DALLAS -- As the Stars' pursuit of Jonas Gustavsson continues on its slow, tense path, the thought pops up that maybe, just maybe, we're burying the lead on this story.
Yes, it would be a boon for the Stars to sign the 24-year-old free agent goalie who led Farjestad to the Swedish Elite League championship in the spring. Yes, getting a prospect who posted a 1.96 goals against average and .932 save percentage last season would be like adding an NHL-ready top-10 pick.
But let's not forget that, for next season anyway, the purpose of getting a great backup goalie is to make Marty Turco better.
For all the hype about Gustavsson and his NHL potential, the plan still is for Turco to have his hands firmly on the wheel of the Stars in 2009-10.
And Turco, who will turn 34 on Aug. 13, is aware of that.
"It's a huge year for me in a lot of regards," said Turco, whose contract ends after next season. "But, honestly, the thing that is most important for me -- like I think it is for every player on the team -- is that I want to prove last season was a fluke. I want to prove that we are a much better team than we showed."
Turco was 33-31-10 last season, exceeding his career high in losses by 10 and tying for the NHL lead in that category. He posted a 2.81 GAA (ranking 30th among NHL regulars) and an .898 save percentage (ranking 42nd).
The disappointing season caused Turco to reach these conclusions: He didn't work hard enough last summer and was not prepared during the pre-season.
"We told ourselves we were ready, but we weren't close to ready," he said. "That was lip service, and we realize that now -- I realize it as much as anyone. I have to work harder, and I am working harder."
He still has it when he's on his game. Turco went on a 19-7-3 run from December through February and helped the Stars crawl back into fifth place in the Western Conference before wearing down.
"I honestly felt that was as good as I've played in my career during that stretch," he said. "So, I don't think I've lost anything. It's just a matter of getting that for an entire season."
He needs help. Turco played a career-high 74 games. He faced 1,993 shots, almost 350 more than his previous high. Turco said he should be playing 50-55 games a season. In 2007-08, when he had his best playoff performance, he played 62.
"I understand more than ever that you do have to manage the entire season," Turco said. "I have a difficult time conserving energy, so I think that when I can keep my starts down, it will help me play better when the playoffs come."
And that's where Gustavsson comes in. The Stars continue to court him, with Toronto a major rival. If the Stars can get a reliable backup, Turco will be able to concentrate on playing his game.
"He's an extremely athletic goalie and he expends a lot of energy, so we have to monitor him and we have to help him pace himself," said Stars goalie consultant Andy Moog. "And that's why the backup goalie is so important."
But certainly not as important as Turco, right?
"I think it's important to support Marty, but it's also important to push him," Moog said. "That's the relationship he had with (former backup goalie) Mike Smith. That's the relationship we need to have with whoever comes in here."
Of course, the push already has been started by Turco.
"That was a horrible year, and I have to be better than that," said the man with a career record of a 240-134-52. "And the quest to be better has already started."