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Stars Lock Up Lehtonen

The Dallas Stars locked up one of their key players long-term on Friday

Saturday, 09.15.2012 / 8:08 AM CT / Feature
By Mark Stepneski
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Stars Lock Up Lehtonen

The Dallas Stars locked up one of their key players long-term on Friday, signing goaltender Kari Lehtonen to a five-year, $29.5 million contract extension.

“We’ve been talking to Kari and his agent for some time now. We felt it was important to lock up Kari for our franchise,” said Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk. “He was really good through the process and we feel really good that we have Kari locked up for the next five years.”

When the Stars traded for Lehtonen in February 2010 it was seen as a bit of a gamble. Lehtonen’s talent had taken a backseat to conditioning issues and injury woes. But Lehtonen has worked hard on his conditioning since joining the Stars, has played in 128 games over the past two seasons and has played well. Last season he put up some career-best numbers, ranking eighth in the league in save percentage (.922) and tenth in goals against average (2.33).

“We recognized the talent and he had some things to overcome health-wise and he’s done that,” said Nieuwendyk. “He’s been nothing but a great teammate for our guys here. I think everybody is pretty pleased that he is locked up.”

The move to Dallas was a fresh start for Lehtonen, one that has paid dividends for him and it’s a big reason why he wants to remain a Dallas Star.

“These guys gave me a chance and I told Joe yesterday again thanks a lot for giving me a chance to play,” Lehtonen said. “Things have worked out well and we’re going in the right direction. I think I can play better and better. That’s why I wanted to stay here.”

The 28-year-old Lehtonen, who would have been an unrestricted free agent next July, is scheduled to make $4.25 million this season. He’s in the final year of a three-year contract that averaged $3.55 million per season. This new deal will pay him $5.9 million per season and makes him among the ten highest paid goaltenders in the league based on current contracts.

“He’s proven that worth in his area when you look at some of the contracts that come through over the last year or two,” said Nieuwendyk. “I think he’s earned it. He’s played hard for us and he plays well for us. We’re comfortable with that number.”

The five-year term, which will keep Lehtonen under contract through 2017-18, allows the Stars time to develop some of their goaltending prospects like Jack Campbell, the team’s first round pick (11th overall) in 2010.

“We don’t have to rush any of these young goaltenders,” said Nieuwendyk. “We have Cristopher Nilstorp here now and he is showing some promise. I think we’re well-stocked in the net now, but Kari is clearly our main guy right now and that is a great thing. It gives Jack some time and Cristopher some time to season their games at the pro level, and then we’ll go from there.”

For now, though, Lehtonen is the man in net and he still believes he can be better, and he still has goals to achieve.

“Getting better at every little thing,” he said. “If I can do that I am sure we can have some success here. It starts from making the playoffs and making noise over there. I think we have improved the team, too, which will help me.”

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 CHI 58 36 18 4 160 134 76
2 DAL 55 35 15 5 178 147 75
3 STL 57 31 17 9 138 133 71
4 LAK 54 33 18 3 151 128 69
5 COL 58 29 25 4 155 160 62
6 SJS 53 28 20 5 154 143 61
7 ANA 53 26 19 8 120 125 60
8 NSH 55 25 21 9 142 148 59
9 ARI 54 25 23 6 143 164 56
10 MIN 54 23 21 10 133 134 56
11 VAN 54 22 20 12 125 144 56
12 CGY 54 25 26 3 144 160 53
13 WPG 54 24 27 3 139 157 51
14 EDM 56 22 29 5 138 168 49

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Benn 55 28 34 16 62
T. Seguin 55 28 32 11 60
J. Klingberg 55 10 36 14 46
J. Spezza 52 18 22 5 40
P. Sharp 55 16 24 -2 40
A. Goligoski 55 4 20 16 24
C. Eakin 55 10 13 0 23
M. Janmark 55 10 10 14 20
J. Demers 48 7 12 16 19
V. Nichushkin 52 6 13 7 19
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Niemi 20 10 5 .908 2.52
K. Lehtonen 15 5 0 .912 2.79
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