Will Lehtonen trade set off domino effect?
Editor's note: There's the March 3 trade deadline, and then there's the Olympic roster freeze that runs from Feb. 12-28. Between now and Feb. 12, ESPN.com's Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun will look at 10 potential trade baits and which teams have a chance to land some much-needed help.
Marty Turco and others in net
Scott Burnside: Pierre, we should first note Tuesday's trade of netminder Kari Lehtonen from Atlanta to Dallas for Ivan Vishnevskiy, the 27th overall pick in the 2006 draft, and a fourth-round pick. Good work by Thrashers GM Don Waddell and assistant Rick Dudley, who managed to get a bona fide prospect and a draft pick for a goaltender who has showed almost no inclination to be the franchise netminder the Thrashers envisioned when they made him the second overall pick in 2002.
This is Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk's first major deal, and it spells the end for Marty Turco, who will be an unrestricted free agent July 1. Hard to imagine there will be many takers for his big contract before the March 3 trade deadline, making for some uncomfortable days in Dallas. What do you make of this, my friend?
Pierre LeBrun: Well, I think the Stars had looked at three young netminders: Lehtonen, Canucks prospect Cory Schneider and red-hot Canadiens netminder Jaroslav Halak. The talks with Montreal on Halak came earlier this season when his stock wasn't so darn high. So Lehtonen is was; I think he's a worthy, buy-low gamble on the part of Nieuwendyk, a future franchise goalie-in-the-making who had lost his way in Atlanta.
If I were Nieuwendyk, I'd try to sign Lehtonen (who will become a restricted free agent on July 1) to an extension ASAP, hoping the fact that the netminder hasn't played since April 2009 because of two back surgeries would warrant a bargain contract. Under the financially strapped Tom Hicks, the Stars need to save every dime until they find a new owner. Turco remains a topflight netminder in my mind. If Ray Emery's hip doesn't get better or if he needs surgery, you wonder whether the Flyers might try to find a way to add insurance in either Turco or Martin Biron. Or the Blackhawks? You keep hearing whispers from people around the league that Chicago wants to upgrade in goal, although the blue line is where I think the Hawks will add one more body.
Burnside: Well, we saw Antti Niemi start in back-to-back games for the Hawks, and that's not good news for Cristobal Huet; but a move by either the Blackhawks or Flyers would require some lineup juggling unless Emery goes back on the injured list. If it's simply a matter of not feeling comfortable with either Huet or Emery (or Michael Leighton, who's been terrific for the Flyers), then you're looking at having to bury some salary in the minors, which most NHL owners are uncomfortable doing for a variety of reasons.
Turco makes $5.4 million this season, which almost guarantees the Stars won't be able to move him until closer to the March 3 trade deadline as opposed to this week before the Olympic roster freeze goes into effect. You're right about Lehtonen being low-risk, but unless he makes an about-face in terms of his conditioning and ability to mentally compete, he will end up simply eating cap space in Dallas.
LeBrun: Another option for the Flyers should Emery need surgery (and at this point, that remains unclear) might be one of the Nashville netminders. Pekka Rinne ($725,000 cap hit) and Dan Ellis ($1.75 million cap hit) are both slated for unrestricted free agency. Predators GM David Poile has told both of us he'll be talking to the goalies' agents during the upcoming Olympic break. My sense is if Poile can get one or the other under contract during the break, the remaining unsigned goalie could be on the move come March 3 as the Preds try to add some much-needed offensive depth.
Burnside: You are, as usual, bang on, my friend. When you throw Biron into the mix (he is making $1.4 million this season), I wonder whether moving Turco would be a difficult issue for Nieuwendyk. Assuming Lehtonen passes his physical in Dallas, what will the GM do with his three goaltenders? Alex Auld has a connection to coach Marc Crawford, and it costs the Stars less to have Turco around, that's for sure. But if he can't move him, will Nieuwendyk waive Turco? Send him to the minors?
Things could get ugly in Dallas in a hurry if there isn't a taker for Turco. You wonder whether the Stars could send Turco down to the minors and hope someone claims him on re-entry waivers, which would mean the Stars still would be on the hook for half Turco's salary. I know I've said this before, but I still wonder whether Los Angeles GM Dean Lombardi will jump in at the last minute on one of these veteran guys to provide a bit of a safety net for Jonathan Quick, as the Kings are a virtual lock for the playoffs.
LeBrun: It's not the end of the world to carry three goalies; the Flyers have done it for a while now. But in Dallas, where the team is publicly admitting now that finances are tight, I'm not sure how long the club can really afford to carry three netminders on its NHL roster. Remember, Lehtonen's salary is $3 million -- no small potatoes, either. As for the Kings, Scotty, I'm not saying I don't like your thinking, but Lombardi reiterated to me last week that he's really comfortable with Erik Ersberg as his backup. I think the Kings are way more focused on getting top-six forward help at this point. Until tomorrow, my friend.
• You also can get up-to-the-minute trade discussion in Rumor Central.