The Stars had some options when it came to goaltender Kari Lehtonen. They could have made him a qualifying offer at $3 million on a one-year deal. At that point, the club would have retained his rights and the two sides could have negotiated, but Lehtonen also could have signed that deal. That would have given both sides another year to decide if this was a good, long-term option.
But the Stars traded for Lehtonen with the idea that he could handle the No. 1 goalie job. He showed them enough down the stretch to go ahead and sign a three-year deal at $3.55 million average per year. It's good for both sides. For Lehtonen, it means he has security for three years. For the Stars, it guards against a solid year in 2010-11 and the risk that he leaves town.
The Stars are betting that Lehtonen is the goalie of the future. I think it's a safe bet and a good one at $3.55 million per season. Dallas spent $6.5 million in goalies last season. If they go out and get a veteran backup for around $1 million (and they may not even need to spend that much), they'll still save $2 million over last season. For a team whose budget isn't likely to grow next season, that's important.
Plus, the contract is structured to where it pays Lehtonen $2.7 million this season ($3.7 million next season and $4.25 million after that). That makes sense with the sale of the team looming.
So this is a good contract for both sides. Now it's up to Lehtonen to live up to it. I think he will.