Steve Ott has developed into a critical player and leader for the Stars. He's proven that he's more than an irritant, though he's certainly that (ask the Stars' opponents).
What makes Ott so effective is that he can get under the opposition's skin or throw punches when necessary, but can also put the puck in the net and provide big momentum swings in the Stars' favor.
General manager Joe Nieuwendyk has made it clear that he's identifying core players that he can build his future teams around. Ott is one of those players. And he was rewarded with a four-year deal worth $11.8 million. That averages out to $2.95 million per season. The Stars and Ott's agents were working on a deal before the trade deadline and got it done. Ott would have been an unrestricted free agent, and if a deal couldn't be reached Nieuwendyk might have tried to trade him to get something in return. But both sides wanted to get a deal done, and when that's the case deals usually get done.
Ott scored 22 goals in 2009-10, a career high. His play was good enough that Team Canada selected him for the World Championships, which started last weekend. Don't think that Ott's increased scoring touch meant decreasing his time spent in the penalty box or bothering opponents. He had 153 penalty minutes, the most by any Stars player, and he added 251 hits, good enough for seventh in the NHL.
The offense hasn't come out of nowhere. Ott was a prolific goal scorer in his younger days, scoring 73 goals in 108 games his final two seasons at Windsor in the OHL. He scored 19 goals in 2008-09 and built on that this season. He seemed to blossom after seizing a greater role on the team when Brenden Morrow went down in 2008-09 with a knee injury. Ott was being compared to Morrow in terms of his gritty play and willingness to go to the net to try to make something happen.
Ott will once again be a critical part of the club in 2010-11. He's going to be a leader in the dressing room for a while, and the Stars expect a high level of play from him. He also expects that of himself. Can Ott be a 25-goal scorer? I don't see why not. He's increased his goal production the last two seasons and is getting more ice time, too. But more important than the goals is Ott's ability to be a leader on this team and continue to be a tough player to play against.