Update: The deal is done. The two have come to terms on a 3 year, $10.65 million dollar extension worth $3.55 per year. This puts him under contract through the 2012-2013 season.
It was previously suggested (by this blog and others) that the Stars might try a one-year "tryout" or "bridge" deal with Kari because of his injury history and lack of play the last several seasons. Now it seems that the Stars are more comfortable with a few years, perhaps quelled by his strong play down the stretch.
In his last 9 starts this season, Lehtonen won 6, allowing 2.4 goals per game with a save percentage of .926%. The quesiton of his potential and talent aside, the biggest issue moving forward becomes his health. The oft-injured Finn has faced question about his work ethic and conditioning since arriving in the NHL. Recent back surgeries have been said to solve the particular problem that had plagued him for the last several seasons, but moving from the durable Marty Turco to Lehtonen is still seen as somewhat of a gamble.
The backup netminder will be of critical importance this summer. AHL goaltenders Brent Krahn and Matt Climie are candidates, but are also in need of new contracts.
Said Gm Joe this afternoon, "We were excited to acquire Kari Lehtonen in February because of his size, skill and potential to once again be a top-tier goaltender in this league," Nieuwendyk said. "His play during the last month of the season reaffirmed our belief that he can be our starter for next year and seasons to come. We’re very happy to agree to terms with Kari on this contract extension."
Read the full release after the jump, and continue discussing the deal below.
Frisco, Tex. – Dallas Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk announced today that the hockey club and goaltender Kari Lehtonen have agreed to terms on a three-year contract extension worth $10.65 million ($3.55 million per year average). This extension will put Lehtonen under contract through the 2012-13 season.
“We were excited to acquire Kari Lehtonen in February because of his size, skill and potential to once again be a top-tier goaltender in this league,” Nieuwendyk said. “His play during the last month of the season reaffirmed our belief that he can be our starter for next year and seasons to come. We’re very happy to agree to terms with Kari on this contract extension.”
Lehtonen, 26, posted a 6-3-0 record with a 2.44 GAA and a .926 save percentage over his last nine games for the Stars this season. He played in 12 total games with Dallas, going 6-4-0 with a 2.81 GAA and a .911 save percentage in 2009-10 for Dallas. The 6-4, 215-pound goaltender’s best season came in 2006-07 when he led the Thrashers to their first Southeast division title. He went 34-24-9 including four shutouts with a 2.79 GAA and a .912 save percentage. Lehtonen was acquired via trade with the Atlanta Thrashers on February 9, 2010 in exchange for Ivan Vishnevskiy and Dallas’ fourth round draft choice in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
The native of Helsinki, Finland, has played in 216 career NHL games, posting a 100-87-17 record with a 2.87 GAA and a .912 save percentage. He was drafted second overall by Atlanta in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.