The Blues never really gave the Stars a chance to get going, as they scored just over five minutes into the game and then twice more before the end of the opening period. It wasn’t a pretty first 20 minutes for Dallas and it certainly wasn’t a sparkling performance from goaltender Kari Lehtonen. After the game, Stars head coach Lindy Ruff admitted that he should have pulled Lehtonen sooner.
For the most part, the Stars are in good shape going forward. Seguin will carry a $5.75 cap hit until 2019, Jamie Benn has a year left on his contract at $5.25 million and John Klingberg is signed for $4.25 million until 2022.
As good as their core is, General Manager Jim Nill still has some work to do this off-season.
It’s safe to say that the Lehtonen/Niemi experiment was a dud (as many people expected it to be). The problem for Nill is that both goalies are signed for two more seasons and they combine to eat up $10.4 million on the cap. That could be problematic considering they didn’t play very well in 2015-16. Also, three of Dallas’ defensemen are set to hit the open market on July 1st (Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Kris Russell). As mentioned above, captain Jamie Benn will also need a new contract after next season and that won’t be cheap.
Finding a trade partner for one of their goalies might not be easy, but any team looking to add a goaltender will have a hard time finding one in free agency. That could lead teams like Calgary, Carolina, Arizona or any other team that needs a goalie, to approach the Stars about Lehtonen or Niemi.
Even if they are able to unload one of their two goalies, can the Stars win with either Lehtonen or Niemi as their full-time starter? Their 2015-16 numbers suggest they probably can’t. Lehtonen posted a mediocre 2.76 goals-against-average and .906 save percentage. Those numbers didn’t get better in the postseason (2.81 GAA, .899 save percentage). As for Niemi, he had a 2.67 GAA and a .905 save percentage during the season and his numbers also decreased in the postseason (3.29, .865).
If Dallas does want to blow up the goaltending position and start fresh, they won’t find a quick fix in their farm system. Since investing a first round pick (11th overall) on Jack Campbell in 2010, the Stars have only played him in one game. Campbell, now 24, seems like a long-shot to become anything more than a backup goalie.
Dallas also invested a second round pick on Philippe Desrosiers in 2013, but he’s still just 20-years-old.
There’s no doubt that the Stars have the fire-power to go toe-to-toe with anyone in the league. Now, Jim Nill just has to find a way to help his team keep the puck out of the net.