Robin Lehner wanted to make it clear how much he appreciated the chance the Islanders gave him and how special his one season with the team was to him.
But during his introductory conference call with the Blackhawks on Monday, the goalie also wanted to make it clear that it was the Islanders who “walked away” from negotiations toward a new deal.
“Sometimes things don’t work out,” Lehner said. “I never walked away from anything. It not working out on Long Island had nothing to do with me.”
Lehner, who agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with Chicago on Monday after the free-agent market opened, had told Newsday when the negotiating window opened June 23 that he had “no plans” to talk to other teams and was focused on reaching a new deal with the Islanders.
The Islanders agreed to a four-year, $20 million deal on Monday with former Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, 31, who is four years older than Lehner.
Lehner said negotiations started slowly with the Islanders but that there was a two-year offer on the table for him.
“All of a sudden, there was an ultimatum of a couple of hours,” he said. “It wasn’t that far off in money. We took a little break. We did come back and try to make it work. When we came back, they’d already moved on.”
He had wanted a longer-term deal from the Islanders.
“We were still pretty much all in with Long Island and they walked away,” he said. “They didn’t want to do anything. They walked away with another goalie.”
Lehner was 25-13-5 with a 2.13 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage on a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Islanders. He won the Masterton Trophy for dedication and perseverance after detailing battles with addiction and mental illness and was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie. He and Thomas Greiss shared the Jennings Trophy as the team allowed the fewest goals in the NHL.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting Robin to be available,” Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said. “It’s rare for a Vezina finalist to be available.”