Islanders goalie Robin Lehner is no stranger to long odds. Suggesting at this time a year ago that he would be a Masterton Trophy winner and a Vezina Trophy finalist might have even surprised Lehner, though.
Lehner took home the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy Wednesday night, awarded to the player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game. Earlier this season, he shared his inspiring story about his battle with addiction and bipolar disorder, which resulted in an outpouring of support and admiration from players and fans alike. Lehner responded by leading the Isles to the playoffs with the best season of his career.
Before he collected his award, Lehner spoke about his looming contract situation. He isn't signed for next season, but made it very clear on Tuesday's media day that he desperately wants to be back on the Island.
"I hope something works out," Lehner said, per NHL.com. "I don't want to be anywhere else, but if that has to happen, it happens. It's not going to be from my side. I love my team. I have the mindset that this is still my team and I'm going to have it until the day I'm not on this team."
Both Barry Trotz and Lou Lamoriello also said that they would like Lehner back. Frankly, there's no reason why they shouldn't. From both an on-ice and off-ice perspective, Long Island has been a perfect fit for Lehner.
The franchise has struggled to find a long-term goaltender since trading Roberto Luongo in 2000 and buying out Rick DiPietro in 2013. Lehner was top-five in the NHL this past season in goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts, and is still just entering his age-28 season. He likely has several prime years ahead of him.
Lehner was also quick to point out how much the Islanders organization means to him.
"I can't diminish what this team and this organization has done for me because they've done a tremendous amount, being good human beings," Lehner said. "I like the people there. I love my teammates. I love the organization. So obviously, I want to be back."
The Isles don't have much cap space left, and they also need to re-sign their captain, Anders Lee. Lehner only made $1.5 million on a one-year deal in 2018-19, and could earn anywhere from three to four times more than that on a yearly basis based on his stellar performance.
Lehner isn't making things too difficult on his end, though. His appearance at the NHL Awards may give him a little extra bargaining power, but his approach has stayed the same.
"I know the team knows where I stand and I just hope something works out. … I just want to be a part of this team."