Goaltending has been a much maligned issue for the Dallas Stars in recent seasons, and it’s somewhat deserved. In previous seasons, when the forward roster wasn’t depleted and the defensive core had solid puck movers, the goaltending was the weakest link on what was otherwise a solid roster.
This season, the Stars have been getting the goaltending, particularly at 5v5, that they’ve been missing previously. What they aren’t getting is the scoring or the penalty killing support.
That said, there isn’t a lot below Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen in the Stars system. First round pick Jack Campbell could never crack the NHL roster and was traded to the Los Angeles Kings last summer.
Depending on availability and ask in return, there are several younger goaltenders the Stars could target for either trade deadline or off season trades that could be solid starter replacements or backups.
Scott Darling has been the backup goaltender to Chicago Blackhawks’ Corey Crawford since 2014-15, when he was signed on a one year deal.
After spending the season battling for the backup position with Antti Raanta, Darling was called up in February 2015 and spent the rest of the season with the big club. He played a full season in 2015-16 and is on the second year of his two year extension.
At 28, he’s ready to take over a starting position.
Strengths: He’s done some heavy lifting for the Blackhawks this season, getting quality starts against tougher opponents.
He’s tried and tested in the post-season, having taken over the first round of the 2015 playoff series against Nashville when Crawford allowed two goals on eight shots in the first period of the series. The Blackhawks went on to win the Cup that season, making Darling the first Chicago-land native to win a Cup with the Blackhawks.
Why this move would be good for Chicago: Darling is UFA after this season and making a little over league minimum. He’s due for a raise and Chicago doesn’t have the cap space. That said, Blackhawks GM Scott Bowman has said they’d love to keep Darling, and wouldn’t be looking to make any decisions until the off season.
Antti Raanta was traded in June of 2015 to make way for Scott Darling as the new backup to Corey Crawford.
Raanta was signed by the Blackhawks in 2013 and called up in November of that season to replace an injured Nikolai Khabibulin. He was signed to a two year extension in the offseason of 2014 before being traded the next summer.
Initially on coming to the Rangers, Raanta faced another battle for backup behind Henrik Lundqvist with Magnus Hellberg, but won this battle. He signed another two year extension with the Rangers in May 2016.
Strengths: Raanta has also been trusted with starts against tough opponents this season, including his former team.
Raanta is undersized by today’s NHL standards (only 6’0” compared to Darling’s 6’6”) which means he relies on athleticism and positioning to make saves, rather than being able to cover up large parts of the net simply by existing.
Perhaps most exciting for Stars fans, Raanta has played 86 minutes shorthanded this season and has a .900 save percentage.
Why this move would be good for New York: Potential trade targets could include the wealth of young defenseman the Stars are currently struggling to find roster spots for. The Stars don’t have the top four defenseman the Rangers really need, but could certainly upgrade their blue line by a significant margin.
Joonas Korpisalo was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2012 and signed his entry level contract in 2014.
He joined the Blue Jackets full time last season when Sergei Bobrovsky went down with a groin injury. In 31 games last season he posted a .934 save percentage at 5v5 and .920 in all situations.
It might be early yet for him to take over a starting position from one of our goaltenders, but the potential is there.
Strengths: In 31 games last season he posted a .934 save percentage at 5v5 and .920 in all situations. It might be early yet for him to take over a starting position from one of our goaltenders, but the potential is there.
Why this would be good for Columbus: The Blue Jackets already have a second solid backup in their system in Anton Forsberg and all the confidence in Sergei Bobrovsky, making Korpisalo more available for trade.
The Stars could pick up a solid backup in Philipp Grubauer from the Washington Capitals.
He was drafted by the team in 2010 but due to a bout with mono in 2010-11 and was sent to the ECHL for further conditioning. He made his debut with the Capitals in 2013 as a relief to Braden Holtby, a 4-1 in which he stopped 14 of 14 shots. He started his first game two weeks later, another loss, but he did stop 40 of 45 shots, which is another way of saying his defense gave him almost no support at all.
Strengths: Grubauer is also on the smaller side for an NHL goalie at 6’1” and depends a lot on strong positioning. He recovers rebounds well. His speed would be a concern at a starting position, but Grubauer is a solid option for a backup behind Kari Lehtonen.
Why this would be good for Washington: The Capitals are in the middle of another massive push towards the postseason and could use scoring support. A package containing either of Patrick Eaves or Patrick Sharp (both UFAs this summer) could look pretty good to them at trade deadline.