This blog has long been a fan of Kari Lehtonen, who was dealt yesterday to the Dallas Stars for a prospect and a 4th round pick. I've made the case for Lehtonen in a couple of places, but the basic argument is that between his stints on the IR he has put together some pretty persuasive evidence of being a terrific puckstopper.
Even Strength Save Percentage Leaders Since the Lockout (min. 200 GP):
1. Tomas Vokoun: 282 GP, .935
2. Roberto Luongo: 328 GP, .930
3. Tim Thomas: 250 GP, .927
3. J.S. Giguere: 243 GP, .927
5. Miikka Kiprusoff: 353 GP, .926
5. Martin Brodeur: 314 GP, .926
7. Henrik Lundqvist: 316 GP, .925
7. Kari Lehtonen: 200 GP, .925
9. Ilya Bryzgalov: 238 GP, .924
9. Ryan Miller: 296 GP, .924
That is some heady company for Lehtonen to be keeping. However, it's not all positive for the young Finn. There are certainly question marks. The injuries, of course. Consistent rumours out of Atlanta questioning Lehtonen's motivation, conditioning and commitment. PK save % numbers that are nothing special and well below the rest of the above group. His shots against, which have been consistently higher than his playing partners, implying that his skill in terms of goal prevention may be slightly lower than his save percentage implies.
Dallas gave up one of their better prospects, which may indicate they have some long-term plans for Lehtonen. Changes of scenery can often be beneficial for athletes with elite potential but questionable work ethic. With Alex Auld and Marty Turco still in the mix in Dallas, Lehtonen will have to work hard to be able to play.
It's impossible to predict whether Lehtonen's injury woes are in the past or something that will continue to plague him throughout his NHL career. Nevertheless, if I was Dallas I'd probably rather bet my team's playoff chances on Lehtonen than on the apparently washed-up Marty Turco. It will be interesting to see how Lehtonen does in Dallas. I think he has a good chance of success.
I'll also be staying tuned to see the shots against numbers for Lehtonen as a Star, especially compared to Turco. We'll see what the gap is between a guy who has a track record of facing more shots than his teammates and one of the top puckhandlers in the league. That figure could shed more light on the boundaries of shot effects for NHL goalies.