Whenever a big trade goes down in professional sports, one of the things that fans and pundits alike engage in is the discussion of which of the two sides got the better of the deal. To some, there always has to be a “winner” or a “loser” in the transaction. But the fact is a lot of times it benefited both organizations.
This is true, I believe, of the trade that went down last winter that sent goalie Kari Lehtonen to the Dallas Stars, whom the Thrashers will be facing tonight out in Texas. It’ll be the first time the two parties will face each other after parting ways almost a year ago.
Taken by the Thrashers with the second overall pick in the 2002 draft, Kari played in 204 games while with Atlanta, 196 of which were starts, and he compiled a record of 94-83-17 with a 2.87 GAA, .912 SV% and 14 shutouts. However, only one season passed with Lehtonen not suffering some sort of ailment…normally groin or back related…that kept him out for extended periods.
Prior to last season, “Kari Down ’09” started earlier than “Kari Down ‘08”, ”Kari Down ‘07” and “Kari Down ‘05″. He had undergone back surgery during the offseason and he was not healthy enough to play until more than halfway through the season. However, he wouldn’t play another game in a Thrashers uniform as the team decided to finally cut their losses with the oft-injured second overall pick in the 2002 draft. And so, on February 9 he was shipped off to Big D.
Kari went on to play start 10 times for the Stars in the latter stages of last season and played in a total of 12 games. He finished with a 6-4-0 record, a 2.81 GAA and .911 SV%. So far this year, he is 18-10-5 with 2.59 GAA and .916 SV%.
In his most recent outing, Lehtonen stopped 39 of 41 Edmonton Oilers’ shots during a 3-2 Stars win last Tuesday night. And he’s allowed 2 or few goals in 8 of his last 10 games while posting up a .920 SV5 during that time.
For those who expressed concern about cutting ties with Kari…thinking maybe the Thrashers did so too soon…while I understand your feelings, personally I believe as I did then that it was time for the two to part ways. For us, we simply could not take any more “Kari-Down” situations. For him, I felt a change of scenery and situation would probably be just what he needed. That, plus having a goalie coach around to mentor him would seriously do the kid some good.
As for Atlanta…in return for Lehtonen, they received defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy and Dallas’ second round draft pick in last June’s draft. With that pick, the Thrashers took Russian left winger Ivan Telegin.
Telegin plays for the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit and last season put up 26 goals and 18 assists in 51 regular season games and was a +2. He notched a goal and a helper and was a -5 in 6 playoff games. This year he has 8 goals and 23 assists in 31 games played and is a +19 going into Friday night’s game at Sault St. Marie.
After playing in 28 for the Thrashers AHL affiliate in Chicago, Vishnevskiy was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks on July 1 of last summer for Andrew Ladd and Atlanta’s second round draft pick. Ladd, of course, would go on to be named team captain for the Thrashers and leads all forwards on the team with 15 goals and 22 assists, including one goal scored in last night’s 5-2 loss to the Flyers.
Along with Dustin Byfuglien, Ladd has become one of the players the organization looks to build the future around and general manager Rick Dudley has indicated he has already begun talks with his agent to work out a deal that will keep Ladd the captain here for some time to come.
So as a direct result of last winter’s trade, the Thrashers have a promising prospect and a team captain that has been producing for the team on the ice and in the locker room. The Dallas Stars got a goalie that has gone 24-14-5 since the trade and seems to be just what they needed after they and Marty Turco went their separate ways last summer.
Looks like that’s a result both teams and both sets of fans can be happy with.