It could be a big summer for our favorite hockey franchise and quite a lot could happen over the next year. Yesterday the Dallas Stars made their first “offseason” move, adding some depth to the goaltending ranks. The team signed goalie Christopher Nihlstorp to a one year deal. Nihlstorp makes the jump to North American hockey at 28 coming over from Sweden.
Nihlstorp has been playing in the Swedish Elite League (the SEL is the top professional league in Sweden), the last two seasons with Farjestad BK. He has posted some impressive stats (.923 save percentage and 2.04 goals against average last year with five shutouts) and he named has been mentioned when some scouts talk about the best goalies playing overseas. He has good size at 6’3″ and 192 pounds, and his reflexes are his great assets along with his size and reach.
“Christopher has been a successful goaltender in the Swedish Elite League,” said Dallas Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk. “Aside from providing depth and stability for our system, we believe that he will have a chance to challenge for an NHL job at some point.”
So where does he fit in on the depth chart? What does it mean for Richard Bachman and Jack Campbell? That will all be decided after the summer. Nihlstorp will immediately have one thing over both: maturity. He comes in having led a team to a championship, with quite a few years on both, and experience playing against top-end talent.
Bachman is a restrict free agent, but it was mostly expected that the Stars would resign him and that he will serve as Kari Lehtonen‘s backup. Campbell just made the jump to the professional level late in this last season and is expected to be the starter with the Texas Stars. So now there is a third goalie to fill into two spots, and the competition should heat up.
Bachman and Nihlstorp will now be competing for the backup spot in the coming months. But with Christopher being signed to a two-way deal, he could also start his career on this side of the pond down in the AHL. The two-way deal could give him time to adjust and refine his game while still playing in Austin where he could split time with Campbell.
What it doesn’t mean is that the Stars are giving up on what they have. Campbell is still the stud goalie of the future, but at 20 he still has quite a bit of room to grow and there is no need to rush him. Bachman had a great coming-out party this last year, but he is undersized and will likely never be a starter here with Lehtonen and Campbell in the ranks. If anyone is in trouble, it might be Tyler Beskorowany. The former 2nd round pick in 2009 now will be fighting just to find a way to stay in the AHL if Bachman is resigned by Dallas. He may get bumped back to the ECHL or could become trade-bait. But the Stars are looking to improve their depth and team, and having a stocked core of goalies is always a good thing to have.