The Dallas Stars have announced the team has signed Kari Lehtonen to a five-year, $29 million contract extension. Lehtonen was entering the final year of his three-year, $10.65 million contract and had become, what many felt, to be the team's MVP over the past two seasons.
Lehtonen put up the best season of his career in 2011-12, winning 32 games with a .922 save percentage and a career-best 2.33 goals-against average. Lehtonen has become one of the premier goaltenders in the NHL, close to elite status, and the Stars apparently felt now was the time to lock him up long-term in advance of the impending lockout.
The Stars have Jack Campbell in the system, one of the top goaltender prospects in hockey and the the No. 1 prospect in the Stars system, and he'll be starting for the Texas Stars of the AHL this season. Campbell is likely a year or two away from being NHL-ready, so the dynamics of how this situation will work out in the future will be interesting.
Further analysis to come. Meanwhile, the press release is after the jump.
Frisco, TX - Dallas Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk announced today that the club has signed goaltender Kari Lehtonen to a five-year contract extension worth $29.5 million ($5.9 million per year) through the 2017-18 NHL season.
Lehtonen, 28, concluded his eighth NHL season in 2011-12, earning a 32-22-4 record with a .922 save percentage, a 2.33 goals against average and four shutouts in 59 games. Earlier in the season, he became the first goaltender in Dallas Stars history to win seven consecutive games to start a season and finished the campaign allowing two-or-fewer goals in 37 of his 59 games. He was named the NHL's Second Star of October after posting an 8-1-0 record with a .947 SV% and a 1.75 GAA.
"Kari Lehtonen has worked extremely hard in his time with the Dallas Stars to establish himself as an elite goaltender in the NHL," said General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk. "We believe that his best days as a goaltender are ahead, and that his work ethic and leadership will help guide this team into a perennial Stanley Cup contender."
The 6-foot-4, 217-pound goaltender is entering his fourth season as a member of the Dallas Stars. In his time with the team, Lehtonen has tied or set career highs in games played (69), wins (34), save percentage (.922), goals against average (2.33) and minutes played (4,119). He owns two of the top-three franchise records for most saves in a single season (2010-11 & 2011-12), and has the franchise record for most assists in a single season (6 in 2010-11).