DALLAS - APRIL 08:  Goaltender Marty Turco #35 of the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on April 8, 2010 in Dallas, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Detroit Red Wings are one of the most successful teams in the league.  No general manager, in fact, has had as much success with his current team as Red Wings G.M. Ken Holland.  This has prompted a lot of talk about the “Detroit model” and how to imitate it – a concept that generally pops up in articles where the reporter explains that the team he covers employs a brain trust and isn’t a one man show.  Sometimes these references can be hilarious with just a little bit of hindsight.


Of course, it’s difficult to pin down an exact model for what Holland does in Detroit, but since the lockout he has consistently done at least one obvious thing, year after year: he’s spent next to nothing on his goaltenders.  Chris Osgood, Jim Howard, Dominik Hasek and Ty Conklin all had one thing in common – they were not highly paid.  Hasek came closest, but even he had a meagre base salary along with bonuses that kicked in, a contract designed to protect the Wings from his age and health while possibly giving them elite-level goaltending in the playoffs.


The other players on that list were all 1B goaltenders or thereabouts at the beginning of the seasons where they played significant games.  


By and large, however, this is not a pattern that other NHL teams (with the exception of Philadelphia) choose to follow.  “Build from the net out” is an oft-repeated maxim, and one NHL general managers as a group follow with gusto.  Unfortunately, goaltender performance can be difficult to assess, and often we see name goaltenders overpaid in the summer; players like Jose Theodore, Cristobal Huet and Nikolai Khabibulin become prize free agent acquisitions at hefty prices because they’re big-name goaltenders, often despite much in the way of recent achievement.


Marty Turco, likely to be cast loose by the Dallas Stars, would seem to be the logical candidate to follow in their footsteps.


He’s a “name” goaltender; he’s been a starter in each of the last seven seasons, he’s been the best thing about the Stars in their last two playoffs, and back in 2002-03 he looked a lot like an elite goaltender.  When looking at free agent goaltenders this summer, his is invariably one of the first names that pops up.


But how good has he been, really?


This last season, Turco posted a 0.913 save percentage – his best performance since that 0.932 save percentage in 2002-03.  That performance ranked him 18th among NHL starters and 19th among goaltenders with 25+ games.  Here’s where Turco’s performance has ranked him against other NHL goaltenders, since the NHL lockout:


Season Save Percentage Rank (41+ GP) Rank (25+ GP)
2009-10 0.913 18th 19th
2008-09 0.898 29th 42nd
2007-08 0.909 22nd 24th
2006-07 0.910 16th 17th
2005-06 0.898 18th 30th


When I look at that chart, one item in particular stands out for me – not once since the NHL lockout has Turco been an above average starting goaltender.  At his best relative to the rest of the league (in 2006-07) he was the 16th-best starter in the NHL.


That’s still fairly good – Turco is a legitimate starter in each of these seasons, something that surprised me – but he’s a below-average starter.  For me, that means if I were looking at signing him, I’d be looking to sign him for 1A-type money: somewhere south of $3.0 million.  I’m convinced that someone is going to give him more than that, and I have my doubts that he’ll turn out to be worth it.

Comments (18)

  1. It seems to me that Turco has been getting a significant amount of bad press over the last 2 years (not that he didn’t deserve a good part of it) and I think that might’ve changed the general perception of him. Though I’ll admit I have no idea to what extent GMs pay attention to a player’s ‘media reputation’ when offering contracts…

  2. I’d have to say if he gets a 1.5 mill one year deal plus bonuses it would be best for him and the team that signs him. I honestly think there are only 2 teams that will look at him though Philly and the Cap’s. But even having said that I think there are a couple of goalies ahead of him on the depth chart to be looked at: Tim Thomas will likely be traded this off season and Boston wouldnt be able to get much back for him as his contract would hinder most deals, but if Philly truly dosnt like Briere then the possiblity could arise Thomas for Briere? Ellis is a free agent goalie that should get some consideration thats for sure. I am hoping Emery can find a team aswell he deserves another shot this was a terrible season injury wise but I think he has the abilty to be a great goalie still. Maybe the Sharks will be looking at him depending on Nabakovs price.

  3. Good post Jonathan, however I am wondering if it Is possible to somehow take into consideration the team playing in front of the goaltender when considering his stats? It would stand to reason that it is more likely a goalie will look bad while playing on a bad team and vice versa.

