The introduction of a third goaltender to the everyday workings of an NHL team is kind of like bringing that awkward third wheel with you on a romantic date. It's going to be cramped, expensive, really uncomfortable, and at the end, face it, you're not going to get to go "all the way." To the playoffs, I mean. Get your mind out of the gutter.
When you look at what Joe Nieuwendyk did last week, it seems to make sense for the long term. He traded a prospect that may or may not turn out to be the special player we've hoped he can be, and a fourth round draft pick. In return he got a goaltender who was the #2 overall pick in his draft class, and the possibility of solving his long term problem at the position. It was a low risk, high reward move that won't cripple the franchise by any stretch of the imagination moving forward if it doesn't work out, provided Lehtonen's new deal is a reasonable one. He traded potential for potential and it seems like a shrewd move for someone who can't afford the July bidding wars.
But what about the short term? You don't often show up for work in the private sector and have your boss tell you "I hired a guy to replace you. There he is now, sitting in your chair. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with you yet, so just hang out." Marty Turco's just hanging out, knowing he won't be here next year. What he doesn't know about is the next 21 games, and it's not real clear that GM-Joe knows either.
The questions that sit before him as he tries to conclude the move he started last Tuesday are these: Can he afford to lose Marty Turco and still have a reasonable possibility of making the playoffs? Is trading Marty Turco essentially giving up on the season? Or does he believe that Kari Lehtonen, who hasn't played an NHL game since April 11th, 2009, can jump in the middle of the Western Conference playoff race and take them where they want to go? Does the financial situation dictate what must be done?
After the jump, a look at the options:
The Stars cannot afford to keep Marty Turco:
Joe Nieuwendyk on KTCK 1310 The Ticket:
."We have to take into consideration how it affects us financially. I think the number one priority for us is that carrying three goaltenders is difficult and when there is financial gain to reap we have to look at that as well. At this point I don't know if we are going to move Marty. I don't know if we are going to move Alex [Auld]. I just know in my mind I, beyond the deadline, I don't want to have three goaltenders."
When asked point blankly a day after the trade was made on BaD Radio, he answered quickly that the trade works with their internal budget. The number $45 million is thrown around a lot, but the projections for the rest of the season don't jive. Take a look at Cap Geek or whatever cap-tracker you like and you'll see that the final number is predicted to be closer to $50 million than $45 at this point. The number was already over, but the addition of Lehtonen and Segal's salary puts another million on the books for the remainder of the year.
I don't pretend to know how the Stars count their payroll dollars, and what they mean when they say $45 million. I don't know how Tom Hicks views the Sean Avery money, or the $$ it takes to bring up AHL players (Sawada for instance has been paid some good NHL money this year). All I know is that the rumored internal budget is likely not being adhered to with the current roster configuration.
Moving Marty Turco means not only saving money this year, but potentially gaining assets for future. Are the Stars willing to keep Marty Turco for a slim chance at making the playoffs, even if it means they let him walk for nothing when the season is over? Isn't the bigger picture the more important one here?
Mike Heika speculates that if the Stars can't get at least a second round pick or better, they could consider keeping him.
Said Nieuwendyk, "I think there will be conversations over the next couple weeks for sure. Ideally we don't want to carry three goaltenders forward. It makes it uncomfortable on everybody. We'll be talking to other teams."
The Stars cannot afford to let Marty Turco go:
The other side of the coin is this: If they want to make the playoffs, they simply must have him in my estimation. He's the reason they're within striking distance of 8th place. They were completely unable to collect points on the road until he turned it on last week, and there's little (logical) reason to believe that it can continue without him.
First, how important are the playoffs? There are some who say "What does it matter? Make 8th place and get swept? Just forget about it." In a different league, I might agree with that. In a different NHL city even, I could get on board with that if I knew the fans were coming back no matter what. But not this sport in this city. Hockey in Dallas has worked for a long time because of one thing: Success. The economic downturn, combined with missing the playoffs two seasons in a row for the first time since the franchise moved to Dallas will mean losses at the gate that will take years to get back. The Stars have a loyal, knowledgeable, passionate fan-base, but it's not so robust that the team can withstand a long playoff drought.
Two or three home playoff games mean $$ in ownership's pocket, sure, but I think the front office must consider the long term health of hockey in the Dallas/Forth Worth area. The only medicine that works is playoff hockey.
Can the Stars make the playoffs this year without Marty Turco? I don't think so. That's my opinion. They will play 21 games in 40 days, mercifully with only 2 back-to-backs, but that's still hockey every other day for over a month. While the lucky few teams can lean on a guy like Luongo, Brodeur or Nabokov every single night, the rest need goaltending depth. Kari Lehtonen has played 5 AHL games this season. He is not ready to carry a load like that with a new team after a 5 day mini-camp following a 10 month lay-off. Even if he played light's out, you still wouldn't ride a guy like that very hard with all the injuries he's had. So how do you make the playoffs?
You need Marty Turco. Alex Auld has been an OK backup. He's played well at times, but he couldn't help them out of their road funk. He has not demonstrated the ability to steal games often enough to think he's going to get you into the tournament. Turco has something to prove, a chip on his shoulder, and a new contract to earn wherever it may be. He's stopped 208 of the last 215 shots he's seen and had two shutouts in six February games. As a fan, he's the guy I want in net right now.
What would you do?
Would you say that trading Marty Turco is something they must do for the long term health of the franchise?
Is trading Marty Turco essentially a surrender concerning the playoffs this year? Or do you believe they can do it regardless?
My head tells me that short term pain for long term gain is the way to go, but my little Stars heart wants to see Marty Turco get one last "March to the playoffs." Then maybe something, not special, but at least...pleasantly unexpected can happen, and we can give him a proper goodbye.