The Stars know who will be their No. 1 goaltender next season.
As for who is backing up Jake Oettinger? That part remains up in the air.
“We’re going to look at all options, keep all options open,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said last month. “As I said, we had a plan last year. We thought we had two or three guys in place and it ended up being five guys. We’re going to look at all those situations.”
Oettinger ascended to the top spot in the Stars crease because of a combination of injuries and performance after entering training camp buried on the depth chart. But Ben Bishop’s career ended because of a knee injury. Anton Khudobin was sent to the AHL before he had season-ending hip surgery. Braden Holtby’s season ended because of a hip injury.
The injuries led to Nill and the Stars acquiring Scott Wedgewood from the trade deadline for a conditional draft pick that turned into a 2023 third-round draft pick.
Khudobin is under contract for one more season, and Wedgewood is an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Khudobin’s initial recovery timeline that was announced in March put him on track to be ready for training camp, and making use of his $3.333 million cap hit would behoove the Stars. But, as we’ve seen with Tyler Seguin, hip surgeries can be tricky with uneven rehabilitation schedules. Plus, Khudobin (.879 save percentage and 3.63 goals against average) was not good during his nine NHL games.
He went unclaimed on waivers and spent the rest of the season on the AHL roster.
“We’re going to assess Anton Khudobin, see where he’s at,” Nill said in May. “He’s doing his rehab here, and we’ll have a good feel over the next six weeks where he’s at. Is he going to be ready for training camp? Is he going to be somebody that’s ready in November, December? We’ll have to figure that out to see where he’s at.”
If Khudobin is not in the Stars’ plans next season, they have a few options. They could try to trade him, but that may be tough to do given his age, contract, production and recent injury. They could bury him in the AHL, meaning that only $2.208 million of his cap hit would count against the cap.
They could also try to put him on long-term injured reserve (if only until he’s ready to play) to create some cap flexibility. The Stars tried to do that last season, but the league did not allow them to because Khudobin was already on the minor league roster. During training camp, everyone begins on the NHL roster.
Wedgewood could be an option after his strong showing down the stretch with the Stars. Dallas picked up points in six of the seven games he started and his .913 save percentage was highlighted by a 44-save performance in Carolina during a shootout win.
Wedgewood is looking for a multiyear contract, which would be the first multi-year, one-way contract of his career.
In 2022, there have been three multiyear contracts signed by backup goalies: Anton Forsberg for three years at a $2.75 million cap hit in Ottawa, Karel Vejmelka for three years at $2.725 million annually in Arizona and Pavel Francouz for two years at a $2 million cap hit.
Wedgewood could be looking at something in that range.
If Khudobin isn’t ready, and Wedgewood signs elsewhere, the backup goaltending market is a bit thin in free agency. There are only six pending unrestricted free agent goaltenders who played between 10 and 40 games last season (a backup’s workload) with a save percentage above .900.
Wedgewood is one, and so is Holtby (.913 in 24 games). Martin Jones (.900 in 35 games) is three years older than Wedgewood, and has been inconsistent in recent years. Casey DeSmith (.914 in 26 games) may not be a fit and Jaroslav Halak (.903 in 17 games) is 37 years old. Twenty-six-year-old Eric Comrie (.920 in 19 games) could fit the mold of a young, affordable backup that can spell Oettinger like he did Connor Hellebuyck.