Yesterday news broke that the Dallas Stars traded back-up goalie Dan Ellis to Florida for former Vezina Trophy and Conn Smythe trophy winner, Tim Thomas. Considering how poorly Ellis has been playing in Dallas it was easy to see this as an upgrade. But when much-respected Dallas Stars writer Mike Heika (DMN) wrote an article saying that it’s possible Thomas could overtake Kari Lehtonen as the starting net minder, I started to think otherwise…
Kari Lehtonen is the future of this team. He’s only in the first year of a five year deal and he’s the highest paid player on the roster. Money talks and it’s saying Lehtonen is the man. Besides that, Tim Thomas is 39 and operating under a contract that expires at the end of the season. Realistically it’s safe to say he has no long-term future here, or anywhere else (maybe Luby’s Cafeteria).
It’s true Kari doesn’t have proven track record in big games. He doesn’t have much playoff experience and he has faded down the stretch in recent seasons. For all the big-game postseason success that Kari is lacking, Thomas has in spades. But even with that, it’s hard to see Thomas overtaking Kari at any point this season.
Suppose Kari starts fading down the stretch and Thomas starts getting hot. Should the Stars shuffle the depth chart?
I still have a hard time making a permanent change in net because it would send the wrong signal to Kari.
It would be like a vote of no-confidence to a man we are financially committed to for the next 4 years.
The team is committed to win now. That is truly respectable. Making the playoffs would send a message to the team and the fans that this team is making progress. But I think sacrificing long-term glory for a little short-term success is the wrong way to do it.
Everyone is wired differently but I think it would be tough for Kari to be replaced down the stretch this season, and then bounce back as good as new (or better) next season when Thomas is gone and the Stars need Kari again.
Best case scenario is that Thomas pushes Kari to elevate his game and also provides plenty of relief and rest for Kari along the way. Kari is our guy now and beyond.
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