Kari Lehtonen has been a revelation since GM Joe Nieuwendyk swiped him from the Atlanta Thrashers for Ivan Vishnevsky. At the time of the trade there was no doubt that it was a pretty big risk to put the near future success of this franchise on Lehtonen's back. This was because of, well, his back. From 2005, when he broke into the NHL full time, up until the trade, he had only played one full season. The rest of his career had been plagued by nagging back injuries. He was notorious for being lazy about his conditioning, loving fast food, and trying to play through his back pain when it wasn't smart to do so. Yet Nieuwendyk saw that perhaps a change of scenery and dose of reality might bring out the elite goaltender who was picked second overall in 2002. His 12 game debut with the Stars at the tail end of the Marty Turco era in 2010 was up and down but positive overall; he went 6-4 with a .911 save percentage and 3.06 gaa. While he had some strong outings some concerns were raised about such a big tender getting beat over the shoulder and sometimes being too late in moving post to post on wrap around attempts and such. However last year he silenced the vast majority of doubters with game saving performance after game saving performance and he's started this year off with a bang.
However with No.10 overall 2010 draft pick Jack Campbell coming up in the system as well as the dynamite AHL due of Richard Bachman and Tyler Beskorowany both showing that they are only a couple of years away from the big time, what does the future have in store for the Finnisher (my new nickname for him)?
For me personally I have no idea what management has in store, and I'm not sure if they know yet. However, I do believe that in 2-3 years Jack Campbell will be ready at least for a back up role. After a year of being a back up I think Campbell will take over the starting position. When the happens what do the Stars do with Kari?
I don't think he'll lose the number 1 position because of poor play but more because campbell will be ready. In that case do the Stars keep him as a backup and try to extend him on a more back up goaltender-like contract? If so does he feel enough loyalty to the Stars franchise to accept such an offer? Do the Stars shop him around on the trading block? Do they simply let him walk? Is his contract just a sort of bridge contract for the franchise between the Turco and Campbell era?
I personally love him and what he's done for the Stars in just one full season as the starting goaltender. I would hate to see him just walk with that being the end of that but a lot of the time that's just the way it goes. Business is just business and the NHL certainly is that.
What do you see as the Stars' future with Kari Lehtonen?