The Dallas Stars have belatedly upgraded their goaltending by acquiring legitimately good if undersized netminder Jhonas Enroth from the busy Buffalo Sabres. The deal has been confirmed by both clubs, and the Sabres will receive a conditional third-round pick in return for their most frequent starting netminder.
The Stars have received the second worst overall goaltending in hockey this season and were desperate to add some help in net. Adding Enroth, a pending unrestricted free agent, is a quality move, though it’s possible that the move will prove to be too little, too late for the Stars.
How badly have the Stars needed a competent backup netminder this season? Well Kari Lehtonen is tied with New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider for having started the most games on the year with 64. In the offseason the Stars brought in Anders Lindback, who the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t even bother to qualify, and he’s been a disaster.
The 26-year-old Lindback has posted an .875 save percentage this season, fourth worst among NHL goaltenders who’ve logged at least 240 minutes.
Employing Lindback has cost the Stars dearly in the tight Western Conference. They’ve only felt comfortable starting him seven times this season, but he’s been credited with the decision in all 10 of his appearances (basically the Stars score enough to get back into games even after they’ve pulled Lehtonen). The Stars have won only two games in which Lindback has appeared.
Say the Stars, an explosive offensive club, had managed to win half of the games in which their backup appeared. Well then they’d have six additional points and would currently be holding down a Wild Card spot…
Enroth is very capable and at times has been stellar for the Sabres this season. While his save percentage on the year is below average, it’s likely at least somewhat a product of playing behind a historically bad team. In Dallas, Enroth will still be playing behind a permissive defensive club, but at least he’s used to it.
Since 2011 Enroth has managed a very solid .925 save percentage at even-strength, numbers which put him in the same basic class as Anaheim Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen, Los Angeles Kings netminder Jonathan Quick, and Tampa Bay Lightning puck stopper Ben Bishop over the same time frame. Also his even-strength save percentage over the past four years has been better than Lehtonen’s, which is interesting. This is a situation that will be worth watching closely over the balance of the season.
With Dubnyk and Enroth having been moved now, we essentially know what the market for backup goaltenders looks like several weeks out from the 2015 NHL Trade Deadline. If you want a capable goalie, it’ll cost you a third-round pick. That would seem to be a relevant data point for fans of the Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs, and New York Rangers to process.