Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk has altered the look of his club in the past few weeks. First, it was a draft-day trade of Mike Ribeiro. Now, Steve Ott is no longer a Star, heading to Buffalo along with Adam Pardy.
In the process, the Stars are constructing a team designed to push some young players forward and at the same time reduce the pressure on them.
In exchange for Ribeiro, the Stars acquired Cody Eakin, a young, raw forward the club feels has big upside. They then signed 40-year-old Ray Whitney, a forward capable of getting top-6 minutes who can help the Stars now and also provide some leadership in the dressing room. He's clearly not in Dallas much longer than the two-year deal he signed, and by then some of the younger forwards need to be ready.
On Monday, the Stars added Derek Roy as part of the trade with the Sabres, giving them a 29-year-old center they feel can play on the second line. The Stars' scouts and medical team are confident he's over a torn quadriceps sustained late in 2010. And it's a one-year deal and then he's off the books if the club doesn't want to re-sign. Essentially, they can see what he's got, and at his age he could be a part of the club in the future.
But to me, the most important thing these deals does is open the door -- and it opens it slowly, without forcing the issue too soon -- to some young players.
"There's been a conscious effort on that part," Nieuwendyk said. "We talked a lot about our young kids that are turning pro and the two kids in Brenden Dillon (21-year-old defenseman) and Matt Fraser (22-year-old fowared), we want to give them every opportunity to succeed. This trade puts people in their proper spots. Derek Roy will be on our top-2 lines with Jamie Benn. We don’t have to put all that pressure on Cody Eakin. We think he'll be an up-and-coming player, just like the others, but they can play behind them."
The Stars haven't wowed anyone this offseason. They don't seem to be "in" on the big names. But they have some money to spend and through trades, have altered not only the look of the roster, but the leadership group. Ott and Ribeiro aren't in that room anymore. It means Benn, Loui Eriksson, Trevor Daley and Alex Goligoski must step up even more and join Brenden Morrow and Stephane Robidas in that group. That's assuming Nieuwendyk doesn't make any more deals. And he may not be done.
But the Stars have a solid goaltender in Kari Lehtonen (another guy who must lead) and one of the top forwards in the league in Benn. They don't have a lot of scoring around him right now, but they are building an organization that relies on young players to step up in a variety of roles. That needs to happen for this team to march toward contending status again, and it's clear Nieuwendyk is banking on it.