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Recent RotoWire Articles Featuring Kari Lehtonen
Jason Chen breaks down the biggest free-agent signings of the offseason with an eye toward the beginning of 2018-19.
Sasha Yodashkin looks over Saturday's slate and expects Phil Kessel and the Penguins' power play to exploit the Canadiens' league-worst penalty kill on home ice.
Doug Greenberg tees up Tuesday's Yahoo slate, turning to Blues netminder Jake Allen against visiting San Jose.
Sasha Yodashkin kicks off his Sunday Yahoo picks with Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen at home against Vancouver.
Rob Geriak recommends several Stars to use Sunday on FanDuel, led by netminder Kari Lehtonen.
Past Fantasy Outlooks
The longtime Stars netminder received something of a swan song at the end of last season when Ben Bishop went down with a knee injury in early March, starting 12 of the final 16 games but winning only four of them. Lehtonen's level of play has been in decline for some time now, although he did post his first save percentage above .910 since 2013-14 last year, and Dallas elected to sign Anton Khudobin in the offseason rather than bring Lehtonen back to serve as the No. 2 behind Bishop again. Still unsigned into August, if the 34-year-old elects to continue his career, it might have to be somewhere other than in the NHL.
The Stars’ No. 2 all-time goalie in wins behind Marty Turco, the 33-year-old Lehtonen has seen his level of play gradually decline in recent years but was still forced to play 59 games in 2016-17 as injuries and ineffectiveness left the team with few other options. The front office attempted to fix the issue in the offseason by signing Ben Bishop to a six-year deal, but the former Lightning netminder is no stranger to the trainer’s room himself, so Lehtonen’s days of seeing a significant workload may not be completely over, even if his days of thriving on those minutes have come and gone.
After serving as the top dog in the Dallas net since the turn of the decade, Lehtonen saw the Stars bring in Antti Niemi for reinforcements last offseason. The two thus formed a Finnish connection in goal for the Stars, nearly evenly splitting the action; in the end, they were approximately equally effective – which is to say, not very. However, Lehtonen in particular enjoyed great support from the Stars’ highly effective skaters, who staked him to a 25-10-2 record despite his .906 save percentage ranking 41st among qualified netminders. Early indications are that we’re looking at another timeshare here; even though the Stars have shored up their blue line, Lehtonen’s fantasy owners are more than likely looking at another season of subpar ratios, but a good number of wins relative to the number of starts he’ll make.
For a lack of better alternatives more than anything, Lehtonen once again saw one of the league's heaviest workloads in 2014-15, appearing in 65 games and posting a 34-17-10 record. His ratios (.903 save percentage, 2.94 GAA) were among the worst of his career, but on the strength of a high-octane offense, Lehtonen finished ninth in wins, the fourth time is as many 82-game seasons that he's eclipsed 30 victories. Still, Lehtonen's ongoing struggles between the pipes were a key reason why the Stars missed the postseason, and it drove the team to acquire former Sharks goalie Antti Niemi this summer to provide some legitimate competition in the crease. The two Finnish goalies possess plenty of experience and are set to make a combined $10.4 million in 2015-16, but both saw their effectiveness wane last season as their appearances began to mount. That could lead coach Lindy Ruff to deploy a timeshare between the two netminders to begin the season, putting a cap on the fantasy impact of both due to the reduced chances of compiling counting stats. It's possible that the Stars eventually ride the hot goalie as their primary option, but after posting poorer numbers than Niemi last season and prompting the team to bring in another expensive option in the first place, Lehtonen will probably have the shorter leash of the two.
Lehtonen will be the man in Big D again this season. He had a couple of dry spells -- and yet another injury -- to contend with last season, but still finished with a respectable 2.41 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. The job is his to lose. He no longer has Tim Thomas or even Dan Ellis behind him vying for minutes. The backup situation, despite the acquisition of Anders Lindback, is unclear at the moment. The team also brought Jussi Rynnas over from Europe, and they're saying they won't commit to who will be the No. 2 goalie this season. Nonetheless, Lehtonen will be in net to start the year. And he should benefit -- at least in the wins column -- from an improved forward corps as well. There is a slight concern that the team has not replaced defense-first rearguard Stephane Robidas, though, leaving Lehtonen toiling behind a number of young players who are unknown entities. He's not in the elite echelon of goaltenders for your draft, but he's a known commodity and has a job that could allow him to pick up 60 starts. The injury risk remains, though, and that's the thing that will keep him out of the elite group of goalies. But he'll put up solid numbers for you again this season. Just be sure to have a backup plan if he gets hurt again.
