We have now reached the point of the summer where free agent players in the National Hockey League without a contract really begin to sweat and think about what the future may hold for them. Surprisingly this time around to very experienced and well established goaltenders in the NHL find themselves in a very unenviable position of being still on the market and without a contract.
The first name on that list is that of former Atlanta Thrashers' and Dallas Stars' goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Of the two viable goalie options who remain on the market at this I believe that the 34 year old Lehtonen is the least likely to secure himself a deal at the NHL level. There were rumors that linked him to both the New York Rangers' organization and the Calgary Flames organization earlier this summer but it now appears that both of those options have fallen through for Lehtonen.
It's possible that he could earn himself a spot through a professional tryout offer but I'm not entirely sure how open Lehtonen would be to such an arrangement after his many years in the league. The problem for Lehtonen is of course the fact that his performances over the past 4 seasons have been rather poor and have seen him consistently ranked near the bottom of the league in terms of goalies getting consistent starts in goal. That being said Lehtonen did look a little bit better during the 2017 - 2018 regular season when he served in more of a backup role behind goaltender Ben Bishop.
Lehtonen only appeared in 37 total games and recorded a 2.56 goals against average and a .912 save percentage which is not too bad for a backup goaltender but the problem is the fact that this is the ceiling he's shown over the past 4 seasons. At 34 Lehtonen is not getting any younger and although Bishop's struggles last season perhaps indicate that the Stars defense deserves it's fair share of the blame for Lehtonen's poor numbers he's still not going to be a very sexy option at this stage of his career.
Perhaps the goalie who has the better chance of making an NHL roster is 30 year old former Columbus Blue Jackets, Philadelphia Flyers' and Winnipeg Jets' goaltender Steve Mason. Although Mason has not been good over the past two seasons he has shown flashes of brilliance more frequently in the last several years that Lehtonen has and therefore likely has a better shot of getting a deal. Like Lehtonen however Mason may have to settle for a professional tryout offer and like Lehtonen I'm not entirely sure how the 10 year NHL veteran would feel about such a situation.
Mason also faces a problem similar to Lehtonen in the fact that his performances over the past two seasons have just been bad. Mason most recently signed a two year contract with the Winnipeg Jets organization but only lasted 13 games at the NHL level before that organization had seen enough, Mason was subsequently bought out of that deal and now finds himself in his current predicament as a result.
Where do you see these goalies ending up this season? Will one, or perhaps even both, of them find an NHL deal? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Photo Credit: Keystone Press