The short and long-term future of the Dallas Stars goaltender position is uncertain at best.
This is the exact position the Dallas Stars did not need to be in. Seven days after free agency began Jonas Gustavsson has finally made his choice and he's decided his future is best served in Toronto, at least for one year. I've had a feeling all along that was the decision he would make; after he's said several times he's always wanted to play for the Maple Leafs and it just seemed that Toronto was making the bigger push for him, both internally and publicly. I'm sure Dallas was a close behind and that's what made the choice to so tough. I'm sure part of the reason he took so long to decide was he was torn between going with his heart and going where he has a chance to develop with a successful franchise under one of the league's top goaltenders. Not to say Toronto is a bad decision, but Dallas was just as logical a choice as well.
While I don't fault Gustavsson in taking this much time to decide it's left the Stars in a very bad spot when it comes to not only the backup goalie, but the future of the goaltender position in Dallas.
Marty Turco is in the final year of his contract and last season was the worst of his career. He was overworked certainly and that played a bit part in his breaking down at the end of the year, but he also started the season in horrendous fashion. He was tentative, slow to react and just didn't seem like he was truly focused on playing the game. Mike Heika talked to Turco this weekend and it was encouraging to hear him admit he wasn't as prepared as he needed to be and focused on all the wrong things:
``I look at last season as a lot of things went wrong, a lot of things in addition to the goaltending, and I got caught up in that. I didn't handle my job well enough and that was a part of the problem. I realize that the best thing I can do for the team is be a good goalie, focus on my job, and that's what I'm going to do. Mooger and I had a good talk and we're on the same page.''
It's also interesting to hear how he and Andy Moog had some issues with each other, something that was pretty obvious when you look back at how things went.
``I just think we were both frustrated and both shut each other out a little,'' said Moog, who will return this season as goalie consultant under new coach Marc Crawford. ``So we had a really good, honest talk and I think cut through a lot of the problems.''
Turco knows that to be his best he needs a backup that can give him enough games off. Last season he played in 74 games, the most of his career, and you could see him wear down in late February and March. Yet Turco also had a stretch in December and January where he played as good as he's ever played and was rock solid day in and day out. His play during that time led the Stars in a charge up the standings and he was as good as any goalie in the league during those months. Unfortunately he couldn't sustain that pace and everything fell apart.
For him to be at his best Turco should play between 50 and 60 games a season, something he agrees with. That's why it was so important for the Stars to land a capable backup and why they were coveted Gustavsson as much as they did. Not only would Gustavsson be more than capaple of handling 20-25 games next season, but there was a chance he could earn his spot as the starter in 2010 if Turco departs via free agency. Now the Stars are back to the drawing board and are looking for not only a backup, but trying to decide who will be between the pipes for Dallas a year from now.
Turco will be 34 this fall and playing in a contract year. Turco has been a horse for this team and has consistently been one of the top ten goalies in the NHL. He's proven that last two seasons (06-07, 07-08) that he is able to be dominant in the playoffs. While the Stars won't be adverse to re-signing him next summer, the chances are good that Turco feels he is worth more than the team is willing to spend. Faced with the departure of a franchise goaltender, what direction can the team go?
Dallas put all of their eggs in the Jonas Gustavsson basket and watched several young and talented netminders get signed for affordable contracts around the league. Now the Stars are left with a number of aging veterans, several unproven young goaltenders and hardly any free agent prospects that could sign this season and step into the role of starter next year.
If Turco leaves next summer, chances are that Dallas signs a veteran to a one or two year contract and one of the team's young prospects becomes the backup with the hopes of becoming the starter sooner than later. The hope is that Richard Bachman and Matt Climie show enough improvement this year in the AHL to warrant this decision. The general thought is that Bachman is still two years away from making the jump to NHL, and Climie is very talented but still extremely raw.
In the short term Dallas will now sign one of the remaining free agents, most likely an experienced veteran. The Stars have kept their eye on Martin Gerber in case Gustavsson chose elsewhere but Martin Biron, Antero Niittymaki, Curtis Sanford and Kevin Weekes are all possibilities as well.
Dallas took a huge gamble in waiting for Jonas Gustavsson and it didn't work out. How they respond and plan this out will be both interesting and stressful and could have a major impact on the future of this franchise.
Follow the jump for the stats
|2008 - Martin Gerber||12||706||6||5||0||1||38||3.23||402||364||.905||0|
|2008 - Kevin Weekes||16||795||7||5||0||1||32||2.42||399||367||.920||0|
|2008 - Martin Biron||55||3177||29||19||5||2||146||2.76||1718||1572||.915||2|
|2008 - Antero Niittymaki||32||1805||15||8||6||1||83||2.76||947||864||.912||1|
|2008 - Curtis Sanford||19||973||7||8||0||2||42||2.59||448||406||.906||1|