Blackhawks sign bounce-back goalie Lehner

The Chicago Blackhawks announced Monday that they have come to terms on a one-year, $5 million deal with Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner.

Also Monday, forward Ryan Carpenteragreed to a free-agent deal with the Blackhawks, who also reached a two-year contract extension with forward David Kampf.

Lehner is coming off a huge season with theNew York Islandersthat resurrected his career. He appeared to be in line for a longer-term contract.

"I'm 27 turning 28, and I truly in my soul know I am just scratching the surface,'' Lehner said Monday. "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.''

Lehner has spoken about battling mental health and substance abuse issues for much of his nine-year career, and that came to a head in his last season in Buffalo in 2017-18. Then he sought treatment and turned his life and career around.

Signed before this past season to a one-year, $1.5 million, let's-see-how-it-goes contract, the 27-year-old showed the NHL just what he can do when his head is in a good space. He went 25-13-5 with a .930 save percentage and led the league with a 2.13 goals-against average.

He led New York to a sweep of thePittsburgh Penguinsin the first round of the playoffs. Although the Isles were swept by theCarolina Hurricanesin the next round, the fault didn't lie with Lehner. He led postseason goalies with a 2.00 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.

Lehner's $1.5 million deal was his lowest since his entry-level deal. He signed a three-year, $6.675 million contract with Ottawa in 2014 and a one-year, $4 million deal with Buffalo in 2017. After his Vezina Trophy-worthy season this year, he was due to get back to those higher levels.

Lehner had expressed interest in returning to the Islanders.

"It was a little bit off in money, and it was kind of an ultimatum put in front of me,'' he said of negotiating with the Islanders. "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 signed former Avalanche goalieSemyon Varlamovto a four-year deal.

"We did everything we could earlier, like we did with all the other players," Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello said of trying to keep Lehner. "Unfortunately, it did not work out."

"It's very tough to see Robin go," said Islanders captain Anders Lee after he signed his own deal to stay in New York. "All of us as his teammates are disappointed it didn't work out, but he's got a full group of guys that have his back no matter what and wish him nothing but the best in Chicago. He's going to do great there."

Chicago has Corey Crawford between the pipes, but he has battled concussion issues in recent seasons. He was limited to 39 games last season and 28 the season before. The 34-year-old posted his highest goals-against average (2.93) and worst save percentage (.908) since he became a full-time goalie in 2010-11.

Crawford was backed up by veteran Cam Ward last season, but Ward had a 3.67 GAA and .897 save percentage.

Ward is an unrestricted free agent, and Crawford has one year left on his contract.

The 28-year-old Carpenter agreed to a three-year contract, giving the Blackhawks another forward who can help on special teams after they finished last in the NHL with a 72.7 penalty-kill percentage.

"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% 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."

Carpenter's deal with Chicago has an average annual value of $1 million.

Carpenter, a Florida native who played college hockey at Bowling Green, made his NHL debut with San Jose in 2015. He was picked up by the Golden Knights after he was waived by the Sharks in December 2017.

Kampf's deal has an average annual value of $1 million. The 24-year-old has eight goals and 22 assists in 109 career games, all with the Blackhawks the past two seasons.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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