Bishop or Khudobin-Who Will Be Minding The Stars’ Net In The future?

Photo: USA Today

By Mike Gambill

The San Francisco 49er’s had quarterbacks’ Joe Montana and Steve Young together in the same locker room. The Green Bay Packers had Aaron Rodgers waiting for Brett Favre to move on to become the franchise QB. For all of these players, one legend eventually replaced another and all went on to win Super Bowls.

In the NHL, the Dallas Stars have one of the best goalies around in Ben Bishop. The Stars also have the unique luxury of having another top-notch netminder on the roster in Anton Khudobin. Combined together this season, the Bishop-Khudobin goaltending show is one of the most dominant forces between the pipes in the NHL. The question remains – do the Stars need two top-notch, high-quality goalies on their roster at the same time? As the Stars look to make the playoffs (unless there is a March utter collapse) which goalie is the “man” in the net?

Anton Khudobin is leading the NHL with a .930 save percentage and this past week had to again take over defending the pipes as Ben Bishop went down with a reported lower-body injury. Despite being statistically one of the best goalies in the league, interim head coach Rick Bowness still leans heavily on his proven playoff stalwart in the form of Ben Bishop:

“Full confidence in both of them,” Bowness said after practice Monday. “Dobby’s been on fire, as you know. He deserved that start. It’s game to game. Bish is the guy, there’s no question about that. He is the guy, and that’ll never be a debate. But Dobby’s playing as well as he has, he deserves to play…” – Rick Bowness, The Dallas Morning News

Listening to Rick Bowness you would think that everything is fine and that Khudobin is part of a long-term goaltending combination with Ben Bishop and they are ready to take on the rest of the NHL for years to come. The reality of Khudobin’s tenuous stability in Dallas lies in the fact that he is statistically one of the best goalies in hockey right now. The other reality lies in the additional fact that at the end of this season Khudobin becomes an unrestricted free agent with a $2.5 million salary cap. Khudobin can easily find another team willing to pay a princely sum to come and protect the pipes for them for the next few seasons. The Stars may be able to persuade Khudobin to stay another year but once again his playing time and role in the upcoming playoffs may well help determine this season’s ultimate outcome but may also affect the Stars organization for years to come.

The variable in any potential re-signing of Khudbin lies in what the Stars plan to do with AHL up and comer Jake Oettinger. Oettinger was recently promoted from the AHL Texas Stars to the big club in Dallas when Ben Bishop was recently out. Oettinger has plenty of potential and is one of the top netminders in the AHL but is typically young and unseasoned for the day-to-day grind of the NHL. Khudobin may be kept around to keep Oettinger under his wing and mentor the young goalie but the question remains: is this the role that Khudobin sees himself performing for the Stars next season? The health of Ben Bishop and his use during the playoffs will determine the future role of Khudobin in Dallas and set the tone for any chance that he may seek a new start and a new team come this summer.

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March 10th, 2020

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