I was fairly confident the Dallas Stars would change up their goaltending last offseason. Despite numerous options being available nothing materialized. We’re now six weeks away from the Vegas Golden Knights being a thing. Surely, now, the goaltending mix will see change.
The opening salvos of the crazy season of rumors have already been fired. As soon as the Montreal Canadiens were eliminated from the playoffs the out-of-left-field idea of dealing Tyler Seguin for Carey Price appeared in a corner of the internet. You could probably talk me into it under the right circumstances.
It introduces an important question at the very least. Is it more important for the Stars to find an elite goaltender or to have an elite center? The answer is the center, especially since that center is already here. If I had my way I’m looking to find a very good, younger partner for Kari Lehtonen since competent goalies are relatively easy to find.
Many people would be irritated if the Stars bring back either Lehtonen or Antti Niemi. This is the part where I mention that with decent penalty killing we’re all talking about Lehtonen's great rebound season. Put any goalie in the league behind the Stars' shorthanded unit and they look mediocre. An improved penalty kill will make Lehtonen (assuming he stays) and his new partner look much better.
Trading for a top-end netminder is simply an unnecessary luxury for the Stars as constructed. There will be so many goalies potentially available this year. Brian Elliott, Chad ['Don't call me OchoChinco'] Johnson, Ben Bishop, Steve Mason, Peter Budaj, Ryan Miller, Marc-Andre Fleury, Jaroslav Halak, Anders Nilsson, Antti Raanta, and Philipp Grubauer could all theoretically move. Chicago backup Scott Darling’s rights were already sent to the Hurricanes.
Several of these players will hit the free agent market. Do you want to pay Brian Elliott the Niemi contract? How about $42 million for Bishop? Reuniting Steve Mason with his former coach Jeff Reese makes a lot of sense, but that alone doesn’t inspire much confidence. A trade seems like the most reasonable way to make this happen.
Fortune smiled on the Stars this week when they moved all the way up to the third pick in the draft thanks to the lottery. They’re in a position to take the top defenseman in the class (Miro Heiskanen) or a big center like Gabriel Vilardi. What if they could turn this pick into something that immediately helps the roster and pick up a starting goalie?
I can’t imagine a scenario where this pick gets traded outright, but it doesn’t take much squinting to see a scenario where the Golden Knights want to make a splash by moving up. Our own Sean Shapiro dropped the idea a couple days ago, and they’re going to have access to so many goalies in the expansion draft. Is the idea of Vegas using an expansion draft goalie as currency to move up from the sixth pick to the third that far off? I don’t think so.
Given that the Stars were handed a gift with this draft position (they had only an 18% chance of landing in the top 3) you’d be looking at a scenario where they essentially get the goalie they want for free, and still pick a couple picks higher than they should be based on the standings. If you’re a Phillipp Grubauer or Antti Raanta fan there’s the beginning of the framework for acquiring either player relatively easily.
I’m still of the mind that Fleury will be given away for peanuts, though I don’t see how he’s much of an upgrade. I do think I would just see if Reese can fix Mason and draft Vilardi, but the Stars do now have options that they didn’t have just a week ago. Remember, the Canucks picked up the top ten pick they used to draft Bo Horvat in exchange for Cory Schneider. Serious value can get extracted here.
I have no idea how this is going to turn out other than a belief the goaltending situation will get fleshed out quickly. They may not use the third pick as leverage to find their guy, but they now at least have the option to do so thanks to a few fortunate lottery balls.
For help on pronouncing the names of these goaltenders, tweet Josh Lile at @JoshL1220.