Wow, what a day. In just a few hours, the Dallas Stars changed their roster to be nearly unrecognizable from the one we last saw on the ice April 27.
The Stars had some glaring needs: lack of center depth, sorting out the logjam on defense and settling the backup goalie position were the easiest to spot, but (true) center depth was easily the most troubling.
After losing Brad Richards in the summer of 2011, Jamie Benn was moved to center in order to fill the void at center. Benn wasn’t the strongest on the dot, but he was serviceable there. His first season would understandably be rough trying to learn a new position and the art of the faceoff, but in 2013, Benn won only 46.1%. As the team’s number one center, it’s troubling to say the least. Additionally, Cody Eakin won 48.6% and the Stars’ best faceoff taker, Vernon Fiddler, won 51.5%. Compare that to most teams’ top draw-winner (usually over 55%) and it’s easy to see why Dallas ended up 27th in the league in faceoff win percentage with 47.2%. If you don’t win faceoffs, you don’t control the puck, simple as that.
So, how do the Stars rectify this? That was the burning question heading into the offseason. It’s safe to say Jim Nill took care of that Thursday, and it should no longer be a concern heading into next season.
The Stars were reportedly in the hunt, and even a front-runner at one point, to land the recently bought-out Vincent Lecavalier. A last-second swerve took him to Philadelphia, but Nill maintained that the Stars would find other ways to try to add two centers in the offseason. His next move was a blockbuster.
Trade #1: Dallas acquired Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button from the Boston Bruins in exchange for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and Joe Morrow.
Trade #2: Dallas acquired Shawn Horcoff from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Philip Larsen and a 7th-round pick in 2016.
The first trade was shocking to say the least, and at first glance it hurt a little to see Eriksson’s name in the trade. After a second look and breaking down the trade, the swap was fair and Dallas has a good chance at coming out on top. The Stars got what they needed and the Bruins got what they wanted.
Seguin is naturally a center, but was moved to the wing in Boston due to Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci and Peverley taking the draws. He was moved to wing in order to keep him in the top 6, at least most of the time.
Peverley turns 31 on July 8 and has a cap hit of $3.25 million for the next two seasons. He won 58.4% of the faceoffs he took on the league’s best faceoff team. He tallied 18 points in 2013 and hit the 40-point mark each of the three seasons before. Oh, and both Seguin and Peverley are right-handed shots, which the Stars need.
Seguin went cold in the 2013 playoffs, tallying one goal and 8 points in 22 games, but he was more productive in the regular season. Seguin scored 16 goals and 32 points in 48 games in 2013, and he scored 29 goals and 67 points the prior season. One of the most attractive aspects of Seguin’s arrival in Dallas is that he is only 21 years old and is set to be paid $5.75 million for the next six seasons, so he is still heading to his prime and has a long contract set. He was selected second overall in 2010 and has amazing playmaking skills, good speed and an accurate shot.
He may have struggled in the postseason and Claude Julien’s statements that he has to learn how to be a professional may cause worry, but remember he is 21. What kid with superstar potential doesn’t enjoy partying? Which youngster with lots of potential and expectations doesn’t go through ups and downs? In time I believe he will progress and if he even comes close to hitting his potential, the Stars win this trade.
Peverley and Horcoff help solve the second-line center issue. Without the trades, Eakin could have been moved up, and Fiddler would have probably centered the third line leaving a rookie or grinding vet to try the dot on the fourth line, but when you compare that lineup against almost any other lineup against the NHL, the matchup doesn’t look very good for Dallas.
So now Seguin can return to center at the top line with Benn on his left and possibly Nichuskin on his right. Peverley would have been slid onto the second line with Eakin on the third if Horcoff wasn’t added. Now, with Shawn Horcoff in the picture, the Stars have five centers so we wait to see if Fiddler will be moved.
Horcoff, 34, was captain of the Edmonton Oilers, and he tallied 12 points in 31 games this season. He isn’t much in terms of production, but his leadership and faceoff capabilities provide a boost for the Stars. He managed to win 49% of his draws on the league’s worst faceoff team. He will be paid $5.5 million for each of the next two seasons, enough time to allow some youngsters to develop, namely Radek Faksa.
Not much is expected of Ryan Button, but he will help fill out the prospect pool in the minors. He’s a 6-foot tall left-shot defenseman with room to improve at the ripe age off 22. He was picked 86th overall in 2009, but hasn’t produced much since. He split time between the AHL and ECHL last season, netting 8 points in 58 games while going -13. He’s fallen off in production over the years, but if he can regain his form, the Stars have another decent defensive prospect.
It all sounds good, but in order to get something of value, you have to give up something of value. Dallas only gave up one full-time roster player, an in-and-out of the lineup defender who struggled against the big, strong Western forwards and three prospects. Seeing Eriksson go hurts. Real bad. He was my favorite player on the Stars after Neal was traded, and his play at both ends of the ice will be terribly missed. He struggled in the lockout-shortened season, but he was consistently a 70-point winger beforehand. I’m going to miss his quiet awkwardness off the ice and his slick play on it. His two-way play and team-first mentality will help him fit in perfectly with the Bruins.
I was really becoming a big fan of Reilly Smith. He had speed, some good stick-handling and a decent shot, but just wasn’t able to produce. He was good at creating chances and getting in the right places on the ice. He just couldn’t put the puck in the net as often as the Stars would’ve liked. He reminded me of a mix between young Eriksson and young Neal. Fraser was unbelievable in the AHL (37 goals in 73 games), but he seemed out of sorts in the NHL. He has a great shot, good speed and a big body, but seemed nervous or a little off when he played for Dallas.
Stars fans didn’t get to see much of Morrow after he was acquired from the Penguins this season. Because of that, it doesn’t sting too much to lose Morrow, but if he hits his expected top-four potential it might then. The Stars were able to part with Morrow since their defensive cupboard is stashed with the likes of Oleksiak and Connauton among many others. Larsen hasn’t lived up to his offensive potential and was a defensive liability many times this past season. He’s only 23, so he still has time to develop, but he seemed small on the ice. He was pushed around easily, targeted for big hits and gave up dangerous turnovers in the Dallas zone.
One thing is for sure with these trades: Nill means business. He is patient and knows when to pounce and isn’t afraid of taking calculated chances. He’s done wonders since coming to Dallas and this is only the beginning. He’s dedicated to get the Stars into the playoffs next season while still keeping them primed for the future.
For now, we watch the clock tick down until free agency opens midday Friday. And we await Nill’s next genius move to help make the Stars winners. Now and in the future.