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Dallas Stars ink goalie Kari Lehtonen, but is he worth $5.9 million annually?

Greg Wyshynski
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Better late than under the terms of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement: With the clock on the current CBA nearing zero hour, the Dallas Stars signed goalie to a 5-year, $29.5-million contract extension that begins in 2013-14, according to Mark Stepneski of the Stars.

Lehtonen is entering the final year of a 3-year deal, with an annual cap hit of $3.55 million. While we're sure the value of his new contract will be affected by the next CBA, at the moment he has a massive $5.9 million cap hit beginning next summer.

Is he worth this rather hefty contract?

From the Stars:

Lehtonen, 28, concluded his eighth NHL season in 2011-12, earning a 32-22-4 record with a .922 save percentage, a 2.33 goals against average and four shutouts in 59 games. Earlier in the season, he became the first goaltender in Dallas Stars history to win seven consecutive games to start a season and finished the campaign allowing two-or-fewer goals in 37 of his 59 games. He was named the NHL's Second Star of October after posting an 8-1-0 record with a .947 SV% and a 1.75 GAA.

"Kari Lehtonen has worked extremely hard in his time with the Dallas Stars to establish himself as an elite goaltender in the NHL," said General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk. "We believe that his best days as a goaltender are ahead, and that his work ethic and leadership will help guide this team into a perennial Stanley Cup contender."

(Perennial? Let's make the playoffs first there, Joey. Baby steps.)

Kari Lehtonen is entering his prime years but without question still a goaltender whose stability is a concern. Yes, he's worked harder on conditioning as a member of the Stars than he had previously, but he's still a player who ends up on the shelf whether it's in the regular season or in international play.

Stability aside, is he worth the money? Here's his tax bracket, via Cap Geek:

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Lehtonen's a solid goaltender when he's healthy, but there's one reason why he's getting $5.9 million AAV and his name is Carey Price. From Defending Big D earlier this summer:

The Price contract is the most interesting when applied to Kari. The Canadiens gave Price six years and 39 million dollars for a cap hit of 6.5 million. They've been pretty comparable performers over the past couple of seasons at even strength. Price is quite a bit younger than Lehtonen (24 vs 28) it stands to reason that Price would get a longer deal than Lehtonen.

We're not in love with the money on this deal, but it is what it is. The deal eats up all UFA years, hence the high cap hit. And if the standard for an effective but oft-injured goalie is $6 million AAV (a.k.a. Niklas Backstrom) then you better understand the Lehtonen deal.

But we do like the term. It allows Jack Campbell to develop as a reasonable rate rather than being tossed into the fray too earlier, which can be the difference between a goalie that becomes Cory Schneider and one that becomes Steve Mason. In a few years, the Stars could have one the League's best platoons — unless there's a market for a goalie with Lehtonen's price tag when Campbell's ready to take the gig.

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