Lehtonen's well-earned reputation as a talented-but-fragile goalie from his Atlanta days appears to be well behind him, as he's proven to be a durable and solid goalie ever since he landed in Dallas. His GAA slipped a bit last season, but he kept his team in games for prolonged stretches of last season. An improved Dallas team in front of him should help and another 30+ win season seems very likely given his workload.
Lehtonen continued his career resurgence last year, picking up 32 wins on a poor Dallas team and setting career highs in both save percentage (.922) and goals-against average (2.33). His injury woes have all but disappeared since arriving in Dallas and he's expected to be ready to go for training camp after suffering a minor knee injury in the World Championships right after the NHL season. He'll be asked to shoulder the load once again.
Lehtonen appeared in a career-high 69 games, racking up a career high in wins (34) as would be expected. His 2.55 GAA was also a career best, despite an often suspect defense in front of him. It figures to be another tough year for the Stars overall, but Lehtonen's proved capable of handling a full load after a few years where he was limited due a litany of injuries.
Dallas turned over the goaltending duties to Lehtonen following a late-season trade. A three-year contract and the departure of Marty Turco in the offseason further cemented him as Dallas' No. 1 biscuit kicker, backed up by Andrew Raycroft. Plagued by a back injury in recent years, Dallas feels confident that the injury woes are behind him and a 55-60 start season awaits if Lehtonen holds up physically. The Dallas defense remains a major weakness however, so be leery of a solid goals-against average and win totals, despite the increased workload.
The Thrashers allowed 272 goals last season, which is the highest total in the NHL. Although the goal totals were high, Kari Lehtonen still finished with a 2.90 GAA and .916 SV%. He has proven to be one of the most underrated goalies in the league. The Thrashers have improved their defense in the off season, so look for Kari to improve this year. He would be a good pick in the mid-rounds of your draft.
Lehtonen improved in his second full season in the NHL but only to post league average numbers in both goals against average and save percentage. Most of the blame probably is on the defenders in front of him who weren't great last season. Defenders aside, Lehtonen was also incredibly inconsistent throughout the year which would result in teams scoring in bunches on him. Never a good thing from a fantasty perspective, especially in head-to-head leagues. This season two vetern defenders are gone (Greg deVries and Andy Sutton) and the team is trying to break in some younger players on D. Both bad signs for Lehtonen numbers -- especially early on. Expect 30+ wins and slight improvement in his GAA and save percentage. Don't expect a good return on your investment because Lehtonen will not come cheap.
Kari-mania hit Atlanta in a big way early in the 2005-06 season. The rookie netminder had posted ridiculous stats at every level he had played at and was expected to lead the Thrashers into the playoffs. But, as often happens, things didn’t go exactly to plan. Lehtonen got injured in the first game of the season and managed to play in only 38 games all year. In those 38 games, he managed to pick up an impressive 20 wins but his goals against average and save percentage were 26th and 18th in the league respectively, not what many fantasy owners were expecting when drafting him. The good news is Lehtonen is a year more experienced and most importantly injury free. Also, the Thrasher management team quickly fixed some of its defensive shortcomings by replacing Jaroslav Modry and his often defensive lapses for Vitaly Vishnevski who should help give the Thrashers some muscle out in front of Lehtonen. Contract Alert! Lehtonen is currently still unsigned by the team but it appears nothing to be worried about and we anticipate both sides working something out before training camp.
It’s not often you hear this much about a goalie so young (he’s 21). However, Lehtonen may deserve it. In four games at the end of the last NHL season, Lehtonen had four wins and a sparkling 1.25 GAA and 0.953 save percentage. But remember he’s still only 23 and has very limited NHL experience. The Thrashers also didn’t give him the starting job, but were forced into the decision when their former number one -- Pasi Nurminen -- went down with a career threatening knee injury. Atlanta has Jani Hurme and the recently signed Mike Dunham -- who has put up some awful numbers lately -- to back up the young netminder and one of them should steal starts away from Lehtonen. He will be the starter this year and will be a top 10 goalie in a year or two.