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Turco says Chicago a perfect fit

by Dan Rosen
A vacationing Marty Turco took time out of a dreary Scotland day to conduct some official business that he was gambling would come through at some point this summer.

Turco, in St. Andrews with a dozen friends, participated in a conference call Monday with Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman to announce he had signed a one-year contract with the Stanley Cup champions, who were also breaking the news that Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi was no longer part of the team.

Since becoming an unrestricted free agent on July 1, Turco, a 10-year vet in Dallas, had been holding out hope that an opportunity with the Blackhawks would arise. He said he turned down multi-year deals "that didn't suit me" because he wanted to be in Chicago.

When the Blackhawks decided they could not re-sign Niemi, they immediately turned to Turco and made his gamble pay off.

Turco turns 35 on Aug. 13 while Niemi turns 27 on Aug. 29.

"I'm in St. Andrews on a trip we have had planned for the last eight months or so and it's been fun, but I think this day has overshadowed anything we can do," Turco said. "Before the playoffs started this was a team I looked at knowing I was going to be an unrestricted free agent."

Bowman said he and Turco's camp, which includes his agent, Kurt Overhardt, had "been working on parallel paths" while they negotiated with Niemi's camp. Bowman added that "Marty is the guy that we've certainly had interest in for a long time, and we're fortunate that he had some patience with us. I think that speaks to the kind of guy he is and the fact that he wanted to be here.

"It's my job to make sure we're prepared to defend come October. We've got a great group here and we're excited about next season."

Turco is especially pumped.

He has been forced to watch the playoffs as an outsider the past two springs since Dallas did not qualify, and "it cemented my belief in how I work and what makes me tick, and that's to have an opportunity to win."

He should get that with the Blackhawks, who despite losing nine players so far from their playoff roster still have their core, including Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson.

Turco said it was worth the wait from July 1 until now.

"To say there wasn't anxious times, obviously I'd be lying," Turco said, "but the trust in myself and the belief from my family, and the chance to have my kids watch their dad be the happiest, now that's being a Blackhawk. Waiting didn't seem that difficult, and it comes with trust that I have in myself."

Based on his history and experience, it appears that Turco should fit in seamlessly with the offensive-minded Blackhawks.

He is known as one of the best puck-handling goalies in the League and the Blackhawks already have some of the best puck-moving defensemen, especially Keith and Campbell.

"Marty is great at stopping the puck, but in addition he's probably the best puck-handling goaltender in the League," Bowman said. "We haven't really had that skill here for many years in Chicago. We haven't had a goaltender who was that proficient with the puck.

"Part of being a good defensive team is you don't spend a lot of time in your defensive zone," Bowman added. "That's one thing I'm looking forward to seeing, is our defensemen getting the benefit of that puck maybe a couple of seconds quicker than they did in the past."

The Blackhawks also have a recent history of limiting the shots against. They gave up a League-low 25.1 per game last season.

Turco has a successful history when he faces fewer shots per game. In three of his nine seasons in Dallas (2002-04, '06-07) the Stars yielded fewer than 25.5 shots per game, and Turco went a combined 106-51-28 with 22 shutouts, a 1.99 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.

Dallas yielded 31.2 shots per game this past season (19th in the NHL) and Turco was 22-20-11 with four shutouts, a 2.72 GAA and .913 save percentage. The Blackhawks were quick to note that Turco's save percentage at even strength was .926 while Niemi's was .914.

"I think Marty's record speaks for itself," Bowman said. "He's been a very accomplished goaltender right back to his college days. He's been a (three-time) All-Star. He's got a lot of experience."

The Hawks are hoping some of that experience rubs off on 25-year-old prospect Corey Crawford, who has spent the better part of the last four seasons in the AHL but is expected to get the opportunity to be Turco's backup.

Bowman still has to figure out what he's going to do with Cristobal Huet, who doesn't seem to be part of the Hawks' plans and will likely be sent to the minors or loaned overseas.

"We think Corey has really learned his trade so far, but he's been in the minors and he's been the guy that's had the chance, but he hasn't had a mentor like Marty," Bowman said. "What better guy to learn from. He's a great person off the ice and his ability on the ice will really affect him.

"It's not an easy league to play in as a goaltender. It's the one position that is most focused on because when the puck goes in the net they always look at the goalie. When you have a guy who has been through the ups and downs of several seasons, it's a big benefit."

Turco will be the unquestioned No. 1 when camp opens next month. He said physically he has never felt better, and now mentally he's in a place where preparations to win a Stanley Cup don't involve unrealistic dreams.

"To be a part of this makes me warm and fuzzy inside when I'm here (in Scotland) and it's 55 and raining," Turco said. "The understatement of my summer is how excited I am to be a part of this organization."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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