The big Finn is set to begin another year as the Dallas Stars‘ top goaltender, after becoming one of the best players for the franchise over the last two seasons. While some of GM Joe Nieuwendyk‘s moves have been questioned by many, one that all fans seem to agree was a success was the trade for Lehtonen. Former defensive prospect Ivan Vishnevskiy never blossomed into the player he was expected to be and the Stars now have a true number one goaltender. Since the move Kari has started 140 games for Dallas in net and this last season definitely looked like the player Atlanta hoped they had when he was drafted 2nd overall by them in 2002. Last season Lehtonen posted an impressive 2.33 goals-against and .922 save percentage with four shutouts. He continued to carry the team often and regularly earned the Stars wins that likely they should have lost. While he did have another small injury last season, his durability has improved and fans no longer have to fear him going down with a season-ending injury at any moment without warning.
While it is unrealistic to really ask for more from Lehtonen, they should expect more of the same from him. While he still remains under-appreciated much like teammate Loui Eriksson, he did start to receive a lot of recognition last season as he strung together a second straight season where he looked great. His athleticism and flexibility for his size is remarkable, and Lehtonen had multiple save-of-the-year highlights to go along with many crazy saves nightly. The one thing that the Stars might be looking for is more durability and endurance down the stretch. Lehtonen and the team as a whole faded yet again down the final stretch of the season and yet again let a playoff spot slip out of their grasp. The emergence of Richard Bachman as a better back-up and now a competitive goaltending system should give him some help from having to carry the team so much, and realistically getting 55-60 games out of him should be the goal. But riding Lehtonen every night over the last six weeks is nothing something fans and coaches should be looking for again.