As soon as the Dallas Stars traded for Kari Lehtonen, the writing was on the wall for the eventual departure of Marty Turco. Whether it was via trade or this summer in free agency, the most likely way this scenario plays out is Turco playing for another team next season.
What unfortunate about the situation is that while there were reports the Stars tried, the team was unable to trade Turco after acquiring Lehtonen. This has led to the Stars carrying three goaltenders on the roster, with Joe Nieuwendyk stating that Turco is still the Dallas Stars starting goaltender.
What's unfortunate about the timing of this trade is that the Stars are in the midst of perhaps their most important stretch of games of the season. A regulation win tonight and the Stars are within one point of a playoff spot. And it's going to be Marty Turco getting the start in net, and he's going to be expected to play his hardest and do his best to help a team get to the playoffs that he may not be playing for in less than a month.
When the trade was announced, during Tuesday's game between the Stars and Chicago Blackhawks, Marty Turco was most likely in the dark concerning the situation that was developing. After the game, it was reported that Turco was "noticeably upset" and he declined to comment to the media. The question then arose on how he would handle this situation, playing for a team that was doing it's best to trade him before March 3rd.
Yesterday, both Turco and Kari Lehtonen talked to the media. Quotes after the jump.
Before Turco talked to the Dallas Morning News yesterday, Joe Nieuwendyk appeared on several radio shows to talk about the trade. He said that he had talked to Turco after the Blackhawks game and that he was certain that Turco would handle the situation as professionally as he could. Despite Turco being upset immediately after the game, it appears that he's set to move on play his hardest.
``I don't have any qualms or problems. You put yourself in Joe's shoes, and that's it. Then you just focus on your job and that's all you can do.''
``A lot of people know how I feel and where my heart is, and if I keep playing like I'm playing now, then I'll be OK and I'll look back at everything and have a great big smile on my face...And I still look forward to having a smile on my face by winning a Stanley Cup here in Dallas (this year).''
It is important to realize that nothing that happens with Turco or any other player on this team in personal; Nieuwendyk was hired to build a future for this team and these are the steps he's taking. We wrote yesterday that at some point the Stars are going to have to move on without Turco, whether it's now, this summer or two seasons from now. But with the chance to acquire a potentially elite goaltender who is headed into the prime of his career, Nieuwendyk was forced to make that decision now.
It's also important to note that Nieuwendyk stated several times yesterday that while the Stars had talks with Turco about a contract extension, it's doubtful anything was ever serious.
Heika asked Turco about whether this situation reminds him of 2002, when he took over for Ed Belfour.
``It was a rough year. We had the coaching change, and he had his issues. But you learn from it. It was a defining moment in my career, because I felt I met a strong challenge and played well.''
Turco also talked about the current situation the team is in, fighting for a playoff spot with all of these personnel moves and potential trades hanging over the team.
``It can be done, and this is a great example for this game. To say it's impossible or even close to that, heck no. It's in our own hands. If you look at this season, there have been so many ups and downs, and we have battled through them. So whether it's bringing in a third goalie or having too many centermen or guys not getting enough ice time, you deal with it and it forges a lot of character and brings us together. If we continue to have the attitude like we've had over the last 10 days, and if I can play the way I have...if we get into the playoffs, nobody is going to want to play us, I promise you that. But we've got a lot to do to make that happen.''
``It still comes down to what I have to do and what I need to do to continue to play the way I have. I don't see any time in the near future that it's going to stop. Calgary and Phoenix are huge games, and that's where my focus is.''
It's good to hear Turco saying the right things. I can only imagine the uproar that would have resulted if he had come out denouncing the trade or claiming he's done nothing to deserve this sort of move or talks of trade. While he has been very outspoken before, this is a good time for Turco to be the ultimate professional.
The entire situation is a bit sad, seeing Turco playing what could be his final games as a Dallas Star. But at least it's not getting ugly.
Lehtonen also talked to the media, via a conference call with Dallas reporters. Here are some excerpts:
"It's a big opportunity for me. I had some rough times in Atlanta and some good times. Now I can start with a clean sheet and I just have to do well and play well. That's what I believe I can give."
"I had a feeling something might happen in Atlanta. I didn't know who of the three goalies in Atlanta it might be, but when it happened yesterday it was quite a big shock," he said. "I am really happy right now and I am grateful to the Stars that they want to give me a chance."
On the health of his back:
"It's been good. The last few weeks have been great and I didn't have any issues when I went on my conditioning stint in the minors. I had no issues with my back, so that made me very happy. It's a relief that it finally feels good."
"The last two years I've battling with this back issue and hopefully now it's behind me. It's something that I can't worry too much, because if I start thinking about if something is going to happen, I'm not focusing on the right things like stopping the puck."
On his style:
"I play a butterfly style. I go down a lot and try to be in the right place at the right time and use my frame to block the shots."
We'll have a full profile of Kari Lehtonen this weekend, including scouting reports, health concerns and video review (hopefully).