I guess the General Managers didn’t get the memo that the trade deadline is not until March 3rd, as another deal went down tonight.
Atlanta Thrashers GM Don Waddell, who has been a busy man of late, took care of the goaltending jam that he had on his hands, as he dealt young netminder Kari Lehtonen to the Dallas Stars. In exchange, Atlanta received prospect Ivan Vishnevskiy, and a fourth round draft choice in 2010.
Lehtonen was supposed to be the club’s franchise goaltender for the next decade. Unfortunately, things just haven’t worked out for the fragile Finn, who hasn’t played in an NHL game all season. He played a total of four seasons in a Thrashers uniform, out of which only one could truly be considered a success, which was in 2006-07. That year, Lehtonen started 66 games and won 34 games, leading the club to its one and only playoff appearance. The Thrashers were swept right out of the first round of the playoffs by the New York Rangers.
The 26-year-old was taken 2nd overall in the 2002 draft, right after Blue Jackets star Rick Nash, and right before Jay Bouwmeester, currently of the Flames. Of course, that was also the same draft that the next goaltender taken was picked 25th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes. That turned out to be Cam Ward, who already has a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe trophy to his name. Until this season, Ward had also been a workhorse for Carolina the last three seasons. Lehtonen definitel y cannot measure up to those levels at this point in his career, and it’s quite possible he never will. However, he is young enough that he has more than enough time to establish himself.
This deal should also end the Marty Turco era in Dallas, and if GM Joe Nieuwendyk can sign the restricted free agent Lehtonen, he should be the new goaltender for the Stars going forward.
For Waddell, this deal will be considered a win by some, as he was able to net a top prospect back in return. However, there are also those who will bash this move, saying that the GM gave up on a young goalie that still had tremendous upside too quick.
Ivan Vishnevskiy was considered to be the top prospect in the Stars system. He is on the verge of regularly playing in the NHL, and going forward, he will provide some terrific skill and youth on the blueline, alongside Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian.
The 21-year-old was a first round pick, 27th overall in the 2006 draft. This season, he was playing for the Texas Stars of the AHL, and registered 24 points in 51 games. The towering Vishneviskiy made his NHL debut last season, appearing in three games. He played two games this season in December when the club needed help on the blueline.
In 2005-06, he led all rookie defensemen in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) in scoring with 48 points.