward, a good PKer, a good right-handed faceoff centerman," Carpenter said, "and I think a guy that just does the little things right. Teams that win and make the playoffs and go on long runs, they need those kinds of players to be successful."
Carpenter had five goals and 13 assists in a career-high 68 games with Vegas last season. Perhaps most importantly for the Blackhawks, he won a career-best 52.6 per cent of his faceoffs.
"It’s one of those really little details in games that sometimes maybe gets overlooked," Carpenter said. "I think it’s just something you work on in practice and you kind of never stop working at it. It takes a lot of timing and doing little drills after practice or at pregame skates."
Chicago also announced it had agreed to a two-year contract extension with forward David Kampf. The deal has an average annual value of $1 million.
The 24-year-old Kampf has eight goals and 22 assists in 109 games, all with the Blackhawks over the past two seasons.