The Dallas Stars dropped another game they should have won on Thursday night and once again goaltending was a huge factor. Kari Lehtonen gave up four goals on 29 shots and his misplaying of the puck directly led to one of those scores.
It’s not news that Dallas has been hamstrung by goaltending woes. Neither Lehtonen or Antti Niemi has been able to come through for the squad on a consistent basis and along with a shaky defense this year, has doomed the Stars to the lower rungs of the conference.
Dallas ain’t dead yet, but the Stars are running out of time. Which is why they need to trade for Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury.
The beauty of this proposal is that the Penguins need to deal Fleury due to the upcoming Vegas expansion draft. Pittsburgh naturally would like to protect rookie standout Matt Murray, but Fleury’s no-move clause locks him in to the protected list.
Now, that clause could be a fly in the ointment, but according to Capfriendly.com, the Pittsburgh netminder can provide a list of 18 teams he can be dealt to, so let’s just assume Dallas is one of them for the sake of this argument. Lehtonen also has a modified no-trade clause, but why would anyone turn down a shot at a Stanley Cup ring in Pittsburgh?
And let’s not delude ourselves here: Lehtonen is the backup if he joins the Penguins. He is purely insurance for Murray and also the sacrificial expansion goat in the summer. But with Ben Bishop possibly in play at the trade deadline as well, Pittsburgh can’t be too picky here. There are only so many teams that need a starting goalie and everyone is already getting their expansion ducks lined up.
Lehtonen has one more year left on his contract, so if Pittsburgh wants to waive him or trade him for a small return (or just cap space, really) in 2017-18, that’s an option. This is assuming Vegas doesn’t grab him, which would work out best for the Penguins, of course.
Keep in mind, this is not a traditional hockey trade, but one that would benefit both teams for different reasons. Think about the Taylor Hall-Adam Larsson deal. New Jersey may have been getting the better player, but the Oilers needed an experienced blueliner and had other designs for their top-six forward corps. In the short-term, Edmonton actually won out.
The upshot for Dallas here is more obvious. Fleury may not have fantastic stats this year, but recently had a five-game win streak and has shown himself to be pretty excellent in past years. And I can’t help but wonder how tough it is for him to get into the groove as a backup. Consider that when Murray opened the season on the injured reserve, Fleury went 6-2-1 until the youngster got back in the crease.
In Dallas, if the Stars are going to make a push for the playoffs, they’d need Fleury to go on a monster run of starts, which could become a virtuous cycle for the affable netminder.
Should the Stars fall short of the post-season, they’ll still have Fleury under contract for another two years. If he’s their No. 1 goalie, then all focus can be put on the suddenly woeful defense corps during the summer. Also, Dallas won’t likely have so many health problems next season; the Stars are currently fifth in man-games lost right now.
That sounds like the team that could contend for a Cup – not the haphazard mess we see right now.