Dallas Stars Free Agency: Assessing Mike McKenna’s Situation

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 6: Goalie Mike McKenna #35 of the Dallas Stars looks up during the third period of the game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on April 6, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 6: Goalie Mike McKenna #35 of the Dallas Stars looks up during the third period of the game against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center on April 6, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images) /

It’s time that we broke down the situation of each unrestricted free agent on the Dallas Stars. Today, we take a look at Mike McKenna’s successful first year with the organization and how it may affect his future.

The Dallas Stars have a long month of difficult decision-making ahead.

Every offseason, each of the 31 NHL teams face a plethora of decisions. These decisions can range from draft day moves to trade acquisitions and can take hours or days to make. But they also involve pending free agents on the roster and on the market.

In the 2018 offseason, the Stars have an interesting free agent class to deal with. Their restricted free agent class is loaded with young talent that either needs to be qualified or signed to longer-term deals. But on top of that, they have a few unrestricted free agents that all bring difficult debates with them.

Here at Blackout Dallas, we thought it would be a good idea to break down the situation of each of those unrestricted free agents. While the organization has 11 unrestricted free agents to contemplate, we are going to focus solely on the ones that played at least one game with the Dallas Stars this season. That narrows the list down to six players.

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The funny thing about this class of UFAs is that all six players have a serious argument both to stay and go. There is a substantial reason for Dallas to keep each player, but there is also a reason to release each to free agency and move on.

And that’s why GM Jim Nill‘s job will be a challenging one yet again this summer. If he lets a player go, he needs to be ready to find a replacement, whether in house or on the market. And if he re-signs a player, he has to maneuver around the cap and make the deal feasible for the team. On top of that, he also must be sure that the player is ready and able to fill the role that needs filling.

The six UFAs in discussion are Kari Lehtonen, Dan Hamhuis, Greg Pateryn, Antoine Roussel, Mike McKenna, and Curtis McKenzie. We will take time to look over each one and assess their case entirely over the next few weeks.

Yesterday, we took a look at Kari Lehtonen’s situation and how his future may look with the organization. Today, we will focus on Mike McKenna, the other UFA goaltender in the system.

History With The Team

McKenna doesn’t have the longest history with the team. He signed a one-year deal with the organization on July 1, 2017. On top of that, the 35-year-old didn’t spend much time at all with the Dallas Stars. Instead, he played (and is playing) an extensive role with the Texas Stars in the AHL.

Before his stop with the Stars, McKenna had bounced around to various NHL teams and made multiple stops along the way. While those stops included some NHL playing time, a lot of the goaltender’s career has been spent in the AHL.

2017-18 Season Recap

This past season, McKenna played a veteran role for the Texas Stars in the crease. He played in 32 games for Texas, posting a record of 17-9-1 along with one shutout. His save percentage was respectable at .909 while his goals against average sat at 2.64.

He also played a brief role with the Dallas Stars towards the end of the season. When Ben Bishop went down with an injury that basically sidelined him for the final month of the season, McKenna was called up in relief. He served as a backup to Kari Lehtonen for much of his time, but finally got a chance to prove himself in the third-to-last game of the season.

In a game on the road against San Jose, Lehtonen gave up two early goals to put Dallas in a 2-0 hole. Even though the game was meaningless considering the Stars had already been eliminated from the playoff race, they were still looking for a morale boosting win. Ken Hitchcock decided to pull Lehtonen and replace him with McKenna.

And McKenna saved the day. He led the way, stopping all 17 shots that he faced while the Stars came back and secured the victory. It was McKenna’s first NHL win since the 2013-14 season and earned him a start in the next game at Anaheim. Things didn’t go over so well there, but he still made a splash with the season dwindling.

As of right now, McKenna is currently helping the Texas Stars through their race to the Calder Cup. They are in the finals right now and that is due in large part to McKenna’s efforts. He has played in 18 games, going 12-6 over the span with an incredible .933 save percentage and 2.13 goals against average. It’s nice to have veteran help in the crease when a team is trying to win the Cup.

Contract Situation

McKenna was never meant to be a long-term investment at the age of 35. His past contracts and current contracts prove that.

He signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Stars in the 2017 offseason with a cap hit and AAV of $650K for NHL play and a minors salary of $225K. His contract is up this offseason and he will be a UFA.

A Realistic Asking Price

The thing about McKenna’s contracts over the course of his career is that they are always centered around him playing in the AHL. His cap hit of $650K this season is the highest cap hit of his career.

Mix that with the fact that he is nearing the end of his career and there’s not much of an argument for his contract to go up.

Wherever he decides to sign this offseason, a one-year deal worth somewhere around $500K-$600K seems about right, though his performance in the Calder Cup Playoffs might help up his value a little bit.

The Situation

The thing about Mike McKenna is that he’s probably not a solution to the Dallas Stars’ need for a backup goaltender. He’s getting older, has never played consistently at the NHL level, and is approaching the end of his career.

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Dallas is in need of a younger goalie that can be a regular in the lineup if need be to serve as the backup. McKenna is a solid depth goaltender in the AHL that can be a call-up option, but he’s probably not the solution for Dallas.

That being said, the Stars could still sign him on for another year. He’s proven that he can help their AHL team out and provide veteran insurance for a developing team. That is hard to find for the right deal in the AHL at times, so the Stars may have something good going for them. It will all depend on how confident they are in their young goalies.

The Bottom Line

Mike McKenna signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Stars organization last summer. And through his one year with the franchise, he gave them exactly what they needed: insurance.

McKenna is a veteran goaltender that can help stabilize an AHL unit using experience and skill. He’s become a fan-favorite in Austin and has served as a prime contributor in the Texas Stars’ run to the Calder Cup Finals.

Next: Kari Lehtonen: Should He Stay Or Should He Go?

Will the Stars re-sign him? It won’t be for NHL purposes, but the team may still want him around as an AHL depth option. It all depends on whether or not they believe in their prospects in the crease to carry the load by the beginning of next year.