Dallas Stars: Jake Oettinger Making Convincing Case In Crowded Goalie Room
|Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty images Sport/Getty|
Defense and goaltending helped the Dallas Stars reach their first Stanley Cup Final since the 1999-2000 and they hope to ride the same formula to another appearance this season, a feat they also accomplished over 20 years ago.
Known as one of the better backups in the league the last couple of seasons, Anton Khudobin emerged as the go-to guy for the Stars when Ben Bishop was injured and forced to miss the majority of the playoffs.
Set on wanting to make sure the team would continue to compete, Dallas signed Khudobin - who was one of the top players on the market - this offseason to a new contract that will keep him in a Stars' jersey for the next three seasons.
That of course is also the same amount of time that Bishop has left on his deal, making them both free agents at the same time.
A third name has thrown his name in the conversation this season, although it was someone who was expected to push for playing time in net at some point in the future, just maybe not this soon.
It isn't often that goalies are selected in the first round anymore. The time it takes goalies to fully develop into their potential makes selecting them in the opening round less than ideal now.
The Stars went against the conventional grain and selected Jake Oettinger in the first round of the 2017 draft. Not only did Dallas draft him, they traded up a couple of picks to grab the Minnesota native.
He was the lone goalie selected in the first round of the draft, and you would have to go back to 2012 to see the last time that two at the position were taken that early.
After three years at Boston University, Oettinger turned pro, got a quick taste of the pro before spending the entire 2019-2020 regular season in the American Hockey League.
Oettinger would later find himself with the Stars during their Stanley Cup Final run. In fact, he became the first goalie in the expansion era to make his NHL debut in the round leading into the Stanley Cup Final.
In his two relief appearances, the former first round pick stopped all eight shots he faced, with Dallas eventually losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the SCF.
Due to surgery on his knee, Bishop is going to be out until at least March, meaning that Oettinger was set to start the year as the backup to Khudobin.
With Khudobin struggling as well as serving an one-game suspension due to violating team policy (late to a meeting), that opened the door for Oettinger to get a nice string of starts in a row.
He got a win in his first career start, stopping 20-of-23 shots against the Detroit Red Wings, and since coming in relief on January 30th Oettinger has made four consecutive starts for the Stars.
While the results haven't been ideal, just one win in the past four games, Oettinger and the Stars have taken each of the last three contests to extra frames.
It won't be a surprise to see Khudobin take back over the net, but to this point in the season, you can certainly make the case Oettinger has outplayed the veteran. Fenwick Save percentage (FSv%) measures all unblocked shot attempts, not just ones that find the goalie.
Goals Saved Above Expectation (GSAx) are how many saves a goalie makes above expectation based on the shot types - and location - he faces. Both are in the negative, with Oettinger the closest to breaking even.
Now due to the storms in the midwest that is causing power outages, the back-to-back games against the Nashville Predators were postponed, as is Thursday's against the Lightning.
It is expected that Khudobin is going to get into the next game for the Stars, whenever that ends up being. Oettinger is certainly making a case to play more often, although he is going to likely be the odd man out once Bishop returns next month.
But that doesn't mean that Oettinger hasn't made a good impression to his teammates. Despite the wins not being there right now, they have recognized the work the young netminder has put in.
"He's a goalie that you enjoy playing in front of because you can tell he works hard, he's dialed in and he's a professional," said veteran forward Andrew Cogliano in an article on The Dallas Morning News. "I'm very impressed with how he's acted around the room and how he prepares. You've got a really long-term goalie in terms of him with how he plays and his style and how he is as a guy."
If there is someone who knows about preparation, it's Cogliano who played in 830 consecutive games that spanned more than 10 years.
Expansion Draft Intrigue
The quick rise of Oettinger comes at an inconvenient time for the Stars, with the Seattle Kraken expansion draft set to take place next offseason.
Oettinger won't be eligible to get selected in said expansion draft, but it is an opportunity to make a move to free up a permanent spot on the roster for him. Due to his no-trade clause in his contract, Bishop will have to be protected, unless Dallas asks him to waive it and risk being selected by Seattle.
Khudobin would be the goalie under contract that gets exposed in the expansion draft, but it isn't a guarantee that they select him. It's hard to believe that Dallas signed Khudobin to a multi-year deal just to turn and pitch him over to Seattle the following offseason.
Or they can try and move him in a trade before the expansion draft, that way they can get something in exchange for a player who has had the kind of success Khudobin has recently.
Dallas does have a Miro Heiskanen contract extension coming up this offseason, so any added cap space could be welcomed. They could offer added incentive by way of draft picks to persuade Seattle to select Khudobin, freeing up a potential goaltending battery of Bishop and Oettinger.
What do you think of Oettinger's first impression has been? How should the goaltending rotation play out once Bishop returns? Let us know in the comment section below, subscribe to the site at the link above and follow me on Twitter @AJ_Murfy.