Stars acquire Niinimaa from Isles for Erskine, pick

DALLAS -- The slumping New York Islanders traded defenseman Janne Niinimaa and a fifth-round pick in next year's draft to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday for defenseman John Erskine and a second-round choice in the draft this year.

Amid rumors that coach Steve Stirling might soon be fired, general manager Mike Milbury made good on a desire to shake up the Islanders by dealing the disappointing Niinimaa. After a 2-1 loss at Nashville, New York has lost 10 of 12, including six straight on the road.

The Islanders were swept in a home-and-home series with Carolina over the weekend and slipped into 12th place in the 15-team Eastern Conference, seven points out of a playoff spot. Young defenseman Bruno Gervais was recalled from AHL Bridgeport to take Niinimaa's roster spot.

Niinimaa, who is earning $2.432 million this season, had only one goal and nine assists in 41 games this season but drew Stirling's ire by racking up 62 penalty minutes. His last goal came 29 games ago when he scored against Boston on Nov. 1.

"It's a trade that helps out both teams," Milbury said. "Dallas gets a very good defenseman in Janne. ... The move allows us to provide an opportunity for Bruno Gervais, who by all accounts is ready for the NHL. Obviously, it adds cap space. We also get a hard-nosed competitor in John Erskine and a very valuable second-round draft pick in the next draft."

The 25-year-old Erskine has also been called for 62 penalty minutes, but he did it in 26 games with Dallas without recording a point. In 107 career NHL games, all with the Stars, he has two goals, two assists and 237 penalty minutes.

"Janne is a veteran player who will help upgrade the depth of our defensive corps," Stars general manager Doug Armstrong said. "He has a great deal of NHL experience and has proven he can play at a high level in this league."

Niinimaa, 30, was acquired by the Islanders from Edmonton at the 2003 trade deadline for Brad Isbister and Raffi Torres. Niinimaa, who began his NHL career with Philadelphia, has 310 points -- including 52 goals -- and 673 penalty minutes in 678 career games.

"Janne's a player we're familiar with from his days in Edmonton and someone who gives us the depth necessary to compete in the second half of the season and in the playoffs," Armstrong said. "I would say this is as close to the end product as we may see."

The Stars entered Tuesday on top of the Pacific Division, just one point behind Detroit for the lead in the Western Conference.

Gervais has played in four games with the Islanders this season but has yet to record a point. In 33 games at Bridgeport, Gervais had 13 goals and ranked second on the team with 27 points. He is first among AHL defenseman in goals and fifth in points.