Lehtonen, Niemi see benefit in splitting goalie duties

2 Comments

Kari Lehtonen ranked eighth among goaltenders in total minutes last season while Antti Niemi was ninth. If everything goes according to plan, neither of them will be in the top-10 next season and that’s something the 31-year-old Finnish goaltenders are comfortable with.

“My year was disappointing, so I want to fix that, and I’m open to doing anything I can to do that,” Lehtonen said, per the Dallas Morning News. “We are adults and we are older in our careers, so I think we can work through anything that comes up. Goalies have a certain friendship and Antti and I are friends, and I think that helps a great deal.”

He added that he thinks he plays better when rested, so he sees the advantage to his playing time being reduced.

Niemi was obviously aware of the situation before inking a three-year, $13.5 million contract on Monday, so it’s no surprise that he’s open to it. He did point out though that this will provide him with more time to recover between starts and work with goalie coach Jeff Reese.

It should help that the duo is familiar with each other. Lehtonen still remembers splitting ice time with Niemi for a game when they were both 10 years old. Much more recently, they were roommates during the 2014 Winter Olympics.

This will be an expensive experiment for Dallas as the two netminders have a combined $10.4 million annual cap hit for the next three seasons. That means the Stars will be paying more for its goaltending than even the New York Rangers, which carry the current cap hit leader among netminders in Henrik Lundqvist ($8.5 million annually).