Stargazing: Stars Acquire Goaltender Kari Lehtonen

Stargazing is a daily assortment of Dallas Stars  and NHL news, and whatever other random ramblings are bouncing around inside our heads.

Ordinarily the day after a game, we'd walk you through the various analyses of the teams performance the night before. We'd look at the quotes and see what Marc Crawford said. We'd look at the teams standing in the Western conference, how the team is trending, and what's coming up next. I'm not going to do any of those things today. Here's the skinny: The Stars say they want to take the positives out of this game to Calgary. Mike Ribeiro was surprised at how well he responded to that much ice time and was excited to be back. James Neal was good. Kane was better. The Stars lead the league with 12 overtime loss points.

Ok. That's that. What we really want to do today is get to know our new player, find out exactly how and why Nieuwendyk was able to acquire him, and what to expect going forward.

Joe told Bob and Dan this afternoon that he had a lengthy chat with Marty Turco last night after the game. He said that the "net is Marty's right now" and that Turco has been good about all of this, while at the same time acknowledging the fact that they believe Kari Lehtonen is a "number one" quality goaltender. Nieuwendyk also said that they did talk to Turco about an extension, but that things did not progress very far at all. When asked if the move signaled a change in the financial situation of the team, GM Joe said that everything they have done works within their internal budget of about $45 million. What I chose to hear from that was "stay tuned."

Lehtonen will likely join the team in Phoenix, but will not play before the Olympic break.

*Also, remember that Defending Big D Live will hit the air tonight at 7:00pm CST with a special 90 minute edition. Listen here.

That's enough out of me. Follow the jump for a whole bushel of Lehtonen news and notes on this, the first day of Marty Turco's apparent lame duck status...

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We'll lean heavily on the Atlanta Journal Constitution today as we look for resources most familiar with Kari's work.

He hasn’t played this season and is coming off back surgery. His immense talent has been smothered too often by injury or immaturity. He was never a favorite of former coach Bob Hartley and was benched during the Thrashers’ lone playoff series.

How desperate was Waddell to dump him? He just traded a former first-round pick for a minor-league defenseman and a fourth-rounder. Given what he got back in the deal, what was the rush? It would be just his luck if Lehtonen ultimately turns into the goalie he envisioned.

This simultaneously minimizes Lehtonen's career and berates the trade that sees him leave town.

Atlanta has dealt nearly every first round pick they've ever had, two of them to the Stars:

When the Thrashers selected Patrik Stefan with their first pick in their first draft in 1999, general manager Don Waddell said: "This is a very big day for our franchise.  We’ve made it no secret how we feel about Patrik and what kind of player he is."

Three years later, when Waddell made Kari Lehtonen the first goalie the franchise drafted with a No. 1 pick, the Thrashers’ GM said: "Our scouts say that he is the best amateur goalie coming out for the draft in the last 10 years. He can make the difference for our team for a lot of years to come."

What do you make of the above mention of his maturity being a factor? That's not something one often hears about NHL players.

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This deal was evidently at least 7 or 8 days in the making:

Along with the Kovy bomb Kincade dropped on us yesterday, he also indicated the he has been led to believe Kari Lehtonen has played his last game as a Thrasher and he will be moved potentially to Dallas or St. Louis.

The AJC called it a week in advance.

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Bob Sturm weighs in with his thoughts this morning, questioning the health of the young man:

On the health issues: I have to believe since it is Nieuwy's first major player move, he has done his due diligence on both the back issues and the overall skills/upside of the player that will go a long way in forging his performance record early on. There is much at stake, and people around Joe are quick to tell you how deliberate he is about almost everything he does. Maybe not Bob Gainey deliberate, but surely a guy who looks at every angle before he does something like this.

Nieuwendyk would later say on the radio that the teams doctors believe that Lehtonen's latest procedure solved the issue that has been plaguing his back. Obviously his health is the biggest part of this gamble. Like Brandon said earlier today, every trade is a risk.

Sturm on losing Vishnevskiy:

I think it is easy to say this kid is the "next Zubov", but there is only one #56. He is a talented kid who will spend years in the league, but is he special? Or is he a guy? Again, Les Jackson/Brett Hull/Doug Armstrong may have felt one way on Vishnevskiy, but perhaps what they saw was based on his development and realizing his immense skating talent and becoming a true elite offensive defenseman. And, since they are no longer pulling the trigger around here, it is up to the new regime to figure if they should ride it out or flip him now we the league still thinks he can be that. Joe has looked and looked and perhaps decided that for the right offer, Ivan can be had as bait. You have to give to get in this league, but if you think he is really Zubie II, you don't trade him for a goalie with back issues. So, we can assume he didn't feel that way. Now, we hold our breath and hope he is right.

