Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stars acquire Lehtonen, Turco Era about to close



Earlier tonight, the rumors that Kari Lehtonen would be coming to Big D finally came to fruition. The Stars acquired the oft-injured Finnish goalie from Atlanta for D prospect Ivan Vishnevskiy and a 2010 fourth round pick. Full credit to Atlanta writer Chris Vivlamore on breaking the story over on Twitter.

As he also noted in a story for AJC, the 26 year-old Lehtonen who Atlanta tabbed with their '02 No.1 pick (2nd overall) was the franchise's all-time leader in wins (94), games played (204) and shutouts (14). In '06-07, he won a career best 34 games in 68 appearances, posting a 2.79 GAA, .912 save percentage and four shutouts helping the Thrashers to their only postseason. However, it was brief as they were swept by the Rangers. Since the breakout season, he's struggled with injuries including back surgery during preseason which sidelined him until a late January conditioning stint in the AHL. With Hotlanta having Johan Hedberg and Ondrej Pavelec, he became the odd man out.

As the season went on, we had two guys that proved they were capable of carrying the load,” GM Don Waddell explained while also adding,. “ … One hundred percent (Hedberg and Pavelec) are doing a good job for us.
Vivlamore also notes that combined with the blockbuster trade that sent Ilya Kovalchuk to the Devils, there are only four members left from that playoff team (Hedberg, Slava Kozlov, Jim Slater and Eric Boulton).
While the Thrashers revamp with Niclas Bergfors, Johnny Oduya, Patrice Cormier and Vishnevskiy, it looks like the end of the Marty Turco Era in Dallas.

For almost a decade, the unpredictable yet fun netminder has been with career Star Mike Modano the face of the franchise. The 34 year-old who Dallas selected in the fifth round back in 1994 out of the University of Michigan has had a stellar career establishing franchise marks for games (498), victories (257), shutouts (39), minutes played (28,456) and assists with all three coming this season, which speaks to his uncanny nature to keep play moving turning defense into offense.

Turco supplanted Cup-winning netminder Ed Belfour after sharing duties. In his rookie year of '00-01, Marty posted a 13-6 record, three shutouts with a miniscule 1.90 GAA and .925 save percentage. Two years later in his first full season as starter, his 1.72 GAA became a modern NHL record which Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff broke the following season ('03-04) by posting a 1.69 GAA. That same year, Turco followed it up by getting into a career best 73 games winning over half (37) while posting a 1.98 GAA, .913 save percentage and recording a career high nine shutouts. However, he lost out on the Vezina to Devil great Martin Brodeur. Despite an impressive resume that also included a 41-win season ('05-06), Turco has never won the award. It could be argued that he could have but the same might be said for San Jose's Evgeni Nabokov, who was edged by Brodeur two years ago.

If this is it for Turco who made 37 saves in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Blackhawks, he's had a tremendous Dallas Star career guiding them to five postseasons including a Western Conference Final six-game defeat to Cup champ Detroit in '07-08. It was that Spring and a gut wrenching seven-game first round loss to Vancouver the year before in which his series record three shutouts weren't enough at least put a halt to the criticism that he couldn't perform when it counted. With Lehtonen coming and Alex Auld also still around to backup, his likely destination is Philadelphia where the Flyers could be pinning their hopes on him with Ray Emery probably requiring hip surgery.

How did his opponent Kris Versteeg, who netted the shootout winner- characterize him?

"Turco, he’s a heck of a goaltender. You don’t want to do too much in the shootout. Go down and keep it simple.

Including tonight, Turco's appeared in 42 games posting a 17-15-10 mark with a 2.73 GAA, .911 save percentage and three shutouts. The Stars' next game is Thursday in Calgary while the Flyers are scheduled to visit the Devils in the back half of a home-and-home if it's not postponed due to the blizzard. Figure it to get played with not much chance of rescheduling due to the Olympic Break and the remaining hectic sched the rest of the way. If Marty does wind up in the City of Brotherly Love, Scott Hartnell has been mentioned as a possible return. We'll just have to wait and see.

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