Reese in Dallas as Stars Make Big Changes in Goal
The Dallas Stars have made two important moves in regards to their goaltending situation.
Jussi Rynnas has been placed on unconditional waivers, which allows both parties to walk away from a contract before it expires. The move is designed to free the big Finn up to return to Europe. It’s expected that he will be going to Ak Bars Kakan in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, presumably to take the place of big Swedish stopper and former New York Islanders prospect Anders Nilsson, who posted a .936 save percentage there this season but recently indicated he wants to come back to the NHL, where his rights are now held by the Chicago Blackhawks.
A former Toronto Maple Leafs prospect, Rynnas was brought in last year along with Anders Lindbäck to compete for the backup spot behind Kari Lehtonen, but neither of those moves panned out as hoped, with Lindbäck traded.
Rynnas spent most of the season with the Texas Stars of the AHL, putting up a very respectable .920 save percentage and a 2.53 GAA. However, he only made it into two NHL games, and he failed to impress there, with a .841 save percentage in two losses. Rynnas had one more year at $562,500 on his contract with the Stars. Rynnas may be claimed by another NHL team, who would take on the that contract, but most players clear unconditional waivers.
At the same time, Elliotte Friedman has reported and InGoal Magazine has since confirmed that the Stars are in the process of hiring former Philadelphia Flyers goaltending coach Jeff Reese to take over that position from long-time Stars goalie coach Mike Valley.
While some might wonder if the move is related to the chaos the Stars have experienced at the backup position over the past several years, sources indicate Valley will be moving into a new, bigger role as Director of Goaltending, with responsibilities ranging from working with already drafted and signed prospects, to amateur and pro scouting.
It’s a role others in the goaltending coach community would like to see more NHL teams embrace. Ideally it will allow a properly trained eye to weigh in on draft and signing decisions are often made with limited, if any, insights from a goaltending coach too busy with day to day duties that now typically include everything from working with his goalies to pre-scouting the opponents and reviewing shootout and power play tendencies with both his goalies and the teams forwards.
Valley’s role will also include working with goalies in the American Hockey League. The Stars did not have a full-time goaltender development coach prior to this change, but former Dallas Stars goalie coach Andy Moog was working with the AHL goalies roughly eight to 10 days a month last season. That work will now be done by Valley.