On the heels of the Islanders' winningest season since 1984, the expectation was that the team would try its hardest to keep Vezina Trophy finalist Robin Lehner around.
Once free agency started though, Lehner might as well have been voted off the Island.
According to Lehner, he was given an "ultimatum" from the Islanders, and they moved on without hearing his decision.
"All of a sudden, there was an ultimatum of a couple hours," Lehner told Newsday. "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.
"It not working out in Long Island had nothing to do with me. I never walked away from anything."
From on-ice, personal, and financial standpoints, it makes little sense for the Islanders to say goodbye.
Lehner, a Vezina Trophy finalist and Masterton Trophy winner, was top-five in the NHL this year in goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts, and is still just entering his age-28 season. To make matters worse, he only signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Chicago Blackhawks - not exactly a deal breaker that the Islanders couldn't have matched. In fact, they signed Semyon Varlamov for the same cap hit over three more years.
Lehner also credited the Islanders for helping him get his life on track. Before the season, he went public with his history of addiction and mental illness, and responded with the best season of his career.
"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 on June 18, a day before the NHL Awards. "I like the people there. I love my teammates. I love the organization. So obviously, I want to be back."
What changed over the next two weeks?
"We were still pretty much all in with Long Island, and they walked away," Lehner said. "They didn't want to do anything. They walked away with another goalie."
Lehner said the Islanders had proposed him a two-year deal, but he preferred a longer term.
While he ended up settling for a one-year contract, the Islanders gave out an even longer deal to Varlamov, who is less consistent than Lehner.
Although the team thinks highly of Ilya Sorokin, a 23-year-old prospect, he is still not NHL-ready. Thomas Greiss is a good tandem goalie, but Varlamov has never had a season like Lehner did this year. He was also benched down the stretch for Philipp Grubauer this past season in Colorado.
The Islanders had the cap room to re-sign Lehner. When they were negotiating with Lehner, they were also talking to Artemi Panarin, whose signing would have cut down on their cap space significantly. In the end though, they got neither player.
Had they signed Panarin and subsequently had to cut ties with Lehner and Anders Lee as a result, that's one thing. However, missing out on Panarin and then losing Lehner as well makes the Islanders worse than they were on June 30.
In the end, Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman got the last laugh.
"I certainly wasn't expecting Robin to be available," Bowman said, per NHL.com. "It's rare for a Vezina finalist to be available."
You don't have to tell Islanders fans that twice.