I talked to Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk briefly, and he reiterated that he would prefer to not have three goalies here past the March 3 trade deadline.
But even he doesn't know how all of this will shake out.
He has to be open to considering a trade for Marty Turco. Trade acquisition Kari Lehtonen will be here, has had five games in the minors for conditioning and will have six days to get ready for the March 2 game. He says he is ready to play, and while he has not played since April 11, it's not like the guys doesn't know the NHL. He has played in 204 NHL games, and should be able to work himself in just fine.
The question is, can the Stars afford to allow Lehtonen to work himself in slowly if they are in the middle of a playoff race and have 21 games in 40 days to end the season? A combination of Lehtonen and Alex Auld would have to be split almost half and half because of the hectic schedule that follows the Olympic Break. Even if the 26-year-old Lehtonen, who has battled groin and back problems, is on a roll, the Stars have to be cautious that they don't push him too hard.
That means if Nieuwendyk does trade Turco, you could have Lehtonen coming off a shutout, Dallas one point out of eighth place and the smart move to let Lehtonen rest for the next game. It would clearly be a taxing decision for the coaching staff, but I can't reiterate how risky it is to throw your eggs into the Lehtonen basket for the future and then get him hurt again.
If the Stars choose to keep Turco, they have the awkward problem of Turco and Lehtonen sharing the same locker room. But I really believe Turco cares a great deal about his teammates and would rise above any problems. Lehtonen, meanwhile, is wearing the vaunted ``goalie of the future'' tag, so he also shouldn't have any problem. The only real concern is if Turco gets on such a roll that it doesn't allow Lehtonen that many games. You can always tell him that he should work hard and get ready for next season, but my guess is he wants to at least play some games (and the Stars need to find out what they have here so they can make plans to pursue extra goalie help in the summer if need be).
If Dallas does not trade Turco, expect them to explore a trade for Auld (who also is an unrestricted free agent in the summer). If Auld is not traded, expect him to get assigned to the Texas Stars and probably get significant playing time there.
A lot of Nieuwendyk's decision will depend on what he is offered, and the goalie market out there is very confusing. Not only is it not clear if playoff teams will be interested in grabbing goalies, the rumors that Turco, Cory Schneider, Josh Harding, one of the lads in Montreal, Martin Biron or Dwayne Roloson and even Tim Thomas could be available make it a very volatile market.
My guess is the Stars would have to get a heck of an offer (more than a second round draft pick) to consider facing the remainder of the season without Turco.
What's your advice for GM Joe?