What’s Next For Stars’ Goaltender Anton Khudobin?

The Dallas Stars have too many goaltenders. That has been the case since last season and was only magnified with the addition of Braden Holtby in the summer. Now, with Holtby and Jake Oettinger stealing the show, where does that leave Anton Khudobin

Khudobin On The Trade Market 

As expected, the Stars will need to trade one of their veteran goaltenders during this season. The surprise, however, is that this move was forced by the play of Oettinger rather than the return of injured Ben Bishop. Oettinger has dominated since being called up last month, boasting a 5-0-0 record with a league-leading 1.41 goals-against average (GAA) and .951 save percentage. Behind him, Holtby has excelled since returning from a lower-body injury, solidifying the crease for Dallas. Unfortunately, that has left Khudobin as the odd-man-out. 

“Right now, those two guys are playing better than he [Khudobin] had, and he’s just going to have to work hard. If he gets his named called again, be ready to go and take advantage of it. That’s all he can do, and he’s doing a good job of it.”

Stars head coach Rick Bowness

Khudobin has struggled this season. In seven games, he has a 3-3-1 record with a mediocre 3.73 GAA and .873 save percentage. In fact, he has struggled to find his game ever since taking the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final during the 2020 playoffs. After spending his entire career as an effective backup to some of the league’s most elite netminders, Khudobin has seemingly been playing outside of his limits over the past two seasons. With one year left on his $3.3 million contract, it seems now that he is surely on his way out of Dallas. 

What Khudobin Brings 

Professional sports are a tough business. One bad season can effectively erase any previous success in the blink of an eye. For Anton Khudobin, his struggles since the 2020 playoffs have blurred a long and successful career. Before last season, Khudobin was perhaps the most effective backup in the entire league. Through 13 seasons across four NHL teams and including his poor numbers over the past two seasons, he has maintained a .916 save percentage and 2.50 GAA. Through all of his stops, Dallas seems to have been his most successful.

Anton Khudobin Dallas Stars-What's Next For Stars' Goaltender Anton Khudobin?
Anton Khudobin, Dallas Stars (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Serving as the backup to Vezina-finalist Ben Bishop, Khudobin recorded two of his best seasons from 2019-2020. This includes a league-leading .930 save percentage during the 2019-20 season. At the end of that same season, he backstopped a cinderella-story Stars team within two wins of their second Stanley Cup. While this was his first real experience as a starting goaltender, he certainly answered the bell, delivering excellent performances until his team finally ran out of steam in the end. While he has not had success in the starting role since, this should give teams confidence that he is capable of stepping in when needed. 

Perhaps the best part of Khudobins’ game is his effort. As a smaller goaltender, he is forced to use his athleticism to make saves that larger goalies can make with positioning alone. This is evident on a nightly basis as he never gives up, making one highlight-reel save after another. 

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Khudobin is also a very likable guy. Constantly smiling and making jokes around the room, he is as calm and relaxed as any netminder, providing a personality that motivates his team to play hard in front of him. With his experience, personality, and skill, it is likely that he has a few more successful seasons under his belt.

Where Does Khudobin Fit In? 

While the destination for Khudobin remains unknown, there are a few teams that seem to be likely landing spots. 

Buffalo Sabres

Buffalo has been a mess again this season, especially in the crease. After veteran Craig Anderson was injured and youngster Dustin Tokarski was placed on the COVID-19 protocol list, the Sabres signed Malcolm Subban who had been playing in the American Hockey League. In his first contest, Subban allowed six goals on 25 shots and left midway through the game with an apparent injury. Behind him, Aaron Dell and prospect Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen are the only remaining goaltenders on the roster. While Khudobin would not likely be their goalie of the future, he could help solidify the position and guide their young goalies during their development. 

As of now, Buffalo is the only team that has been rumored in connection with Khudobin. 

Philadelphia Flyers 

Carter Hart was supposedly the future goaltender for the Flyers after an excellent start to his career. However, since that point, he has struggled to find consistency in his game. This season, he has a 5-7-3 record with a .911 save percentage and 2.95 GAA. At just 23 years old, Hart could benefit from a veteran backup like Khudobin. While Martin Jones has provided stable numbers in his few games, there is no doubt that Khudobin would be an upgrade to that position. 

Vegas Golden Knights

After letting Marc-Andre Fleury go this summer, it was assumed that Robin Lehner would be the answer for the Golden Knights. However, he is currently sporting a 3.02 GAA and .910 save percentage that is holding his team back from reaching their potential. While he has proven his capability in the past, perhaps the Golden Knights could benefit from the stability of a 1A-1B situation with Khudobin added to the mix. 

Arizona Coyotes

Nothing is going right for the Coyotes this season, especially with their goaltending. Scott Wedgewood has underperformed with a 3-6-2 record and 2.85 GAA while veteran backup Carter Hutton own an egregious 7.76 GAA and .741 save percentage. Although it is still rebuilding time in the desert, this young team could benefit from the leadership and experience of Khudobin.

Anton Khudobin-What's Next For Stars' Goaltender Anton Khudobin?
Dallas Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

Plus, he could likely help them win a few more games this season.

Ottawa Senators

Neither goalie has performed well for the Senators through the first quarter of the NHL season. Anton Forsberg has a 3-4-0 record with a 4.13 GAA and .893 save percentage while veteran Matt Murray has an 0-5-0 record with a 3.26 GAA and .890 save percentage. This team is screaming for a new goaltender and Khudobin could be their answer.

Montreal Canadiens 

Similar to the Coyotes, not much has gone right for the Canadiens this season. They hold a poor 6-17-3 record and recently made huge changes to their front office including firing general manager Marc Bergevin. In goal, Carey Price has not played this season after taking a leave of absence from the team in October and Jake Allen has struggled in his absence. Whether or not Khudobin will be a fit in Montreal will come down to the status of Price, something that is unknown to anyone outside of the organization. If he remains out, Khudobin could provide some stability in a tough market. 

While the timeline of an Anton Khudobin trade is unknown, Dallas would certainly like to get it done sooner rather than later. When it comes down to it, the more time he sits as a healthy scratch for the Stars, the less value he will have in a trade. The Stars seem to have found their answer in net for the time being and still await the status of Ben Bishop, who was recently loaned to the Texas Stars on a conditioning stint, so it seems more than likely that Khudobin will be on his way to a new city in the coming weeks. 

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