Let's try something different.
All season long we've debated the merits of trading Marty Turco, of whether the Dallas Stars will be able to afford or even want to keep him after the season and what value he could have on March 3rd. Many felt that if Marty could put together a strong season that he force the Stars' hand, and the decision to keep the veteran goaltender would be made that much easier.
Yet with just four games to go before the trade deadline hits, it seems that the Dallas Stars are preparing to enter the 2010-11 season without Turco, and will most likely be testing his value in the coming weeks. If the team is going to ultimately lose Marty to free agency this summer, then logic says you must find a way to get something in return rather than give him away for nothing just a few months later.
Yet there's another scenario at play here, and one that hasn't been touched on much recently. With Joe Nieuwendyk publicly calling out Turco last month and with the Stars reportedly already deciding that Turco will no longer be a Dallas Star after next season, it seems that his fate has already been sealed.
But what if the Stars keep him?
When arguing the case to keep Marty Turco both this season and beyond, the first step you must take is to look at his value if traded. His status as an unrestricted free agent after this season hurts, as does the nearly $2 million cap hit remaining on his current contract. Teams will be hesitant to part with anything major for a 34 year old goaltender who is most likely a rental for a playoff run.
You also have to consider the market for goaltenders, which is not strong at all this season. Kari Lehtonen, Cory Schneider, and Tim Thomas are most likely available and it's easy to say that Turco could be the most valuable one of the group. Yet the number of teams in desperate need of a goaltender for the playoffs is extremely low; even Philadelphia seems to have figured something out in net. When you consider what the Anaheim Ducks received for Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who is thriving in Toronto, then you start to wonder if the Dallas Stars will come anywhere close to getting the value they want for Turco.
You also have to consider the immediate future of this team. While a playoff appearance will do little to change the immediate financial crisis affecting the Stars, making it to the postseason is the goal of every team in the NHL. And with the Dallas Stars just three points out of eighth place with four games to go before the deadline, this is a team that is far from throwing in the towel. Yet barely making the playoffs and then losing in four games will do nothing good for the Stars anyway, so what good is betting on the present and then finding yourself in the same situation anyways.
The big challenge in all of this lies on the shoulders of Joe Nieuwendyk. If the Stars find a way to be with just a few points of a playoff spot headed into the Olympic break, Nieuwendyk must determine what parts on this team he is willing to move to acquire value for the Stars both short and long term.
There are some who feel that there are major pieces on the current roster who need to move now, to get maximum value to build around a strong nucleus of players that speaks to a much more promising future for the Dallas Stars. Some high draft picks, some big defensemen and a young goaltender later and you have a team that is fast, talented, well rounded and dangerous. Yet there is no way this team should conduct a firesale if the Stars are on the cusp of the playoffs.
So that makes the Stars buyers of sorts at the deadline, caught in the middle between building for the future and adding important pieces for a playoff push. And while the Stars could potentially nab a quality goaltender at the deadline while moving Turco, the odds of him being as solid and historically reliable as Turco for the playoffs is very slim.
If the Stars are intent on making the playoffs this season, then keeping Marty Turco would be the most logical course of action. Unless the Stars decide that Tim Thomas would be worth grabbing (and if he finds a way to actually play better, not to mention he's not very young either), or if Vancouver decides to part with Cory Schneider for a healthy ransom, then the immediate options are much better for the immediate future of the Dallas Stars. Sure, you'd like to see the Stars find a way to add the 'goaltender of the future' sooner than later, but are you certain he's available right now? Is it Jaroslav Halak? Kari Lehtonen? Dan Ellis? Are you willing to put the playoff fate of the Dallas Stars on any of these shoulders?
Supposing the Stars do keep Turco to play out this season, losing him to free agency will hurt even more. Here's a goaltender who was drafted while in college, worked his way up through the system, spent eight years as the starter and then he's gone and you're left with nothing but a gaping hole in net. While that scenario is unfortunate, it's also one that happens all the time in sports. Now the Stars are faced with losing a veteran goaltender for nothing, and having to find a suitable replacement either via trade or free agency.
For posterity's sake, here are some of the top goaltenders facing free agency this summer, and their 2009-10 cap hit:
Evgeni Nabokov: $5.3M
Jose Theodore: $4.5M
Chris Mason: $3.0M
Dan Ellis: $1.75M
Martin Biron: $1.4M
Pekka Rinne: $725K
Antero Niittymaki: $600K
Wade Dubielewicz: $600K
That's just a few. You can find the full list of goaltender free agents here.
Let's try this scenario: the Dallas Stars not only keep Marty Turco for the rest of this season, but re-sign him over the summer.
Marty Turco has no gaurantee that he is going to demand top dollar in free agency, although I'm sure he'd like to test that theory. Yet it's unlikely that a 35 (to be) year old goaltender will be able to sign for another $5 million per season, and no matter where Turco goes there's a good chance a pay cut will be involved.
So why not take that pay cut with the Stars? This allows Turco to stay in a place he's comfortable to continue to help build a team he feels so responsible for as a leader.
But what is in it for the Dallas Stars?
For one, it gives the team more time and freedom to find the goaltender who will eventually replace Turco as the number one guy. In that list above, who do you feel can step up and carry the load for the next three to five years for Dallas? Only two are under the age of 30, and they are 29 anyways (Ellis and Niittymaki). There's also a slim chance that the goaltender you'd hope to sign would cost less than $3 million a year.
The Stars also have a veteran goaltender in place who has shown he can still play at a high level, and who could potentially coax and mentor his eventual replacement. Whether that's a young goaltender acquired via trade or free agency, Turco's presence would allow the Stars to not throw them into the fire and find a perfect medium while getting the future started valuable experience.
It's also important to remember that Matt Climie (who is also scheduled to be a UFA) and Richard Bachman are waiting in the wings as well. Perhaps the Stars wish to get one of those two experience as they learn under Turco, as both have the potential to be future starters as well. A healthy Brent Krahn could also become a major factor into this incredibly complex situation.
If the Stars do keep Turco after the trade deadline, a domino effect starts to take hold on the future of the team. You haven't received the value you wanted and you decide it would be best at least try and hold on to him for the near future. Are there better options out there? Is it worth making a lateral move, talent wise, while trading away valuable assets?
The play of Marty Turco in the next week will be a major factor in the team's decision. He has an incredible 1.00 goals-against average and a .970 save percentage in his past three games, and he's looked like the calm and confident Marty Turco fans have known all these years. If he continues this high level of play, then not only will the Stars most likely be that much closer to a playoff spot but his trade value will have increased drastically. Teams will see he still has the ability to carry a team when it counts the most and will be willing to part with more in order to get Turco for the playoffs.
Yet Nieuwendyk will also have a hot goaltender on his hands ready to lead the Stars into the playoffs. While this is a team that certainly cannot stay in neutral at the deadline and hope to be successful in March and April, perhaps the Stars decide that trading out goaltenders isn't the best option at this point.