Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen has put his major injury problems behind him since coming to Dallas, but he still has (and please try not to giggle) big groins to match his elongated, lanky frame. Two or three times a year they're going to need some treatment.
Enter the backup net-minder, and a crucial need to maintain a certain caliber of play in net, as evidenced by this lockout shortened season where Richard Bachman and Cristopher Nilstorp participated in 18 games of a 48 game season.
That duo was running the show in late February during a stretch that saw the team collectively surrender 28 goals in a 7 game span, including 5 pretty ugly losses. That included two losses to the hapless Calgary Flames - the 7-4 drubbing at the Saddledome and the 4-3 loss on a Sunday afternoon at home where Dallas led after two periods but pulled zero points from it.
Richard Bachman was on duty for both of those, and as you may recall, a point or three there would have come in handy down the stretch.
Unfairly, Bachman's play will probably get lumped in the minds of fans with Nilstorp's as the "Stars backups can't stop anything" memories from that February stretch pervert the facts. Even so, the statistical evidence says he was not great in 2013.
He ranked 72nd in the league out of 84 goaltenders that played this year with a save percentage of .885%. Out of 57 goaltenders who played at least 10 games this season he ranked 8th worst with 2.85 goals against per 60 minutes of ice time. All that while the Stars protected him relatively well, allowing just 24.9 shots on net per 60 minutes he was on the ice (not per game). [Link - Behind The Net]
Putting aside the quantifiable evidence for a moment, we must recall the team's overall defensive play, or lack thereof, and the number of rookie defensemen (and rookies altogether) that suited up in front of the Stars' net this season.
We must also consider his exploits in April, which were, for a time, as thrilling and dramatic as the rest of the young team's in front of him.
He was called upon early in a game against the Kings at home on April 9th when Kari Lehtonen pulled himself from the game and proceeded to play 45 scoreless minutes en route to continuing a run that would eventually amount to winning six of seven and giving the Stars control of their own destiny.
He beat the Kings, Predators and Sharks, surrendering just three total goals in those three contests before dropping one to the Blackhawks in Chicago, which was, perhaps, unavoidable. It was a fine job bridging a brief Kari Lehtonen injury and a fine recovery after early returns in his season were less than desirable.
Now he finds himself in need of a contract. He'll still be classified as an RFA coming off a one-year, one-way deal that saw him make $625,000. (Apparently league minimum this year was $525,000, if you're interested.)
29-year old Cristopher Nilstorp was the main man in his time with the Texas Stars this year, including their limited playoff run that ended last night in Oklahoma City, but he too has an expiring deal, though he'll be a UFA.
After a head coaching decision the strategy on how to handle his backup net minder position could be a big piece of Jim Nill's inaugural summer. The diminutive Bachman has shown a lot of determination in earning some big wins for this franchise over the last two seasons, but the results were inconsistent and the position as a whole cost the Stars too many valuable points during Lehtonen's February absence.
Jack Campbell, after not playing much down the stretch for Willie Desjardins, will not be thought of as ready unless the full rebuild/play the kids mentality really kicks into overdrive for the coming season. So the Stars' next backup will need to be signed to a new deal one way or the other.
Do you give Bachman consideration and tender an offer in June, or take your chances on the market? Interesting times.