The Dallas Stars announced today that they have signed Swedish goaltender Christopher Nihlstorp away from his SEL team, Färjestads BK. Nihlstorp is coming to the system on a two-way contract, which means he could compete for the NHL backup job with Bachman or provide solid veteran help in Cedar Park.
"Competition is great for everyone, and I think we'll have a great competition," Stars goalie coach Mike Valley told Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News.
The big question on everyone's mind is definitely competition and the numbers game. Most people expected that Dallas would add a fifth goaltender somewhere on the depth chart to provide stability in the system. Opinions were mixed as to whether that would be a 2/3 on the depth chart or a 4/5. Personally, I was in the 4/5 camp, but others including friend of the blog, goalie scout Justin Goldman, thought it was 2/3. In the end, 2/3 won out. But I still don't see how the numbers game works out.
Now, even a cursory look at the system reveals a mismatch in development, experience and depth chart positioning. Unquestionably, Kari Lehtonen slots in at #1. However, Richard Bachman probably feels like he earned a legitimate shot at the backup position. Now he has competition from Nihlstorp. Whoever loses that battle will go to Cedar Park. With Nihlstorp, that's a fine outcome in terms of balance. However, if Bachman falls, how do the starts get split at the CPC? The organization will want Bachman to be ready to fill in at any time, so they'll need him sharp and warm. But they will also want Campbell to continue getting experience, since he is the future #1 for the system. It's a tough spot to be in.
And then, well, there's the truly unfortunate numbers game at the bottom of the depth chart. Tyler Beskorowany regressed this season with his play, finishing with an over 3.00 GAA and sub-.900 SV%. For a second round pick in his second pro year, that's a huge disappointment. In the final year of his ELC, Dallas cannot possibly be considering sending Beskorowany back to Idaho for the season. Is Beskorowany trade bait? If so, his trade value could not possibly be lower after the season he had.
What about out of the box solutions? Could some team with a lot of young goalie prospects still in Europe or the CHL need an AHL backup? There are generally quite a few goaltenders each year who are on AHL only contracts. Close to home, Dov Grumet-Morris in San Antonio is a good example. Would a loan be possible? There would have to be guarantees in place that Dallas couldn't pull the rug out from under the team accepting the loan. It doesn't seem feasible and I've never heard of such a thing for goaltenders before. Skaters who fit in this category from just last year include Drew Schiestel (from Buffalo), Ray Sawada (played in St. John's), and Tristan King (Dallas prospect played in Ontario of ECHL). It's a radical thought, but you never know.
Dallas has some questions to answer here before the end of the summer, perhaps even before the end of the month and the beginning of free agency. The summer just got a little more exciting for Texas Stars fans.