Dallas has stolen yet another desirable piece from Buffalo. It wasn't a Stanley Cup this time. Remember this?
This isn't quite that fun, but the Stars did pick up a quality goaltender for virtually free. Jhonas Enroth heads to Dallas in return for a conditional 2016 3rd round pick and Anders Lindback. The Lindback era in Dallas has been anything but successful so considering him as a player with positive trade value would be very generous. A 2016 3rd round pick is pocket change if you've acquired a quality goalie.
And the Stars have done just that. Enroth is quality. There seems to be this idea that Enroth will storm into Dallas and give Lehtonen a run for his place as the starting netminder though. Allan Muir of Sports Illustrated stated it here
The needs were less cynical in Dallas. The Stars have been frustrated with their goaltending mix all season. Starter Kari Lehtonen is putting up the worst numbers of his five-year tenure with the club and had whittled away at the faith of the coaching staff by allowing far too many softies. And with Lindback and third stringer Jussi Rynnas failing to offer any kind of alternative, GM Jim Nill had to look outside the organization.
Enroth is a solid option. Not just as a backup, but as a legitimate challenge to Lehtonen. His record (13-21-2 with a .903 save percentage and 3.27 GAA) doesn't look like an improvement on the surface, but he put those numbers up while playing behind the most porous defense in the league
He isn't the only one doing it. It's been on Twitter. The Stars acquiring a goalie has made more than a few people think that Enroth was acquired to put pressure on Lehtonen in some way for the number one job. Goalies are hard to figure out, especially when they play behind the 2015 Sabres. There isn't much evidence to suggest Enroth is better than Lehtonen though.
Just diving quickly into some stats we can see that Lehtonen has historically been better than Enroth, and this year despite the massive downturn we've seen from Lehtonen he has still been about equal to Enroth.
I threw Lindback in just for fun. Both of the Stars current goalies are significantly better than Lindback.
Getting back to Enroth, he has a slight edge in even strength save percentage this year, and slight edges in both 2013 and 2012. He is a good goalie. We have to keep games played in mind though. Over those past four years Enroth has only been in 103 games. 11 of those were in relief. We're talking about 92 starts over four years. Lehtonen has been in 229.
Another aspect of the argument is that Enroth has been playing behind the mediocre Sabres defense. This is certainly true, but comparing Lehtonen and Enroth the past two years yields that there still isn't much evidence that Enroth is better than Lehtonen with the Sabres defense masking the truth.
I took the last two years of data from War-On-Ice and threw it together. This is all at even strength. They identify shots as having low, medium, or high likelihoods of being goals. What I did was figured out the percentage of each type of shot the two players faced and put their save percentage on each type of shot with that information.
The main take away from this information is that over the last two years both have seen similar percentages of high difficulty shots with Lehtonen performing at a higher level. Enroth actually saw a higher percentage of less dangerous shots than Lehtonen and a lower percentage of medium range shots. Enroth has been significantly better on the medium range shots, but Lehtonen carries the day on easy chances which are over 40% of the shots they both faced.
We reached out to Die By The Blade for their take on Jhonas Enroth, after seeing him in action throughout his career.
When you look at Enroth, his main weakness is apparent: his size. His 5'10" stature looks even smaller than it sounds. I like to call him "the crab," because that's what he looks like when he plays. So obviously, he's struggled a bit with shots up high. However, it hasn't been enough to seriously hinder his abilities. He's made some acrobatic saves this season, and is also very liked by most. He's got a personality, he's fun to read about and the media will like him.
Enroth has been talked about as a long-term option going forward as recently as minutes before the trade. However, most saw him as a one or two year filler. The Sabres have a few goalies in their pipeline, including SHL Goalie of the Year Linus Ullmark, which many are optimistic about. However, they are all a few years away. The Sabres may now turn to Michal Neuvirth, or find a new goalie entirely in the off-season.
Do you remember the point in the season when the Sabres started remarkably winning more games than they were losing? Enroth was a huge part of that. He seemed unbeatable. However, as time went along it seemed the heavy work was starting to pile up on him. With the frequency of shots he's faced and the other goalies getting injured he's been overworked, including playing both of some back-to-backs. Ryan Miller could handle it last year, but the constant defensive mishaps led to Enroth giving up some bad goals.
Overall he's an incredibly solid backup if that's how the Stars plan on using him. He's proven that he can be a serviceable starter, while on a horrid team. That shouldn't be discounted. However, he never fully showed that he was capable of taking over full time duties for a playoff team.
Are we really sure the Sabres were worse defensively than the Stars? They most likely are given that they allow quite a few more shots against per game than the Stars, but as far as the quality of chances goes? I think that's questionable at best. Percentages are percentages and Lehtonen simply stops more pucks.
This isn't to say Enroth isn't a good acquisition. He certainly is. He is a significant upgrade over Lindback, and the price couldn't be more right. It's a wonderful trade. Hoping that he can come in and compete with Lehtonen is a bit optimistic though. There is little evidence in his track record to suggest that he is going to come in and do that.
Enroth is also on the verge of free agency with only a few months remaining in the season. He isn't going to have many opportunities to prove himself worthy of number one starter money unless Lehtonen really falls off a cliff over the home stretch. He will have a chance to prove himself to be a very good back up at the very least, and the way the backup position has been in Dallas lately it isn't possible to overstate how important this acquisition is.
Well, unless you're expecting him to replace Lehtonen. Then it's possible to overstate it. Anything is possible, but there is no reason to throw that expectation out there. Take the acquisition for what it is: no more Lindback or Jussi Rynnas. This is a good day.