The Chicago Blackhawks made a bold move on Monday when they announced that they intended to walk away from goaltender Antti Niemi’s arbitration award of $2.75 million for next season and instead decided to sign unrestricted free agent netminder Marty Turco to a one-year, $1.3 million contract.
While the decision to sign Turco may come as a surprise, especially since the deal went down so soon after Chicago decided not to honor Niemi’s arbitration award, it will likely turn out to be the best possible scenario for the Blackhawks in the long run and help the team stay in decent shape for another shot at the Stanley Cup next season.
Turco is a seasoned professional who still has something to prove as he rounds the corner into the twilight of his career. The former Dallas Star spent nine years with the Star’s organization where he recorded several franchise records, including most wins, most shutouts and most games played. In fact, Turco was a work-horse for the Stars. He played in 60 or more games in four of his last five seasons as the starting goaltender for Dallas.
However, Turco’s numbers began to falter over the past two seasons and he struggled to regain his former All-Star form. Ultimately, the Stars decided to bring in former Atlanta Thrashers goalie Kari Lehtonen at the trade deadline this past season which all but signaled the end of Turco’s tenure in Dallas.The team opted not to offer Turco a contract extension when the free agent period began on July 1.
At the age of 34, Turco needed a change of scenery and a fresh start, and Chicago offered him just that. Turco also needs to prove that these last few seasons have been a fluke and that he is still one of the premier goaltenders in the NHL. For as much talent as the Blackhawks lost this offseason, the team still boasts a core of very talented young players who helped catapult them to success. Turco should thrive in net with players like Duncan Keith, Brian Campbell and Brent Seabrook playing defense in front of him. Young guns like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane should help rejuvenate Turco with their youthful enthusiasm and hard work ethic.
The team hitting the ice to help raise the championship banner in October may not even closely resemble the one that captured the cup in June, but the team is still a definite threat and should not be underestimated. Much of their core is still in tact and that could prove to be overwhelming for many teams on many nights. By bringing Turco into the mix, the Blackhawks not only save some much-needed cap space, but the team also gets a proven netminder in need of a change of scenery that could benefit from what Chicago has to offer in terms of talent, energy and dedication. Keep an eye on Turco this season. He still has a desire to play a top-level game and, more importantly, to prove his critics wrong. Chicago will offer him the opportunity, but he needs to seize the reins and show the NHL that he hasn’t yet lost his stride.