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Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski offers his take:

This is at the very least a commitment to Kari Lehtonen(notes) as their playoff-push goalie or to the fragile 26-year-old as their franchise goalie, if they re-sign the pending RFA. Dallas began the night three points out of a playoff spot; does this move bring them closer?

Is it a gamble? Sure, but what's the alternative? Let Turco skate for nothing after foundering away a playoff seed? Leave the goaltending situation a major question mark heading into the summer and having bidding wars against rivals? Lehtonen's RFA status means there's a proven, affordable NHL starter as an option on a post-Turco team. Health is a concern, for sure; but it's better than fighting 10 other teams to offer $7 million per season to Evgeni Nabokov(notes).

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Amidst the craziness of last night, rumors started that Marty Turco could be dealt to the Flyers. Philly.com tells us why that simply won't happen:

1. Salary - Turco’s cap hit is $5.7 million. That means the Flyers would need to sacrifice about $5.2 million in salary in a trade with the Stars just to fit him under the cap this season.

To recap, the Flyers’ list of no-trade or no-movement clauses: Simon Gagne, Danny Briere and Kimmo Timonen.

2. Playoff history: Is Marty Turco the goaltender that the Flyers think will put them over the top? Turco holds a bunch of Stars records (wins, shutouts, games played) and a modern NHL record (1.72 GAA in a season, 2002-03) but his success has never converted to the playoffs. Since Turco became Dallas’ full-time starter in 2002-03, the Stars have gone to the playoffs every year but one. Those trips have included four first round exits and one trip the Western Conference Semifinals.

The Flyers went that far with Marty Biron in 2007-08. He walked as a free agent last July.

3. The short-term: Do the Flyers want to sacrifice a potential impact player for their playoff run in order to acquire Turco, who wouldn’t be guaranteed to be Flyers’ property come 2010-11?

That’s the same dilemma this franchise faced when weighing Ilya Kovalchuk.

4. The long-term: If the Flyers do acquire Turco, is he definitely the Flyers’ long-term solution? A change in scenery may do Turco some good. While his stats have never been horrible, this season hasn’t been his best in Dallas.

They have their facts a little wrong with his playoff record, and neglect to mention his three shutouts in one of those first round exits. But I digress.

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Richard Durrett has the story at ESPN, and you can see what Barry Melrose has to say about it. You know, if you want to.

"I didn't want to get into a situation where we're going into the summer and we don't have anything in our net," Nieuwendyk said. "I'm hoping that he plays well, and obviously he's much younger and he's a proven No. 1. We anticipate that he'll do well for us."

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Just to get an idea about his health issues, head over to Wikipedia. He's injured his groin multiple times and suffered and ankle injury. And here is a piece from the AJC written last summer about his back injury:

The lingering effects of a back injury suffered early last season led to Thrasher goaltender Kari Lehtonen’s surgery last week.

Thrashers general manager Don Waddell said Monday the surgery to repair a herniated disc was not a new injury.

"An injury like that can often be treated and that’s the end of it," Waddell said. "He started working out [this offseason] and complained of soreness. We got together and talked to him and decided to have surgery."

Lehtonen injured his back on Oct. 30 (2008) in a game against the New York Rangers and missed nearly two months.

Despite being only 26 years old,  he already has quite a list of problems.

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You may be surprised to hear Mike Heika say that they're not necessarily done looking at netminders:

The acquisition does not mean the Stars will be out of contention for other goalies. My guess is they will search for a potential partner who can form a solid duo. Nieuwendyk knows Lehtonen will definitely need a dependable partner because of the risk of future injury.

Remember that Alex Auld is a UFA after this season. There have not been any reports on an extension for him.

The Morning News has more quotes from the Stars General Manager and Jere Lehtinen:

``You have to weigh all of your options and make the best decisions for the long-term and the short-term,'' Nieuwendyk said. ``I wasn't comfortable going into the summer with no goalie under our control, so this, I felt, was a positive option. But I still think we can play well as a team right now. I don't think this changes that at all.''

``I talked to him and I told him that I believe it's still his net right now,'' Nieuwendyk said of Turco. ``We had four unrestricted free agent goalies heading into the summer, and we needed to get some kind of plan for our future, so this is just one part of the process.''

``Marty has played very well these past four games, and I imagine he will continue to play,'' said Nieuwendyk in a phone interview after he watched the Texas Stars play in Cedar Park Tuesday night. ``He's a professional, and I know that's how he will respond.''

``I played with him in the World championships a couple of years ago, and he was amazing,'' said Stars winger and fellow Finn Jere Lehtinen. ``We have seen him when he's healthy, and he is very good.''

``I just believe he has so much potential if he is healthy, and all the indications that we have are that all of his problems have been taken care of,'' Nieuwendyk said.

"When he's healthy" sounds like his mantra. We hope things are different here in Dallas.

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