Stars give Lehtonen solid backup in Ellis

One thing Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill said not long after he had been hired in late April was that one of his priorities was to improve the club’s depth across the board. And with the recent trades to acquire centers like Shawn Horcoff, Rich Peverley and Tyler Seguin, Dallas definitely accomplished their mission at center ice.

However, on Friday afternoon the club announced another signing, veteran goaltender Dan Ellis, who will serve as the primary backup to Dallas No. 1 netminder Kari Lehtonen.

That role was filled by a combination of Cristopher Nilstorp, who will still remain in the mix, and Richard Bachman last season, but it now appears that Ellis, 33, will be the primary backup to Lehtonen.

“We’ve got a great No. 1 goalie Kari Lehtonen. The one thing when we made all these changes was we wanted to make sure we were covered in case of injuries. We wanted to have a real solid veteran as our backup,” Nill said in a Friday afternoon conference call. “You can never have enough depth in net. To make the playoffs nowadays one or two wins can make the difference and I didn’t want to have a goalie injury cost this team the chance to make the playoffs. We added Dan Ellis and we’ve also got Nilstorp and Campbell on our depth chart.”

Signing Ellis brings the veteran goaltender full circle as it was Dallas who took him in the second round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft and the Stars are also the same club who he made his league debut for in Dec. 2000 against the Los Angeles Kings.

Besides his previous stint in Dallas, he has also played in Nashville, Tampa Bay, Anaheim and most recently in Carolina, where he was the backup to Cam Ward. In 19 games with the Hurricanes last season, Ellis was 6-8-2 with a 3.13 goals against average and one shutout.

Nill said he had looked at other goaltenders with a similar level of experience to serve as Lehtonen’s backup but in the end, he settled on Ellis for several solid reasons.

“Well, we just think he’s going to add depth to us. I’ve been watching Dan the last few years. He’s a character kid. He works hard. He competes hard. He’s there to support Kari. He’s there to push Kari,” he said.

“It’s an important position because it’s not easy to sit there night after night and practice after practice know you’re not playing but know that OK, eventually if there’s an injury I’ve got to be ready to go in there. He’s that type of player,” Nill said. “Over the last three, four years, his game’s really flourished and we just think he’s the perfect fit for our situation here.”