As we discussed earlier today, it’s more likely than not at this point that Anton Khudobin will not re-sign with the Dallas Stars. Now it’s time to look at some potential replacements to serve as Ben Bishop’s backup or 1B.
Below is a list of goaltenders whom Dallas might try to acquire tomorrow, whether it be through free agency or trade. This year is a saturated goaltender market, so there are a lot of names to choose from — in the interest of time, we’ll highlight only a few, with their current NHL team included in parenthesis.
Thomas Greiss (New York Islanders)
We’ll start with perhaps the closest comparable for Khudobin in Thomas Greiss. The 34-year-old has spent the last five seasons with the New York Islanders, posting a .915% save percentage over that span. After a rough 2017-18 season in which New York was — to put it mildly — not very good, Greiss rebounded with a career year in 2018-19. Out of netminders with 25-plus games played, he was top five in the league in terms of save percentage (.927), quality start percentage (.641), and goals saved above average (19.81), per Hockey Reference.
Last season was a return to the mean for Greiss, as he posted a .917 SV% and a QS% and GSAA slightly above league average. Those still aren’t numbers to scoff at, however, as Greiss proved to be a very solid backup. And while the Islanders are a strong defensive team, I’d wager that Dallas is better, meaning Greiss’ numbers could improve once more.
In addition, because Greiss isn’t coming off of a career year like Khudobin, he will command a far smaller contract. There’s a good chance Dallas could grab him for a single season at an affordable price, setting themselves up for a high reward with very little risk.
Corey Crawford (Chicago Blackhawks)
The next candidate is another older veteran who happens to be a very familiar face to Stars fans. After spending his entire year with the Chicago Blackhawks, Corey Crawford is set to hit the free agent market for the first time in his 10-year NHL career. If that sounds familiar, it’s because Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry were in the same situation last off-season, and each ended up signing with Dallas.
In Crawford, Dallas would be getting a netminder who, despite his age, has been rock solid the past several years outside of a bumpy 2019-20 season. Crawford posted a .917 SV% last season and was fifth in QS% among netminders with 25-plus games played with a .628, just a hair above Ben Bishop. And while the Stars might not need the extra experience, he does have two Stanley Cup championships under his belt.
Of course, the biggest concern with Crawford would be his health, as he has had some trouble with injuries the past few seasons. That might not be a huge deal for many NHL teams, but the Stars already have potential injury issues with Bishop. It’s not highly likely that both goaltenders would get hurt at the same time, but that fear alone might cause the Stars to look elsewhere in free agency.
Marc-André Fleury (Vegas Golden Knights)
Previously the face of the Golden Knights, Fleury has been unceremoniously replaced in net by Robin Lehner, and has thus been shopped around for the past couple weeks. And it’s for good reason — unlike the other goaltenders on our shortlist, Fleury is coming off of the worst statistical season of his career, posting a .905 SV% and a -6.50 GSAA.
Fleury would also be one of the more expensive options available. Even if Vegas were to retain half of his salary, it would still pose a $3.5 million cap hit to Dallas for the next two seasons. That might be a bit too much to stomach, especially if his play continues to decline.
So why on Earth would Dallas trade for Fleury? Well, if the Golden Knights are going to find a team to take on his contract, they’re going to have to give up draft capital to do so. Currently, Vegas is offering up a second-round pick, but per reports several teams are instead asking for a second and a first-rounder — and that’s just to take on half of the salary.
Not to mention that Fleury’s bad 2019-20 season might be just that — a bad year. If the three-time Cup winner regains his former form and the Stars pick up a high draft pick or two in the meanwhile, that would be a very sweet deal for Dallas.
Jacob Markstrom (Vancouver Canucks)
We’ll finish off with the youngest player on our shortlist — 30-year-old Jacob Markstrom.
As late as the second round, it seemed inevitable that the Vancouver Canucks would re-sign Markstrom. He had posted a .913 SV% in his last five seasons with Vancouver, including a .918% this most recent season, and was phenomenal in the playoffs — his .786 QS% was easily the best in the playoffs among players with more than five games played.
But then Thatcher Demko entered the net against Vegas in Round 2 and put up an even more incredible performance, including a ridiculous .985 SV% over 130 shots across four games. That performance — although small in sample size — likely convinced the Vancouver brass that Demko is ready to take the starting role, leaving Markstrom out of a job.
Like Fleury, Markstrom would command a decent cap hit, and he would also likely come with a term of at least three years, which is likely the biggest roadblock when it comes to re-signing Anton Khudobin. However, he has by far the biggest upside out of the Stars’ potential targets. He put up very strong numbers even though Vancouver has not been good until very recently, and they definitely aren’t a strong team defensively.
If you were to put such a goaltender behind the Stars’ stellar defensive structure, his numbers could possibly skyrocket, similar to how Khudobin’s did after coming to Dallas. He is perhaps the only target available that could be potentially be an upgrade, which speaks monuments to his potential.
Missed the Cut
Henrik Lundqvist was originally going to be profiled, but recent reports indicate he will be signing with the Washington Capitals. Braden Holtby will be far too expensive for far too much term. Matt Murray and Devan Dubnyk have already been traded, while Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins wouldn’t be worth the trade assets given the options available in free agency.