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Friday, July 6, 2012

Joe Nieuwendyk Rebuilds Dallas Stars – Jagr, Whitney, Rome, Eakin, Roy, and 1st Round pick Radek Faksa

Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk has significantly and positively rebuilt his team going into the 2012-13 season and he still might acquire one or more free agents. Furthermore, he may be able to insert rookie Radek Faksa into his line-up this year as well as defenseman Brenden Dillon. Let’s analyze the series of huge trades and free agent signings that Nieuwendyk used to reconstruct the Stars. I will also list the Stars 2012 draft picks by round and will include their final rankings which is very interesting (North American and European). 

The Stars haven’t been in the playoffs since the 2007-08 season (including self-destructing the last two years) so the huge changes that Nieuwendyk has made were definitely necessary.

Trade – Ribeiro for Eakin and Draft Pick

The first move that Nieuwendyk made was a trade just before the draft and it involved sending Mike Ribeiro to the Capitals in exchange for 21 year-old center Cody Eakin and a 2nd Round pick in the 2012 draft (54th overall), who turned out to be center Mike Winther of the Prince Albert Raiders. Winther was 21st in the final draft rankings so the Stars certainly got their money’s worth in landing one of the better prospects at that stage in the draft. Eakin is extremely talented and it looks like he is going to make a huge difference for the Stars in the long-run and possibly this year as well. In 2010-11 he split time between WHL teams the Swift Current Broncos and the Kootenay ICE, and in 56 games he had 36 goals and 47 assists for a total of 83 points. Last year for the Caps he played in 30 games, and with limited playing time he was still able to get 4 goals and 4 assists and was plus-2. He has a cap hit of only $638 000 until the end of 2013-14 at which time he will be a RFA.

Of course, trading Ribeiro left a hole to fill in the Stars line-up since he has been a big contributor for the team over the last six years; however, he is 32 years old and also has a cap hit of 5 million. Yet, if he keeps himself in top condition he could be a game-breaking player for another five years. In going for Ribeiro, the Caps are making a big effort to win the Cup this coming year. Ovechkin was terrible this past season and especially in the plus-minus department. He was too busy with big endorsements and girlfriends and did not commit himself at all to hockey. The playoffs were a little different but it would have been better if he had trained himself properly before and throughout the season. I expect OV to put more effort in this year, and time will tell. The Caps should play Ribeiro with Ovechkin in the preseason to see how they do together, and add Backstrom and you have a very potent power-play. 

Trade Winner – The Stars are getting a probable long-term NHL producer in Eakin and at very low cost; and, they also obtained a good prospect in Winther. Ribeiro could make a big difference for the Caps for the next couple of years and help them go further in the playoffs. Both teams could turn out to be winners in this trade, but I am hoping that Eakin will come through in a big way and prove the Stars to have gotten the best of the deal.

Free Agent Signings – Ray Whitney and Aaron Rome

The next moves by Nieuwendyk occurred on the first day of free agency, and he began by signing 40 year-old Ray Whitney. Whitney led the Coyotes last year with 77 points and was also an impressive plus-26. Nieuwendyk awarded him with a two-year deal worth 9 million. Nice to see an older guy who works hard get paid what a lot of the younger guys are making.

Later that same day, Nieuwendyk was able to sign free agent Aaron Rome, who obviously decided that the Stars offered more money and a better opportunity as compared to the Canucks and everyone else who was interested in him. Signing 28 year-old Rome was a great move by the Stars because he is a big, tough defenseman who has several good years left if he takes care of himself. Nieuwendyk locked Rome into a three year contract worth 4.5 million, a raise for Rome but also an absolute steal of a deal for the Stars in my opinion. 

Derek Roy

The following day, Nieuwendyk traded Steve Ott and Adam Pardy to the Sabres in exchange for Derek Roy.

Roy was drafted by Buffalo in the 2001 Entry Draft, Round 2 and 32nd overall, and is now 29 years old. He was a proven performer for several years but in the 2010-11 he only played 35 games due to needing surgery to repair a torn quadriceps tendon. He returned for the 2011-12 season and he was only able to compile 44 points in 80 games and was minus-7. So, the question is can he get back to where he was before the operation? And, then there is another huge issue with this trade and that is the fact that Roy will be getting paid the highest amount this coming year of his six-year contract: 5.5 million; but, that is not all since this is the last year of his contract before becoming an UFA. If he does not like Dallas he won’t consider signing with them after this year. Roy does fill at least part of the gap at center left by the Ribeiro trade and that is important.

In exchange for Roy, Nieuwendyk surrendered Steve Ott and Adam Pardy. Ott was a fan favorite and a good team guy but he is a third or even fourth line center; and, he also carries a pretty high price tag considering what he can do on the ice. He is under contract for two more years and will make 3.2 million each year and then be an UFA. Like Roy, he is 29 years old but is only capable of producing about half of Roy’s offense (when Roy is at the top of his game, and yes, he may never get there again). Adam Pardy will be an extra defenseman for the Sabres and he has one year left in his contract and will make 2 million in 2012-13. He is 28 years old and only played 36 games for the Stars last year, his only year with the team since the Stars picked him up last summer.

