Stars waive Khudobin as goalie situation clears up
When the 2021-22 season began the Dallas Stars had the most crowded goalie situation in the league with four NHL caliber players -- Anton Khudobin, Ben Bishop, Braden Holtby, and Jake Oettinger -- all under contract at the position.
All of them had various levels of success in the NHL, with three of them (Khudobin, Bishop, and Holtby) all backstopping teams to the Stanley Cup Final at one point in their careers, while Oettinger was coming off of a very strong rookie season.
Over the past 48 hours that situation has become a little less crowded, and looks to have finally settled itself out.
On Saturday, the Stars announced that Bishop’s playing career is over due to a knee injury that he has not been able to fully recover from.
That was followed on Monday by the news that Khudobin has been placed on waivers just a little more than a year after helping lead the Stars to the Cup Final. General manager Jim Nill said there were two main reasons for the decision: The team needed the extra roster spot given the current illness and injury situation with the team, and they want Khudobin to actually get a chance to play play games (which he would be able to do in the American Hockey League should he clear waivers).
[Related: Stars announce Ben Bishop’s career is over]
That means the Dallas net is now in the hands of Holtby and Oettinger for the foreseeable future. Given the way the season has gone this season, that is the direction the team should be heading in with the position as they have been by far the two best goalies on the rosterr. It is just a little bit of a surprise to see Holtby come out on top of that position battle. His play seemed to rapidly decline the past couple of years, posting back-to-back sub-.900 save percentages in Washington and Vancouver the past two seasons. It looked like his days as an elite goalie were finished and was going to be nothing more than a veteran insurance policy for the Stars.
Entering play this week he has a .923 save percentage in his 14 appearances and is looking like a rejuvenated player with a split role.
Oettinger has a .951 mark in his seven appearances.
The question now is if somebody wants to take a shot on Khubodin, or if he is destined for a trip to the AHL. During his first two years with the Stars he was one of the best goalies in the league, including the 2019-20 season when he finished with the league’s best save percentage and helped guide the Stars to a surprising Cup Final appearance. He took a big step backwards a year ago and has really struggled in his limited work this season. Those recent struggles, as well as his age (35) and contract (one more full season at $3.3 million per season) seem to make that a long shot.