Kari Lehtonen (Getty Images)
The Dallas Stars and Philadelphia Flyers are two teams with concerns in goal that will be addressed this off-season, while the Ottawa Senators issue is of an entirely different sort. Andrew Hammond is set to before a UFA, so do the Senators believe his remarkable play to be a sign of more to come or just a string of good luck?
Since last season, the Dallas Stars' fortunes have risen or fallen based upon the goaltending of Kari Lehtonen. In 2013-14, Lehtonen's solid performance (33-20-10, 2.41 GAA, .919 SP) was instrumental in the Stars reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The 31-year-old's struggles this season (30-14-10, 2.87 GAA, .906 SP) put the club's playoff hopes on thin ice.
It's also prompted some questions over Lehtonen's future in Dallas. There's been speculation Stars GM Jim Nill could consider finding a more reliable starter, but replacing his current one (who's earning $5.9 million annually for three more seasons) won't be easy. Lehtonen also has a partial no-trade clause.
Responding to a reader's question about Lehtonen's future, The Dallas Morning News' Mike Heika believes moving the veteran goalie (even picking up part of his salary to facilitate a deal) could be “up for discussion.” However, Heika claims the intention is to retain Lehtonen and improve the defense in front of him.
Bringing in a better backup could also be worthwhile. Anders Lindback, Jussi Rynnas and Jhonas Enroth played poorly in support of Lehtonen this season, while once-promising Jack Campbell appears no closer to cracking the lineup.
FLYERS SEEKING DEPTH IN GOAL
Goaltending depth could also be among the issues to be addressed by the Philadelphia Flyers this summer. Flyers GM Ron Hextall reportedly hasn't opened contract talks with pending unrestricted free-agent backups Ray Emery and Rob Zepp. Given starter Steve Mason's injury woes this season, the Flyers need a reliable backup to share the workload or to cover for Mason if he gets hurt again.
Backup options via free agency aren't that promising. Devan Dubnyk could be available, but after what he's done to save the Minnesota Wild's season they'll likely re-sign him. Calgary's Karri Ramo could be a good option but the Flyers can't afford to get into a possible bidding war. Dallas' Enroth, Buffalo's Lindback and the New York Islanders' Michal Neuvirth have had their struggles this season.
Better options could be found in the trade market. Hextall could kick the tires on New York Rangers backup Cam Talbot and Toronto's Jonathan Bernier or James Reimer. Andrew Hammond's stellar play for the Senators could raise questions about Robin Lehner's future in Ottawa. Landing one of those goalies, however, could also force the cap-strapped Flyers to part with a decent salaried player.
OTTAWA, HAMMOND NOT YET TALKING CONTRACT
Speaking of Hammond, the 27-year-old's phenomenal performance could make him a popular target in this summer's UFA market if the Senators fail to re-sign him prior to July 1.
TSN's Pierre LeBrun reports Sabres GM (and former Senators assistant GM) Tim Murray was instrumental in the Senators signing Hammond. The Sabres need goaltending and Murray could keep a close eye on the status of “The Hamburglar.” LeBrun also notes the Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks and Dallas Stars require goalie depth.
Neither the Senators or Hammond wish to open contract talks in the midst of their playoff chase. If Hammond carries the Sens into the playoffs, management will have a tough decision to make. Craig Anderson and Lehner are under contract for next season and the Senators are a budget team. If they believe Hammond’s worth keeping, Anderson or Lehner might hit the trade block in the off-season.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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