  4. I think you may be selling Turco a bit short. Since the lockout, the league average ES SV% is .918. Turco’s ES SV% is also .918 over the save period. That puts him right in the same wheelhouse as Cam Ward (.915, $6.3mil), Nikolai Khabibulin (.916, $3.75mil), MA Fleury (.918, $5mil), Rick Dipietro (.920, $4.5 mil), Christobal Huet (.920, $5.6mil), Evgeni Nabokov (.921, $5.4), and Nik Backstrom (.922, $6mil).

    The observed disparity in between Turco’s overall SV% and that of the comparables listed above is created because his SV% while SH since the lockout has been .856 compared to a league average of .867. Since we know that ES SV% is the true measure of goaltender ability (http://www.behindthenethockey.com/2010/3/5/1312360/is-it-possible-to-determine), that’s the yardstick we should use.

    I would argue, that based strictly on the comparables, a deal in the neighborhood of $4.5mil is likely what Turco is worth and if I am his agent, that’s what I’m pushing for.

  5. There are a lot of good free agent goalies available. But who’s really going to be in the market for one? Philly? Holmgren has proven time and time again he won’t spend big money on goaltending. My bet is he re-signs Emery and Leighton and lets them run the show between the pipes for better or for worse. The Caps? There problem wasn’t goaltending and really wasn’t anything it’s more so the fact they ran into a hot goalie and one hot goal scorer that knocked them off. They do need to make some adjustments but with two young talented goalies like Varlamov and Neuirvth (however you spell his name) I don’t think McPhee will be jumping to get a goaltender after the playoff disaster that Theodore was.

    And aside from those two who else would be looking for one? The Sens seemed like a likely target but the last two games by Leclaire have settled everyone down their at least for next season. The Oilers? They need a number one guy but they’d want to target a guy to be a building block something that I don’t think any of the free agent goaltenders fit. Besides their still paying Khabibulin buy out or not. Then theirs the Lightning. Mike Smith has not worked out like they’d hope when they traded for him. And with a good and consistent goalie in nets the Lightning suddenly become a playoff contender so I expect whomever they name as GM will be calling Turco, Ellis and Mason this off season. So anyone else got any ideas as to who would be looking for a starting goaltender?

  6. @ Devon

    The Sharks have to resign Nabokov or find someone else.
    St.Louis if Mason leaves,
    Montreal (there is potentail they could lose one or the other) Although maybe not for a true #1
    Islanders (unless the 15 year man is allowed to just lay in the crease)

    Those are the ones I could come up with just thinking out loud trying to weigh each teams prospective tandems for next year.

  7. ranford4life:

    Great comment. Still, even a league-average goaltender is a below-average starter, and looking at that list you put together I see a lot of guys I’d suggest are on the overpaid side of the ledger.

    I think you’re right about the money Turco’s going to get, I just don’t think it will neccessarily be in the best interest of the team that offers it.

  8. RSmotors:

    I think most of those teams will stay with what they have.

    The goalie market was flooded last year, and probably will be this year too. St. Louis and San Jose might need new goalies, but if they do they’re releasing two more goalies into the market. Montreal will only need a backup, Rick Dudley’s talked of sticking with Hedberg/Pavelec in ATL, Edmonton will stand pat, tNYI has Roloson and DiPietro signed for next year, and Dallas as Lehtonen as the bought and paid for number one.

  9. JW:

    The aforementioned goalies are definitely overpaid based on their efficiency at contributing to outscoring the opponent. However, they are not overpaid in the marketplace. While you or I would not spend the money, you’re right in asserting that some GM certainly will.

    In the meantime, Dan Ellis, Ray Emery, and Carey Price with their career .923 ES SV% will each sign for somewhere south of $2mil. Ugh.

  10. ranford4life:

    That’s about the size of it. I’m hoping that Craig Anderson’s season in Colorado will open some eyes and that a G.M. or two might try signing two of those types on the cheap in the hopes that one can take the starting job.

  11. Bang on with the potential for Turco to be another albatross contract like Khabibulin and Huet. I don’t see Theodore as an albatross because he was 2 seasons at $4.5 million. Yes he tied the hands of a cash-strapped team a little bit more, but he was good this year and has probably been great for the development of Varlamov and Neuvirth. These two are the goaltenders of tomorrow in Washington, Theodore just offered the team stability as it needed to develop.

