Dallas Stars: What to do with the overcrowded goalie room?

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

The Dallas Stars are sitting in an odd position with their goaltenders heading into the 2021 offseason. Most teams complain about not having enough depth while Dallas perhaps has too much. Ben Bishop is scheduled to return after missing the 2020 playoffs and 2021 season due to injury, Anton Khudobin has two years remaining on his three-year contract that he signed after his impressive run to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, and Jake Oettinger proved this season that he is overqualified for the AHL.

This means that when training camp begins, Dallas may have three NHL-caliber goalies on contract. There are many factors going into the decisions ahead for the organization, some that are out of their control. Will they begin next season with the dynamic duo of Bishop and Khudobin that has been so great in the past? Or has the young Oettinger proven that he should be in the rotation?

The Dallas Stars needs to solve their overcrowded goalie room

First off, if Ben Bishop is healthy, he is the Stars’ starting goaltender. He has been one of the league’s best goalies over the past few seasons and gives them the best chance to win. However, he has also battled injuries throughout his entire career and his return from knee surgery was already delayed once, so there is no telling how he will react when training camp begins in September. Even if he is near full health at the beginning of next season, do the Stars feel comfortable that he will stay healthy through the first full season in two years?

Anton Khudobin is in the most interesting position of the three. He has proven to be one of the best backup goalies in the NHL with his work in Boston and Dallas, he led the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final last season when Bishop was injured, and he and Bishop were one of the best goalie duos in the league when both were healthy. However, he fell to the pressure of the starting role this season, is now 35 years old, and some feel that opponents have figured him out as they expose his smaller stature. The other factor that goes into this is the Seattle Kraken expansion draft. Before the 2021 season, Khudobin seemed to be the top candidate for Seattle. After suffering one of the worst seasons of his career, however, it looks unlikely that the Kraken will take the chance with many other goaltenders on the market to select from.

Jake Oettinger shocked the hockey world in 2021. Dallas was forced to rapidly speed up his development when Bishop was expected to miss most of the season recovering from surgery. The expectation was for Khudobin to play the majority of the games and Oettinger to get his feet wet playing in the many back-to-backs and other situations of the condensed schedule. After earning his first win early in the season, Oettinger outplayed Khudobin and ended up starting in 24 of the team’s 56 games. He finished every game that he started and played well in the five games that Khudobin was pulled. Both of those are large feats for any goalie, especially a 21-year-old rookie. He is the future for the Stars but the organization feels he may be a big part of their present as well.


There are multiple options for how the Stars can approach this logjam this summer, so let’s look at a few. First off, if Ben Bishop is not ready to go, the Stars will go into the season with the same Oettinger/Khudobin tandem they did in 2021 because well, they have no other choice. So, let’s assume for this article that Bishop is healthy come training camp.

The first option is to do their best to entice Seattle to select Khudobin in the expansion draft. Bishop has a no-movement clause and Oettinger is still in an entry-level contract which means Khudobin will be the goaltender exposed to the draft. For this to happen would mean adding a draft pick or another piece to the deal. General Manager Jim Nill has spoken frequently on how important their draft picks are so this option seems unlikely unless the price is right.

The second option is to slide Oettinger down to the AHL and ride the duo of Bishop and Khudobin as they have in past. This has been a very successful combination and one that led the Stars to two straight playoff berths. The downside to this is that Oettinger is forced to play below his level and does not get to work with goaltending coach Jeff Reese. This could stunt the growth of the 22-year-old and the Stars need to do everything they can to continue his upward trajectory.

The third option is one that could work out the best. Dallas could choose to keep all three goalies in the NHL and rotate them as they choose. This would allow Oettinger to practice with the two veterans and Jeff Reese, give Bishop plenty of backup to avoid injury, and give Khudobin a chance to help his team and perhaps build up his trade value for the future. The downside here is that Oettinger would fill one of the Stars’ roster spots, meaning they would only be able to carry one extra forward and one defenseman. With all of the injuries in 2021, this could be an issue if they need to fill those spots or want to rotate players on a road trip during the season.

The final reasonable option would be for the Stars to trade Anton Khudobin either in the summer or during the season. Although he is aging and had a tough 2021 campaign, he has proven his capability in the past and is still coming off the recent playoff run. If Dallas can find a key piece or pick in return, this would allow them to free up some cap space and show Oettinger that they believe he is ready for the next level on a full-time basis. This could also be smart since a Khudobin trade seems imminent in the near future.

Of course, there are many ways for Dallas to try to solve this situation, but these seem to be the most likely for the organization. Either way, it is likely that the Stars will go into training camp with all three goalies (unless Khudobin is selected by Seattle) and see where Bishop is in his injury recovery. They need to be sure that he is ready to go and can take on a large chunk of games in 2021-2022 before they make any other moves.

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