No, Stars aren’t buying out Kari Lehtonen

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The Dallas Stars can spin their goaltending however they’d like – and they definitely do so – but the bottom line was that Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi didn’t prove to be $10.4 million well-spent.

Things were bad enough at times during 2015-16 (highlighted by a Game 7 meltdown against the St. Louis Blues) that some wonder if the Stars might just cut their losses and buy out Lehtonen.

GM Jim Nill shot down that idea, as Elliotte Friedman reports in the latest edition of his indispensable “30 Thoughts.”

“No, we’re not buying him out,” Nill said. “That last game is not a full reflection of the season. Nobody remembers the game before where he stood on his head. He’s disappointed, and the team is disappointed. We finished second overall, and everybody is focused on the playoffs. Something went right too, you’ve got to be careful.”

In case you’re wondering, Cap Friendly breaks down what a Lehtonen buyout would look like:

The total buyout will cost $7.33 million, spread out over four years with an annual cost of $1.83 million. This is versus Lehtonen’s $5.9 million cap hit, which is slated to last through 2017-18.

This chart from Cap Friendly might make it a little easier:

buyoutchart

On one side, you consider the perks of those big savings in 2016-17 and 2017-18. Jamie Benn is headed for a big raise after 2016-17, so that extra money could come in handy. Beyond that, moving on from Lehtonen means the Stars would look elsewhere to get a different goalie.

Of course, the alternative is that the Stars would incur more costs with no guarantee of improved netminding. Who knows … that $1.83 million cap hit could hurt in 2018-19 and 2019-20, too.

It’s not an easy situation either way, but it sounds like the Stars are ultimately settling for the status quo. For better or worse.

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