    Turco has value, IMHO, as exactly what was mentioned $3 million or less per season. My guess would be in the neighbourhood of 2 years at $2.75 each year. He doesn’t want to move to far from home either because you know he’s going to continue to live in Texas. I am going to speculate on what will happen. This is based solely on my opinion and has no factual evidence.

    Tampa Bay trades Mike Smith ($2.4 million) and maybe the rights to a UFA to Montreal for Carey Price and the Kostitsyn’s or something along that line. Montreal, it is argued, will have enough cap room to sign Halak or Price at $5 million a year. If they get rid of A. Kostitsyn, that covers the Mike Smith contract which expires at the end of 2010/11 and maybe plays as the #1 guy in Hamilton. Halak stays on board for $5 million and Montreal goes out and signs someone like Theodore for $1.5 million a year for 2 years.

    Tampa turns around and gives price somewhere in the neighbourhood of $4 million and signs Turco to $2.75 for two years. Turco and Price continue to split the time while Turco helps Tampa develop Price.

  12. Price and the Kos brothers for Martin St Louis., the Habs don’t need Mike Smith.

  13. Save percentage, save percentage, why is it always about save percentage? Goalies who can clear the zone as efficiently as Turco will have occasions where they don’t have to make the save because they’re not facing a shot. This is very difficult to quantify, because there’s no strong agreement on how much of shots allowed are a team effect and how much are a goalie effect.

    But at the very least I would put Turco on the good side of that equation, a net shot preventer, and because of that I would consider him one of those goalies who is better than his save percentage. Whereas the guy Dallas just signed to replace him, Kari Lehtonen, is the opposite. Not to mention injury-prone.

    Will be interesting to see how the dice will roll in both cases.

  14. Turco has had six 30 win seasons in a row before this last season where he played fewer games. His GAA has crept up a little but is still not too bad. 3.5 to 4.5 million a season for this guy would not be a bad investment, especially for a team like the Islanders or Columbus.

  15. Sandwiches- that’s a very interesting trade proposal, except for the fact that it doesn’t make one bit of sense.

    1) why would Montreal trade a very good, young goaltender, who’s a RFA not arbitration-eligible this year, for an older, average goalie, that makes more? That’d be stupid on a lot of levels.
    2) and why on earth would they ALSO ADD 2 young, promising players, one of which is a legitimate 25 goals, 2nd liner?

    Price doesn’t deserve anything close to 5 millions, no matter how you look at it – and he knows it. He’ll have to take the same salary he got (around 2M) for a year or two and that’ll be that. Halak shouldn’t get 5M, and if really that’s what he wants and won’t stay for less, they should trade him and not Price.

    As for the brothers K, they might well be gone this summer – but the return better be better than an over the hill goaltender. Those we can get on the UFA market on the cheap.

  16. marty turco isstill one of the best goalies in the league and his pay will reflect that, 4.5 mil should be it. this guy has won a cup, no other available goalie can say that. teams like philly and washington are contenders and don’t need a better regular season goalie to make playoffs, they need the goalie that knows playoff hockey, and can win a cup, marty can because he HAS, end of story.

    mike smith will finnish the contract in tampa and then rumble around the league a bit like raycroft, leighton etc.

    price will be traded my guess is to st. louis who are still in the rebuilding stages, and possibly in the middle of cost cutting, price will be cheap enough they can afford him and they are overflowing with prospects and draft picks, they were one of several teams trying to get schneider out of vancouver when price seemed unavailable

  17. What about Toskala? He’s also a free agent..

    I think he would look good with the Sharks or Blues…

    People give him a bad rep because he played badly this year, but I think it’s unfair to judge when his prime years were behind a trash shoot.

    He would probably not demand more than 1 mill per year, and if he can regain his from 07/08 and spurts of 08/09 he would be a solid acquisition.

  18. [...] Bobrovsky Posted by Jonathan Willis under Analysis on Dec 23, 2010 Speaking as someone who is less than the world’s biggest fan of Marty Turco, I have to admit that I didn’t think there was anyway that unheralded backup Corey Crawford was [...]

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