Trade Winner – Well, all things considered, the Stars did not have to give up much at all to get Roy so the gamble by Nieuwendyk was a great one in my opinion. I don’t know what the Sabres were thinking, but maybe they know more about Roy’s leg than has been revealed?

Jaromir Jagr

Then, on July 3rd, Nieuwendyk signed Jagr to a one-year deal worth 4.5 million plus a significant signing bonus of $500 000, and he is also eligible to earn an extra $50 000 on a performance bonus. Jagr surprised us last year by choosing to sign with the Flyers over the Pens, for 3.3 million, and now he has surprised us once again. Obviously, the amount of money is a big issue for Jagr and that is why he signed with the Stars. I think he would have been better signing with a Stanley Cup contender for less money, however, I am happy to see him with the Stars and in the Western Conference since he has always played in the Eastern Conference.  

Jagr is 40 years old and brings a lot to the table including some excellent hockey, being an example for other players regarding work ethic and he has a “hate to lose” attitude, being able to give advice to other players, having the ability to teach others, and of course he will bring the fans into the American Airlines Center (where the Stars play). Last year Jagr played very well for the Flyers and in 73 games he compiled 54 points and was plus-5. In my opinion, he will not only be able to help the youngest players but also many of the veterans who are used to losing and who need an attitude and confidence boost. Whitney will also do the same work in helping the others and we should see a significant change in the team this year. All said, Nieuwendyk was wise to surrender 5 million to Jagr since he has much to offer, and Whitney too. 

Another thing, Jagr is Czechoslovakian and so is the Stars Round 1 pick in the 2012 draft, Radek Faksa. Faksa is a huge fan of Jagr and has watched him live. Jagr could help the kid a lot in training camp and onward if Faksa is able to crack the line-up this year; however, Niewendyk has stated that he doesn’t want to rush Faksa. Jagr won’t likely be with the Stars next year but who knows? Faksa has already signed a contract with the Stars and now he is in development camp. Benn, Eriksson, Jagr, Whitney, Roy and Eakin will certainly bring the fans into the building and that is another reason to wait until Faksa is actually ready for the NHL. I will never forget the Oilers inserting Taylor Hall into the line-up before he was NHL-ready and his first year was a disaster for the most part (improving in the second half). Hall was falling all over the place and he suffered a season-ending leg injury in a fight with Dorsett of the Blue Jackets. His play was significantly better this past year but he had numerous injuries and his season was cut short again and this time due to a concussion and the need for shoulder surgery.

Power-Play Boost

The Stars had the worst power-play in the NHL last year at 13.5 % overall (home and road games). We can expect that to change with the addition of Jagr, Whitney and Roy. Add on Benn and Eriksson and you have five guys who can put the puck in the net. Goligoski and Daley are the Stars best defensemen for power-plays, but I would only play one of them at the most and have at least four of the forwards previously mentioned on the ice most of the time.  

2012 Draft Picks

Nieuwendyk had nine picks in the 2012 draft and his choices were, along with their final ranking (North American being “NA” and European being “E”) or if they were unranked):  Round 1, 13th overall, center Radek Faksa (NA Ranking 7th); Round 2, 43rd overall, defenseman Ludwig Bystrom (E Ranking 8th); Round 2 again, 54th overall, center Mike Winther (NA Ranking 21st); Round 2 again, 61st overall, center Devin Shore (NA Ranking 58th); Round 3, 74th overall, defenseman Esa Lindell (E Ranking 12th); Round 4, 104th overall, center Gemel Smith (NA Ranking 37th); Round 5, 134th overall, right-winger Brandon Troock (NA Ranking 65th);  Round 5 again, 144th overall, goalie Henri Kiviaho (not ranked); Round 7, 183 overall, defenseman Dmitry Sinitsyn (Limited Viewing).   

In my opinion, Nieuwendyk didn’t do too bad up until his last two picks. There were some superior goalies left including 10th Ranked goalie Marek Mazanec—who is Czech like Radek Faksa! I don’t know what Nieuwendyk was thinking but he made a big mistake in my opinion. I would have taken at least two goalies in the draft and at least one in within the first two rounds.  


It is going to be extremely interesting to see if Jagr, Whitney, Roy, Rome and Eakin are going to be able to transform the Stars into a team that will make the playoffs this year. I will be providing my predictions at the beginning of the season and will update those after the All-Star break. Last year I chose the Devils to win the East (and to have a chance at winning the Cup) as long as they did not have to face the Bruins. I might get lucky again this year. No, I didn’t have the Kings to win the West because they did not show enough before the playoffs started.

TJ Stanley