Stars agree with G Lehtonen, Turco’s replacement, on 3-year, $10.65M deal

DALLAS – The Dallas Stars and goaltender Kari Lehtonen agreed Tuesday to a three-year, US$10.65 million contract extension that locks up Marty Turco’s replacement through the 2012-13 season.

General manager Joe Nieuwendyk said last month the Stars were moving on without Turco, a three-time all-star who was their top goalie for nine seasons. He said the 26-year-old Lehtonen showed enough in 12 games with Dallas to justify letting Turco become a free agent.

The Stars acquired Lehtonen in February from Atlanta, where he was the No. 2 pick in the 2002 draft.

The native Finn was 6-4-0 with a 2.81 goals-against average for the Stars. All six wins came in his final nine starts, when his goals-against average dropped to 2.44.

He led the Thrashers to their first division title in 2006-07, finishing with a 34-24-9 record, four shutouts and a 2.79 goals-against average. In 216 career games, Lehtonen is 100-87-17 with a 2.87 GAA.

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Lehtonen’s career was sidetracked by back problems. He underwent surgery twice and had not played all season before the trade to Dallas.

“We’ve had a long tradition of having premium goaltenders,” Nieuwendyk said at his season-ending news conference last month. “I think the way he played in the last 10-12 games, his performance showed that with a good summer of training he can become an elite goaltender like he was earlier in his career.”

Turco just completed a $22.8 million, four-year contract. He holds the franchise records for a goaltender with 509 games, 262 wins and 40 shutouts.