Kari Lehtonen

Stars putting their hopes in Lehtonen

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The Dallas Stars have high aspirations for this season, but whether or not they can actually succeed in being a serious Stanley Cup contender will be largely dependent on their goaltending.

The Stars defense doesn’t look like a Cup-caliber group, so they’ll need goaltender Kari Lehtonen to help pick up the slack. Is he up for the challenge though? Well, there’s two obvious areas of concern with him.

One is his history of groin and back problems. Those didn’t prove to be a big issue in 2013-14, but there’s the looming threat of them hindering the 30-year-old going forward. The other is his lack of playoff experience. The Stars’ 2014 series against Anaheim represented just his second postseason stint and his first since 2007. He didn’t look particularly impressive during the Stars-Ducks series and Dallas just has to hope that he will improve in 2015 now that he has a better idea of what to expect.

If he can’t hold his own in the playoffs or his campaign gets derailed by injuries, then things could start looking ugly for Dallas in a hurry. The Stars will enter the season with either Anders Lindback or Jussi Rynnas serving as the backup goaltender. Lindback is coming off of a playoff experience worse than Lehtonen’s and while Lindback has the potential to be a good goaltender, he was shaky overall in two seasons with Tampa Bay. Rynnas had a strong campaign in Finland, but it wasn’t that long ago that he was essentially buried in the Maple Leafs’ farm system.

So while Lindback and Rynnas are both interesting options, neither is a safe bet to be a solid backup goaltender, let alone someone that can be trusted to lead the team.

Of course, the X-factor in all of this is Jack Campbell. The 22-year-old is one of the better goaltending prospects out there and while he was only healthy enough to play in 16 AHL games last season, he did finish with a 1.49 GAA and .942 save percentage. It was likely that lack of playing time in 2013-14 that prompted Stars GM Jim Nill to sign Lindback and Rynnas in order to buy Campbell at least one more season worth of development in the minors. Still if Lehtonen ends up suffering a significant injury in 2014-15, it might mark the start of the Campbell era in Dallas.

Twitter unveils plan to stream NHL games

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 07:  In this photo illustration, The Twitter logo is displayed on a mobile device as the company announced it's initial public offering and debut on the New York Stock Exchange on November 7, 2013 in London, England. Twitter went public on the NYSE opening at USD 26 per share, valuing the company's worth at an estimated USD 18 billion.  (Photo by Bethany Clarke/Getty Images)
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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Twitter will live stream for free one Major League Baseball game and one NHL game per week under a new deal.

The agreement announced Monday will allow viewers to watch games nationally that would normally be available only in the two teams’ home markets. Users will not need to be logged into Twitter to see the games.

The baseball games will also be available outside the U.S., with some exceptions. Twitter did not announce the game schedule Monday.

The social media network is attempting to move into live sports streaming through “over-the-top” broadcasts, which do not require a cable subscription. In April, Twitter reached a deal with the NFL to stream 10 “Thursday Night Football” games this fall.

Former Flyers goalie Heeter signs with Detroit’s AHL team

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The Red Wings added some goalie depth on Monday, agreeing to terms with journeyman Cal Heeter.

Heeter, 27, broke in with the Flyers organization a while back and made his big-league debut in ’13-14, appearing in one game.

Since then, he’s bounced around the ECHL, AHL (with the Toronto Marlies) and, last season, split his time between Hamburg of the German League and Zagreb Medvescak of the KHL.

By itself, this signing isn’t especially noteworthy, as Heeter projects to be an American League mainstay next year.

But the contract is kind of interesting when looking and the big-picture goalie situation in Detroit. The Wings now have Heeter, Petr Mrazek, Jimmy Howard, Jared Coreau, Eddie Pasquale and Jake Paterson all under contract for next season, which is an awful lot of goalies.

With that in mind, remember that Howard’s name has been in trade talks for quite some time.

 

Ex-NHLers Bellemore, Collins sign with KHL’s Chinese club

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HC Kunlun Red Star, the Beijing-based expansion team that will begin playing in the KHL next season, has added a pair of former NHLers.

Sean Collins, who appeared in a pair of games for the Capitals last season, and Brett Bellemore, a veteran of over 100 contests with the Carolina Hurricanes, have agreed to join the club, per Russian news outlet R-Sport.

Bellemore, 28, was originally drafted by the ‘Canes in 2007 and spent most of his professional career with the organization. He signed on with Boston’s AHL affiliate in Providence last year, and appeared in 56 games.

Collins, 27, broke in with the Blue Jackets before signing with the Caps last season. He spent the majority of the year in AHL Hershey and fared well — 16 goals and 39 points in 75 games — and scored three times in the playoffs, helping the Bears advance to the Calder Cup final.

 

Report: Journeyman Santorelli signs in Swiss League

ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 02:  Mike Santorelli #25 of the Anaheim Ducks looks on during a game against the Montreal Canadiens at Honda Center on March 2, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Veteran forward Mike Santorelli, who’s appeared in over 400 NHL contests over the last eight years, is headed overseas.

Per multiple reports (see here and here), Santorelli has signed with Geneve-Servette of the Swiss League. The 30-year-old spent last season with the Ducks, scoring nine goals and 18 points in 70 games but didn’t dress for any of the club’s opening-round playoff loss to Nashville.

Santorelli broke into the NHL with Nashville but enjoyed his best years with Florida and Vancouver. He was a former 20-goal scorer with the Panthers and enjoyed a successful stint with his hometown Canucks in ’13-14, scoring 28 points in 49 games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.

Santorelli is the second veteran forward to sign in the Swiss League recently. Over the weekend, fellow journeyman Kris Versteeg agreed to join SC Bern.