The Dallas Stars have been among the most active teams in the league so far this summer, making some pretty significant additions, particularly on the trade market. Even with those additions, however, which include the likes of Tyler Seguin and Shawn Horcoff, the key to the success of this team was here all along.
Kari Lehtonen has flown under the radar as one of the better goaltenders in the league for the last several years. Part of that is because he’s demonstrated a complete inability to stay healthy for a good stretch of games. The 2013 season was no exception to that either.
Lehtonen did manage to start 35 games, but did miss time with a lower body injury, which turned out to be a groin injury. And that’s not the first time that he’s had to miss time because of a groin injury. Which certainly has to be at least some sort of concern for the Stars moving forward.
But when healthy, Lehtonen is easily a top ten goaltender in this league. His numbers were down a bit in 2013, with a 2.66 goals against average and a .916 save percentage, but he looked downright dominant at times, helping the Stars to stay in the playoff race longer than they probably deserved to be.
Heading into the 2013-14 season, Lehtonen will be the key to whatever the Stars hope to achieve. They have some goaltending depth in their system, but no one capable of providing the consistency of Lehtonen, at least not yet. If they want to contend, it’s going to start with him being healthy.
If that happens, this team could be a very real playoff threat. They’ve made significant improvements to their roster that missed out on the playoffs in the final days of the regular season last year. A healthy Lehtonen could be the difference between a similar situation next season, and getting over that playoff hump.