The Dallas Stars goalie situation is a well known problem for the organisation and for those who follow the team. For the past few years it has been hard to find a backup who could step up and provide the saves and the wins to push this team forward.
As the next off season approaches it is a question that is being asked once again. What will the Dallas Stars do about their goaltending?
One possible solution was mentioned, very briefly, in this chat with Mike Heika several weeks ago. He was asked whether Jim Nill was in on two NCAA free agents, Casey Bailey (who has since signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs) and Matt O'Connor.
Here is the question and the response:
Is Jim Nill trying to sign NCAA free agents Matt O'Connor (6 '5, 204lb, Goalie from BU, 2.21 GAA - .927 SA PCT), or Casey Bailey (6 '3, 205lb, RW from PSU, GP 34 - G 22 - A 18 - PTS 40)?
I know he's in on Connor, but so are 14 other teams. I'm not sure on Bailey. I can ask around.
So who is Matt O'Connor and how can he solve the Dallas Stars goalie problems? He's a 23 year old goalie, passed over in the OHL and NHL drafts, who has spent the past three years with Boston University. O'Connor is a big goalie at 6-feet-6-inches and 205lbs. In each of his NCAA seasons he's improved his save percentage while starting more and more games.
In his first year in the NCAA he finished with a 0.910SVS%, even in the Terriers down year last season he finished with a 0.920SVS%. Alongside top 2015 NHL Draft prospect, Jack Eichel, he's helping the Terriers go on a run to the Frozen Four.
He's also drawing a lot of attention from NHL scouts, with at least 14 teams reportedly trying to earn his services. Teams such as the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers. Other teams like the San Jose Sharks, Philadelphia Flyers, and Florida Panthers are also those rumoured to be in the mix.
The big lure is going to be giving O'Connor ice time and games. There are teams that could use a strong, young goalie and have the ability to give him games this year. At least five teams have reportedly offer NHL starts for this season to O'Connor. Teams such as the Buffalo Sabres have the potential to promise this after some 'interesting' moves on their goaltending front.
With Kari Lehtonen still very much in the Stars picture for the future, Matt O'Connor could be slotted into the backup place if he were to sign in Dallas. With Jhonas Enroth heading to free agency, unless he decides to remain in Dallas, there is a space there that needs to be filled. Jussi Rynnas could step up, the second year of his contract is one-way, but could also easily remain in Cedar Park with the Texas Stars.
Does it make sense for the Dallas Stars to believe that Matt O'Connor is a good bet for an NHL backup at the age of 23? Can he translate his very good numbers in the NCAA to the NHL straight away and if not would O'Connor be willing to go to Austin and spend some time in the AHL?
If he were to join the Dallas Stars I can see that they would want him to season in the AHL and compete with Jack Campbell or Philippe Desrosiers for starts. If he proves himself with the Texas Stars then the backup goaltender place could be available to him. While this may be the more sensible route it's possible that O'Connor could have his head turned by NHL starts after a very successful NCAA season.
Those are all questions that can only be answered if Matt O'Connor decides to join the Dallas Stars organisation. The future is hard to predict but it seems that O'Connor has a lot of talent. If he's willing to be flexible where he plays then he could be a valuable asset to the organisation. He could provide another potential answer to the lingering backup goaltender question.