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GM Jim Nill talks goaltending as Stars, Rynnas part ways

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars and goaltender Jussi Rynnas are parting ways. The Stars placed Rynnas on unconditional waivers Thursday, paving the way for the Finnish netminder to sign with another team.

“We received notification from his agent that he had offers from other teams,” Stars GM Jim Nill said. “This releases him from our team and gives him a chance to go where he wanted to go.”

According to media reports out of Finland, Rynnas is expected to sign a contract in the KHL. Rynnas, who had one year left on his contract with Dallas, spent most of last season with the Texas Stars of the AHL, where he was 22-6-8 with a 2.53 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. He also played two games with Dallas, posting a 0-1-0 record, 4.57 goals-against average and .857 save percentage.

Rynnas’ departure comes as the Stars are holding organizational meetings to map out a game plan for the upcoming season. Goaltending, of course, is a focus.

“We still have to decide what we are doing up top here with the backup situation,” Nill said.

Jhonas Enroth, who was acquired from Buffalo prior to last season’s trade deadline, is an option. Enroth will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1, but the Stars have reached out to him.

“We’ve been talking to him,” Nill said of Enroth. “He is a name that is in the mix.”

If Enroth doesn’t work out, the Stars will have options. There is always free agency and also the trade market.

“There are lots of options,” Nill said. “The goalie market has opened up a little bit. There’s a lot of different names getting thrown out there. It’s a pretty wide-open market for a backup goalie.”

As far as No. 1 goalie Kari Lehtonen, it’s no secret that he had a rough season.

“Kari is the first one to admit that he had a bad year,” Nill said. “I am a big résumé guy, and you look at his résumé, and it was the worst year he has ever had.”

Lehtonen tied his career-high in wins, but his 2.94 goals-against average and .903 save percentage were among the worst of his career. Among the 45 goaltenders who played enough to qualify to be among the league leaders in 2014-15, Lehtonen ranked 36th in goals-against average and 41st in save percentage.

“He has accepted the blame. We are going to work on changing that,” Nill said. “He’s working on changing some of his offseason training habits. He’s working on different things. He is going to be a better goalie next season.”

Asked if the Stars needed to look at the goaltending coach position, Nill said everything was up for discussion.

“We’re analyzing everything. We’re doing that right now in our organizational meetings. We are looking through everything,” Nill said. “We are seeing if that is something we need to change for Kari. We are going through that review process right now.”

At the minor league level, the departure of Rynnas is an opportunity for Jack Campbell, the team’s first-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft.

“For Jack Campbell, he’s going to be the No. 1 goaltender in Texas. He needs to grab that,” Nill said.

Campbell, a restricted free agent on July 1, has three years of pro hockey under his belt. He has been slowed by injuries and has had some ups and downs, but he’s put together some strong stretches of play as well. The Stars are hoping Campbell can establish himself as the top guy in the AHL and run with it this coming season.

“He needs to stay healthy, and he needs to play. He needs to develop,” Nill said. “He needs to grab the No. 1 spot down in Texas.”

Philippe Desrosiers, a second-round pick in 2013, will turn pro this coming season. He had a solid 2014-15 campaign in juniors, where he was the CHL’s Goaltender of the Year after leading the Quebec League in goals-against average. Desrosiers helped the Rimouski Oceanic win the Quebec League championship and advance to the Memorial Cup. As with Campbell, the Stars want Desrosiers playing games and developing. Where Desrosiers will play those games is still up in the air.

“You don’t know until they get into pro. Now his career starts. Let’s see,” Nill said. “He’s going to come to development camp and training camp, so we’ll see where he fits in. He’s either AHL or ECHL; it will depend on the games he is playing. He’s a young kid, and he has to play. It will depend on his play.”

The Stars also have Henri Kiviaho and Maxime Lagace in the minors. Both played primarily in the ECHL last season.

“We’ve got good numbers down below,” Nill said. “We’ve got four guys down below and it opens the door for Campbell and Desrosiers to grab these spots now.”

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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