The Dallas Stars were embarrassed when their suspect goaltending imploded in Game 7, but the Philadelphia Flyers have promising goalies to spare.
The Dallas Stars are one of the most exciting teams in the NHL today. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are one of the top duos in the league, and they led the Stars to being the highest scoring team in the NHL this season by a comfortable margin. They finished the regular season with the best record in the Western Conference, but hardly anyone expected them to win the West, let alone the Stanley Cup.
They play a bit “loose” compared to teams like Los Angeles and Anaheim, but the real reason for skepticism was their goaltending. No one thinks very highly of their goaltending pair of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi.
Lehtonen is a former #2 overall pick in the NHL draft, but he’s never proven to be a reliable NHL #1 goalie. Starting out on bad Atlanta teams, even after moving to Dallas Lehtonen has always been derailed by injuries and inconsistency. He is now coming off the 2 worst seasons of his career in terms of save percentage.
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Niemi is a former Cup-winner, as Philadelphia Flyers fans know all too well. This is an achievement, but he couldn’t deliver in San Jose when the Sharks needed him. The Sharks decided he wouldn’t work after he performed poorly with an .884 save percentage and 3.74 GAA and contributed to the Sharks blowing a 3-0 series lead against the Kings 2 years ago.
Perhaps inevitably, the Stars goaltending imploded in Game 7 versus the St. Louis Blues Wednesday. Both Stars’ goalies conceded multiple stoppable goals en route to a 6-1 embarrassment. The Stars may be spending an astronomical $10.4 million cap dollars towards their goaltending, but this situation is an anchor on the teams Cup hopes.
Enter the Philadelphia Flyers. Steve Mason has resurrected his career in Philadelphia, and Michal Neuvirth turned out to be one of the most astute signings of last offseason. Neuvirth was among the top goalies in save percentage most of this season, and he was spectacular in limited playoff action with a .981 save percentage and 0.67 GAA.
For the moment, the Flyers are planning to go into next season with both of their capable goalies. That could change quickly. Neuvirth has been similarly beset by injuries and inconsistency in the past, but at 28 years old he could really be hitting his stride. On top of that, he has another year on his contract that only carries a cap hit of $1.625 million. That’s a very tempting package.
The Flyers are furthermore in a position of strength in goaltending beyond Mason and Neuvirth. Former 2nd round pick Anthony Stolarz is coming off an all-star season in the AHL, and the NHL may not be too far off for the 22-year old.
Stolarz will likely be joined in the AHL next season by Alex Lyon. The Flyers signed Lyon this spring, who was one of the hottest goalies in the NCAA. Lyon was a finalist for both the Hobey Baker and Mike Richter awards this season, given to the NCAA’s best player and goalie, respectively.
This adds up to a formidable corps of goalies the Flyers can turn to moving forward. The Flyers should thus be open to moving a goalie, and Dallas may be persuaded to give Neuvirth a shot. The Flyers wouldn’t command a bonanza of a return for Neuvirth, but he’s clearly got talent and his contract is so cheap that the Stars could be lured into a useful deal for the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Stars really need to address this goaltending debacle, but the Flyers won’t be the only team with goods to offer. Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings have extra goalies. Petr Mrazek has likely won the starting job from Jimmy Howard in Detroit, and Pittsburgh won’t need to carry Marc-Andre Fleury and young riser Matt Murray.
The Stars are still feeling the sting of their painful playoff exit, but they’ll start looking to address their goaltending situation sooner rather than later. When they’re ready, the Flyers should be knocking on their door.