On the NHL’s trade deadline Wednesday, the Dallas Stars made a big splash, bringing former Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas to Dallas from the Florida Panthers in exchange for backup goalie Dan Ellis.
The move is a follow-up from free-agent talks that Stars general manager Jim Nill had with Thomas over the summer before Thomas picked Florida over Dallas. Now, with the Panthers out of the playoff picture, Thomas gets another chance at a playoff run, Nill said.
“It’s an opportunity,” Nill said. “Florida wasn’t going to make the playoffs. It’s a chance for him to come in and get our team into the playoffs. He knew we were a team that was talking to him a lot last summer, and we almost had a deal done.”
This season for Florida, Thomas played in 40 games, recording a 16-20-3 record and a 2.87 goals-against average, certainly below the career record he established winning two Vezina Trophies, but Nill said the Stars are happy with his numbers.
Thomas will also provide insight and experience into playoff hockey for Kari Lehtonen, who only has two playoff appearances in his career.
“The experience is going to be good for Kari Lehtonen — for Kari to see how he prepares for games and how he handles pressure,” Nill said. “Kari is kind of rolling into this roll. It’s Kari’s team still, but for him to see how the guy prepares and to know that when we have back-to-back games or four games in six nights, he knows that there is somebody there that can go into the net and continue to work.”
Lehtonen has been injury prone in the past, but he ranks second in the league in games played this season.
The Stars have four more back-to-backs in their final 20 games of the season, which has been compacted because of the extended Olympic break, making the need for a quality backup even greater this season, Nill and coach Lindy Ruff said.
Dan Ellis had a 2.75 goals-against average in 14 games, but he posted a subpar performance in Tuesday night’s 4-2 loss to Columbus.
Ruff said playing time will be decided on a game-to-game basis and goalies can earn more time with play, but Ruff and Nill were certain that for the remainder of the season, the Stars are Lehtonen’s team.