Dallas Stars: What To Expect From Anton Khudobin In 2018-19 Season

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 15: Anton Khudobin #35 of the Boston Bruins against the Dallas Stars at the TD Garden on January 15, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 15: Anton Khudobin #35 of the Boston Bruins against the Dallas Stars at the TD Garden on January 15, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Dallas Stars once again found themselves with a goaltending issue upon entering the 2018 offseason. As a result, they added Anton Khudobin in hopes that he would finally fix a longstanding problem. So, what can be expected of the newest face in the crease in his first year in Dallas?

When the Dallas Stars first entered the 2018 offseason earlier than expected, it came with a serious gut check.

Another season had passed and the Stars were once again on the outside looking in at the Stanley Cup Playoffs. After being just two years removed from winning the Central division and looking like one of the most promising teams in the NHL, Dallas had fallen into the bottom half of the Western Conference.

And, as it happens with every early offseason, the problems from 2017-18 became incredibly relevant and formed a sizable to-do list for GM Jim Nill to work on. Those problems included a new head coach with a different vision/style as well as more depth scorers to add to the offense.

It also noted their incessant goaltending problems, which seem to occur as regularly as the sun rising each morning.

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You’ve likely read about these problems more times than you can count between March 2018 and now, so we’ll keep it short. In 2017-18, Ben Bishop and Kari Lehtonen looked like a reliable tandem until they weren’t. Bishop went down with an injury, Lehtonen couldn’t smoothly transition from backup back to the starting role, and the Dallas Stars hit a serious slump that ended up causing them to miss the playoffs.

And so, they once again returned to the drawing board. But what did they need exactly? Had they exhausted every option over the past decade and just been unable to find a solution?

The needs seemed simple. Dallas needed a veteran goaltender that had been around the league for a while, demonstrated an ability to serve as a starter when necessary, and could be a game changer in critical times.

And on July 1, it looked as though they had found the solution when they announced the signing of Anton Khudobin.

“Well Khudobin, I think, really adds to our goaltending depth,” Nill said shortly after the signing. “I talked about signing [Colton] Point and now you get Khudobin signed. He’s a veteran, been around the league a long time, done a great job in Boston the last couple of years. We think he’s going to be a great addition for our goaltending moving forward.”

Anton Khudobin first began his NHL career in the 2009-10 season with the Minnesota Wild. He’s been in four different organizations since joining the league and most recently spent two years with the Boston Bruins, serving as their backup.

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  • His numbers are good (16-6-7 record, .913 SV%, 2.56 GAA last season), he’s 32 years old, signed a two-year deal, and has a history of being a competent backup as well as a good fill-in starter through his career.

    “They were really interested in me, first of all,” said Khudobin on July 1. “As soon as I talked to my agent, he said, ‘Dallas really, really wants you.’ So, my decision was really easy when we talked. It literally happened a long time ago. Dallas is really great and a great organization. When [Alexander Radulov] said, ‘Doby, come here. It’s going to be great,’ that’s it. And plus, they have a really good chance to win, which is really important for me. I’m not looking for a lot of money or whatever. I’m looking to win.”

    So, he checks all of the boxes, right? It seems like it, but that’s also how it has seemed for most of the past decade. In other words, don’t jump to any conclusions just yet.

    But the expectations for Khudobin are pretty high. He should fit into the Dallas Stars system well, has a proven track record as a backup, and can serve as a veteran presence in the locker room.

    "“Well, about Dallas, ‘We really want you. We want you to perform. We want you to be a guy who’s going to be a leader in the dressing room. And we hope you’re going to fill our hole that we need. We know that you’re a really good guy and a good leader and we’re looking forward to going to the playoffs.’” -Khudobin on what Radulov said to him about the Stars’ interest"

    Khudobin does seem to have an advantage going into the 2018-19 season. He’s got a veteran mindset and the reps like Kari Lehtonen did, but also is more accustomed to the backup role and knows how to transition from role to role. When Tuukka Rask missed time with injuries over the last two years, Khudobin found a way to fill in and keep the Bruins competitive.

    And with Ben Bishop’s history with weird injuries, Dallas will need Khudobin to keep that streak up in his time with Dallas as well.

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    “You know, my situation is that, how I know, always everyone was saying, ‘Backup, backup, backup.’ But, if you look at my stats and look at my career, I could always play at the number one,” Khudobin said about his NHL roles.

    It’s reasonable to have a dose of reality when setting expectations for him, though, especially considering it’s his first year with the organization. But at the same time, the results need to appear rather quickly.

    The Dallas Stars have been searching for a reliable two-headed goaltending system for a long time. Khudobin looks as though he checks off the boxes that Dallas needed going into the summer, but only time will tell.

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    Either way, the Stars need Khudobin to be a safety net for the next two years. Every good backup goaltender can be a last resort starter when needed, and it was clear that the Stars needed one in 2017-18.

    Will they have one in 2018-19?