The Dallas Stars have a goaltending tandem they trust – and it doesn’t include veteran Anton Khudobin. Free agent addition Braden Holtby leads the team with ten appearances and has looked like his old self, posting a .927 save percentage and 2.30 GAA. Yet it is young Jake Oettinger who has been making headlines, recording a stunning .951 save percentage and 1.41 GAA in six games. In contrast, Khudobin is playing the worst hockey of his NHL career with an .837 save percentage and 3.73 GAA in seven appearances. While the Stars have been hot of late, currently riding a six-game winning streak, Khudobin has not played since November 18.
With Holtby and Oettinger having earned the NHL jobs and (though easy to forget) former starter Ben Bishop still trying to work his way back from a long-term knee injury, Khudobin has become expendable. However, despite his struggles, the Stars will not simply just waive the respected veteran, at least not yet. Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek reports that the team is actively shopping Khudobin in hopes of finding a trade partner.
While the Stars surely will not receive nearly the package they might have commanded for Khudobin just a couple years ago when he led the NHL with a .930 save percentage, the Stars still have incentive to search for a trade rather than keeping him for depth. The first is obvious; Khudobin may still have some value around the league. In fact, Marek states definitively that the Buffalo Sabres have expressed interest in the experienced netminder and there are certainly other teams that could also use help in net. With confidence in their current options, there is no reason for Dallas to pass up potential trade capital. However, Khudobin’s contract is another factor that the Stars need to manage. Simply waiving and demoting Khudobin only saves the team $1.075MM of the goaltender’s $3.33MM cap hit. That contract also carries an additional year. Dallas needs the space that could be opened up from moving Khudobin’s contract in its entirety, which means they will work to find a team with enough need in net to trade for the veteran. The next step would be to waive Khudobin and hope he is claimed; even if he is unclaimed the Stars will continue to shop Khudobin, who will have some extra transactional versatility should he clear.
One way or another, it seems like the Stars have come to the conclusion that they can benefit more from being rid of Khudobin than continuing to keep him around. At some point, it is likely that the veteran keeper will find a new home this season.