Just 13 and a half hours before the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA is set to expire, the Dallas Stars got in under the gun, securing starting goaltender, Kari Lehtonen through the 2017-2018 season for $29.5 million (AVV of $5.9 per season).

Lehtonen had his best performance last year, despite missing the month of December with a low groin injury which elevated Richard Bachman to his current back-up role.  Kari ended the season with a record of 32-22-4 and a .922 save percentage along with a 2.33 goals against average.

Kari was the reason the Stars found themselves on top of the league to start the season with an 11-3 record, earning him the league’s second star honor for the month of October, as he went 8-1 with a microscopic 1.75 GAA.

“We believe that his best days as a goaltender are ahead,” said Stars General Manager, Joe Nieuwendyk.

For Nieuwendyk’s sake, I hope he’s right.  Kari is much improved.  His training regimen has allowed Kari to train more efficiently than he has in previous seasons and that has showed not only in his performance, but in his ability to remain relatively healthy (his groin injury against Phoenix was a result of him falling awkwardly if I remember the play correctly).

However, let’s assume the impending lockout wipes out the 2012-2013 season.  In the mean time, outside of Austin, TX, prospect Jack Campbell will be entering his first full season with the Texas Stars of the AHL and will no doubt be their number one net minder.  Let’s continue to assume that he needs two full seasons in the American League.  That will put us into the 2013-2014 season.  Is Jack Campbell going to be a back-up to Kari for the remaining four seasons?

Campbell has started to garner more and more attention from writers within the sport.  Mike Farkas with Hockey’s Future listed Campbell as the Stars number one prospect.  Ryan Kennedy from The Hockey News had this wonderful write-up about Campbell and his journey- http://www.thehockeynews.com/articles/48028-Jack-Campbell.html

Plus, with all the pressure on the clubs to get contracts in under the lockout wire, where is the deal for Jamie Benn?  I had a scenario I was discussing this morning which points to why the Stars should sign Benn to a crazy Parise-type contract now.

History says we should assume the owners will “win” this lockout and have their demands met, which include salary rollbacks, contract limits and stipulations on free agency.  The owners have ask for five year limits on contract lengths along with having players wait for 10 years of NHL service to qualify for unrestricted free agency.

Jamie Benn is 22.  If no deal is reached under the current CBA, then the max the Stars can sign him through is when he’s 28 (assume a full lost season when he’ll be 23).  So far, no problem, right?  He’s in his prime.  There is one problem, however.  Jamie Benn will have been in the league for nine years at the expiration of said contract.  So, he might agree to a 2-3 year deal so that he’s not locked into a “max” deal and then he can test the UFA market.  So, at 31-32 years old, Jamie will test the UFA waters.  With the potential for five year maximums, that will get him locked up until he’s 38.

I have to check, but I don’t believe you’ll find very many 38-year olds making $5 million or more a season.

Give him a 12-year deal now.  Take Benn to 34.  The going rate for skaters at his current skill set is approximately $4.5-5 million.  However, you see the potential is far greater than just “going rate,” plus, you’re going to look to Jamie Benn to be the face of the organization.  So, you bet on the risk and give him $7 million a year (12 years, $84 million) and everyone wins.  Jamie gets paid for a very long time at a higher-than-average amount and the Stars have their franchise player well into his prime.

But, that’s my take on things.  The last tweet that Jessica Redfield sent me was a link to take online courses to become an agent.  Perhaps I should just stick to writing.