There's no member of the Buffalo Sabres who stands to lose more from the sacking of General Manager Tim Murray than goaltender Robin Lehner.
Murray, remember, gave up a first-round draft pick to get Lehner in 2015 from Ottawa. Lehner had won Murray a Calder Cup in Binghamton and Murray brought him here with a controversial trade that critics said was a massive overpay.
Lehner had an injury-plagued first season in Buffalo but a stellar second year that silenced much of the chatter about the deal, even though the team missed the playoffs for the sixth straight time. But with the GM gone, the goalie's slot in the organization isn't nearly as secure as it would have looked with Murray still in charge.
Lehner reported to training camp Thursday to start what's clearly a show-me season to both new GM Jason Botterill and coach Phil Housley.
"I heard you guys talk about this all summer," Lehner said to reporters in KeyBank Center. "Me and Tim, we knew each other but it's not like we were hanging out at home. I'm here because of my play and he brought me here because of how he knows I can play."
Lehner was hopeful of getting a multi-year contract, something that undoubtedly would have been on Murray's docket. But Botterill only gave him a one-year deal for $4 million, up from last season's figure of $3.15.
"Everyone needs to prove themselves year in and year out. I'm done coming in trying to impress people," Lehner said. "I am who I am and I know what I can do when I'm healthy. I know if we put this team together and everyone plays to their capability, I think we can have a good season and a good future here."
Lehner set career highs last year in games (59) and wins (23). His .920 save percentage was the highest in the league for goalies who played at least 40 games and didn't make the playoffs. He's at .921 over the last two seasons, sixth in the league for those with at least 50 games.
"Things happen when new people come in. They want to get to know me before they do something like that," Lehner said, referring to a multi-year deal. "I want another year of just keep playing well, as good as I can with this team. I'm sure I'll be fine."
Lehner took little solace in his own play last season as playoff hopes slipped away over the final 20 games. It's a feeling he doesn't want to see repeated.
"It was a miserable summer," he said. "These long summers are not fun. You have a long time to reflect and feel disappointed. We all talked and we knew what we need to change."
Murray's time in Buffalo is most noteworthy for the drafting of Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. But Murray also swung key trades for Lehner and Evander Kane and got owners Terry and Kim Pegula to sign off on making Kyle Okposo the richest free agent in franchise history with a seven-year, $42-million deal signed in July, 2016.
"I think he did a pretty good job of putting the foundations of this team together," Okposo said Thursday of Murray. "In saying that, you've got to get results. It's a results business. Unfortunately, that's the name of the game and that's the nature of the beast. Mr. and Mrs. Pegula felt that there needed to be a change so there needed to be a change.
"Obviously Tim brought me in but you have to move forward," Okposo said. "This organization is going to live longer than any player, coach or GM."
Lehner, one of the key core players who said last year's club lacked the personal accountability it needed to be successful, said he's felt a different vibe around the team since Botterill and Housley took over. And lest anyone wonder, he was quick to pass plaudits to Botterill.
"He's a straight-up guy. He says what he thinks," Lehner said. "He's straight to the point. that's what you need. You just need professionalism. There's no need for guessing games in your workplace. You come to work and if there's something you're doing wrong, I think he will just let us know."