The backup goaltender position in Dallas has been inconsistent ever since Andrew Raycroft had a breakdown back in the 2011-2012 season. There has been a carousel of guys since then -- Raycroft, Richard Bachman, and Cristopher Nilstorp. Each shone at times, but in general the sub-par play overall did not instill a lot of confidence in the position from the coaching staff.
That lack of confidence often led to Kari Lehtonen being called upon to take more than his fair share of the workload in games started. In the last three seasons, he has started about 75% of all possible games. The Stars have also faded down the stretch each of those years on their push to the playoffs. Coincidence? Possibly. But it's a trend that definitely needs to be addressed if the Stars hope to make the playoffs this season.
The Stars decided to find a more proven veteran backup for Lehtonen this offseason. Dan Ellis was signed to a two year deal this summer.
"Honestly, when I started looking at free agency, Dallas was No. 1 on the list. I loved my time here, and I’m excited about what they’re building here." -- Ellis on signing in Dallas via Dallas Morning News
Ellis spent the lockout last year playing for the AHL Charlotte Checkers and then with the Carolina Hurricanes once the NHL season got underway.
Carolina had the 29th ranked goals against average last year at 3.31/game and ranked 28th in penalty killing. The defense in front of their goaltenders was not very good, so Ellis' stats from last year aren't necessarily indicative of his play as much as the play in front of him. On a team that was arguably worse defensively than the Dallas Stars, Ellis posted a better save percentage (.906) than either of the backups in Dallas last season.
The Stars have instilled quite a bit of competitiveness in the goaltending throughout the organization. Jack Campbell and Nilstorp will battle it out for the starting job in Texas, and either of them could challenge Ellis for the backup position if they have a strong showing in camp. Ellis will push Lehtonen, although it's unlikely he loses the starting job, but the competition behind Lehtonen should push him to be even better than seasons past.
Ellis has been a starter and a backup in the NHL. He is a professional, and understands the role of the backup really well. The biggest impact that Ellis will have in Dallas will be to instill enough confidence in the coaching staff to where Lehtonen is not relied on to win games and allow him to rest throughout the season. If they can get Ellis a good number of starts, and he can win more than half of those starts, it should set Dallas up well to be able to push through the end of the season.