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Non-deal led to final for Turek, Lightning

Times Staff Writer
Published June 1, 2004

CALGARY - The Flames locker room inside the Pengrowth Saddledome is flooded with reporters. Flames stars Jarome Iginla and Craig Conroy are so surrounded by cameras and microphones they hardly can be seen. Other players, even fourth-line guys, are interviewed by at least two or three reporters.

In one corner, though, the only things in front of Roman Turek are his goalie pads stacked against one another as he sits sipping a cup of water. No one is talking to Turek because Turek is a backup goalie and in the Stanley Cup final, the backup goalie doesn't do a lot.

But there might not be a player in this series who, in a roundabout way, had more to do with this Lightning-Flames final than Turek. Once upon a time, Turek was supposed to be a member of the Lightning. Had that happened, an argument could be made the Lightning would not be here right now.

"Really? I was traded to the Lightning?" Turek said. "I didn't know that. This is the first I heard about that. What happened?"

Sit back, it's quite a story. In June 1999, the NHL was preparing for the expansion draft to stock the roster of the Nashville Predators. Dallas could protect only one goalie and they were going to protect Ed Belfour, who had just won the Stars the Cup. Turek, the Stars' promising young goalie, certainly was going to be taken by the Predators and the Stars didn't want to lose him for nothing.

So they struck a deal with the Lightning's Rick Dudley: Turek to the Lightning for center Darcy Tucker. But there was a snag. Palace Sports & Entertainment was running the team, but the final details of purchasing it from Art Williams were not complete. Williams had to okay the deal.

He refused, an act of stubbornness to get the Bill Davidson group moving to complete the sale. With a deadline to beat, the Stars traded Turek to St. Louis an hour after the Lightning deal fell through.

Now for the dominoes: A week later, the Lightning, still desperately needing a goalie to replace the oft-injured Daren Puppa, traded the No. 1 pick in the draft for Rangers goalie Dan Cloutier. A year later, with Cloutier struggling, the Lightning traded a first-round pick to acquire goalie Kevin Weekes.

If Turek had come to Tampa Bay, the Lightning would have held on to the top pick in 1999 and probably taken Pavel Brendl, who has turned out to be a bust in the NHL. The Lightning never would have traded for Weekes. Turek would have been good enough to get the Lightning out of the bottom third of the league.

That means it wouldn't have finished low enough to have the fourth pick in the 2002 draft, the pick it sent to Philadelphia to acquire forward Ruslan Fedotenko.

And, of course, the Lightning never would have traded for Nikolai Khabibulin because it already had a goalie in Turek.

Tracing trades back several years, of course, is a tad unfair and definitely inexact. There is no way to tell what other trades might have been made, which players could have been drafted, how the team would have done. For example, what would have happened with Tucker? Would the Lightning have kept defenseman Paul Mara, one of the players used to acquire Khabibulin? Who knows?

But had the Lightning acquired Turek, Fedotenko, the team's leading goal scorer in the postseason, and Khabibulin, the player most responsible for getting the Lightning to the final, would not be in Tampa Bay right now.

And, likely, the Lightning would not be in the Stanley Cup final.

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