Since he was drafted 11th overall in the 2010 NHL entry draft, Dallas Stars fans have been chomping at the bit for Jack Campbell to come to Dallas. He’s been touted as the “goalie of the future” in Dallas. The next franchise goalie. The rightful heir in a line with Ed Belfour, Marty Turco and Kari Lehtonen. For many in the victory green camp, the future is now, but Campbell’s future with the Stars will likely have to wait until the 2016 season, due to the sudden depth of goaltending the Stars have established.
Prior to last season, many thought that this would be the year that Campbell made the leap from Cedar Park to the NHL to back up Lehtonen and learn what it takes to make it at the highest level of hockey. Unfortunately for Campbell his development was hampered by another injury this year, forcing him to miss significant time. Campbell played in only 16 of the 76 games for the Texas Stars, although when he was able to get in he posted fantastic numbers, including a 12-2-2 record, 1.49 GAA, 0.942 save percentage and four shutouts. 16 games are simply not enough for a 22 year old second year pro and Dallas GM Jim Nill was forced to keep him in Cedar Park for the upcoming season. However, it seems that Nill is sending a message that this will be the year for Campbell to prove he belongs with the big club.
One thing that Nill mentions almost continually when discussing the progress of the Stars is that he wants to foster an environment of competition, and the goalies are no exception. Clearly Lehtonen is the number one guy around Dallas, but when looking at the backup position there still remains much to be decided. Anders Lindback has to be the favorite to win the job, but Jussi Rynnas (who is coming off a solid season in the Finnish league, where his 0.939 save percentage and 1.51 goals against led the league) could definitely challenge Lindback for the role. While it is probably better for Campbell’s development to be playing every couple days at the AHL level than once a week at the NHL level, Nill has gone on record that Campbell can earn the job behind Lehtonen should Campbell blow them away in camp.
The interesting thing is that Lindback and Rynnas are both signed to short term deals. Per the Stars website, they are both two year deals, while Capgeek has Lindback’s listed as a one year deal ($925,000) and Rynnas’ as two years ($1,125,000 over two years). Does Nill think that Campbell will need two years to develop into at least a backup goalie? Clearly Campbell will need to stay healthy, and keep posting similar numbers to last season. A deep playoff run certainly won’t hurt either. More than anything, he needs to prove he can handle the full workload, and this year in Cedar Park is going to be a crucial one to Campbell. With that said, is two years down there one too many?
If Lindback or Rynnas play lights out does that make Campbell expendable? The Stars aren’t in win now mode, but will they be by the time Campbell is ready to be a starter? Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza are all in their primes. The rest of the core should, at least, be entering theirs over the next two seasons. Will Nill, who has shown that he has patience to bring the prospects up when they are ready, be willing to go through the ups and downs of a rookie goalie when the rest of the team is possibly on the cusp of greatness?
At the very least, Dallas now has some decent goaltending depth. In the perfect scenario, Campbell plays great for the Texas Stars this season, and both Lindback and Rynnas combine for around 20 games, with each posting save percentages around 0.910. This would allow Nill to package one of the three (Campbell being the least likely) in an attempt to fetch a return of some other piece the Stars need to push them among the league’s elite teams. Both Lindback and Rynnas have mentioned that they want to be not just NHL’ers but starting goalies somewhere, so they have the motivation to prove they can handle the role. In addition, getting a starting caliber goalie under the age of 30 (Lindback is 26, Rynnas 27) with another year on his deal could be a very lucrative piece for some general managers.
Whatever happens, it is going to be an exciting year for the goalies in the Stars system and something to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
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