Looking back on this era of the Dallas Stars, the Benneguin era, they’ll largely be known for a lack of goaltending: since the lockout season, the Stars have the fifth-worst five-on-five save percentage, with only Carolina, Edmonton, Calgary, and the Islanders trailing them. Ben Bishop was supposed to help matters in 2017-18 but was limited to just 51 starts due to injury.
The team is looking to shore up their crease and did so by signing Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal for $2.5M per season.
This is term and AAV for a backup goalie but this is also an insurance policy. As mentioned, Bishop was injured last year and Khudobin has at least 30 appearances in three of the last five seasons. He can give the team more than 20 starts and that’s likely why he came in a little higher than what some backups will get in free agency.
How he’ll perform in Dallas is a bit uncertain. Under Ken Hitchcock’s guidance, the Super Fun Stars were gone and reduced to Defensively Responsible Stars. Their shot generation and pace of play dropped off last year, but the shots allowed reduced as well.
But Ken Hitchcock is gone and Jim Montgomery has taken over. Will he impose the same type of systems? There have been quotes about being a guy that focuses more on hits and blocked shots than maybe some would like. If that is indeed the case, the Stars could be chasing the puck a lot in 2018-19, and that’s bad news for their goaltenders.
Khudobin’s numbers over the last five years aren’t awful. He’s mid-pack in the league in goals saved above average and outside of the basement in other metrics like high-danger save percentage and expected save percentage. But he’s a backup in the true sense that if he can be league-average, that’s a win.
Bishop’s health is the key here. Can he stay between the pipes? And do they give him 60-65 starts ? Khudobin could be a sneaky 25-start backup with decent ratios, which is fine as a fourth goalie in 12-team leagues. A lot will depend on the style of play the Stars employ next year and the impacts that has on shot generation/reduction. At best we can just project forward what they did last year defensively while adjusted for new additions like Miro Heiskanen and Roman Polak.