Jim Nill is doin’ work.
The Stars GM may have had the best day of any in the NHL on Tuesday, the first day of NHL free agency. Heck, in the first hour, he had already made the biggest move of the day, and it wasn’t even a signing. For the second consecutive July, Nill traded for a world-class player, and both deals brought an elite center to Dallas.
The last time Dallas made a trade that gave them two top-line centers under the age of 32 with this much talent, they ended up winning two Presidents’ Trophies, two Western Conference crowns, and one Stanley Cup.
Yes, that team also had some quality defensemen, but Nill’s got that brewing as well among his young player personnel.
Nill said before free agency started that one of his goals was to find a second-line center. So he dealt for 31-year-old Jason Spezza, giving up some good young talent in the process. He’s worth it. The former Sens captain has scored 687 points in 686 career games and has one year remaining on his contract. Nill is banking on his locker room and our city to make re-signing with the Stars prior to next summer a reality.
Oh, and just to make things a little sweeter for the 6-3, 220-pound Spezza (and the Stars), Nill went out and signed his line mate in Ottawa – Ales Hemsky, to a four-year deal. He can play a little hockey too.
The addition of Spezza and Hemsky not only gives the Stars a very dangerous second line (and a deep power play), it gives Lindy Ruff a quality third line in Antione Roussel, Cody Eakin and Ryan Garbutt. That trio only combined for 47 goals last season.
So Nill went out to improve the second line and created a positive domino effect on the third. Effective personnel moves. Doin work.
Most casual sports fans in Dallas didn’t know who Tyler Seguin was one year ago. They found out quickly as the Stars made their playoff push and first berth in the post-season in five years. Here’s betting Jason Spezza becomes more acquainted with the Dallas sports fan in 2014-15, and probably years to come.
Players who come to play hockey in Dallas seem to like it and stick around a bit. When they have winning seasons and make noise in the playoffs, it becomes that much more attractive. It happened in the mid-to-late 90’s. It can happen now.
Get ready for a little Dallas Stars renaissance.
Never a Dull Moment
There literally is no crazier day when free agency opens than the NHL. These guys don’t mess around. Eighty-three free agents were inked to new deals on Tuesday, par for the course on the day TSN in Canada dubs “Free Agent Frenzy.” And how.
Some of the more notable signings around the league:
I had to do a double-take when I saw former Stars D-man Matt Niskanen has signed seven-year, $40.25 million deal, averaging $5.75 mil per season. Then I had to read it again. Say what? So the footnote player in the James Neal trade to Pittsburgh for Alex Goligoski has cashed in. It shows how valuable a puck-moving offensive blue-liner can be. Good for him.
- Speaking of “good for him,” I smiled when I saw that Stephane Robidas inked a three-year, $9 million contract with Toronto. After two broken legs at the age of 37, I was nervous about his future. I saw Robi in the press box during the Anaheim series here in Dallas and he told me his family was moving home to Quebec and he was going to focus on coming back and getting one more contract. I’m thrilled for him, as he will be close in proximity to his wife and kids and gives them security for the future. Oh, and the Leafs are getting a player with the most heart I have ever seen. Robidas puts the “professional” in pro hockey.
- Brad Richards signed a one-year, $2 million deal with Chicago after being bought out by the Rangers last week. This tells me one thing (well, two) – Richie wants another Cup and he is willing to roll the dice and bounce back with a solid year to get one more good contract before his playing career is done.
- Jarome Iginla signed a three-year, $16 million contract with Colorado. He’s 37, but he also scored 30 goals and 61 points last season in Boston. Three words: he ain’t done.
- Most underrated move from Tuesday: how about Thomas Vanek to Minnesota for three-years, $19.5 million? I’m a big fan of his game and he will add a lot to the Wild, who continue to fly under the radar in the West.
- Former Stars GM Doug Armstrong landed the proverbial big fish for St. Louis in center Paul Stastny (four years, $28 million). It probably didn’t hurt that Stastny grew up in St. Louis when his father played there, but Army is making no apologies.
- St. Louis had the money when goalie Ryan Miller decided to take his talents (is that even OK to say in the NHL) to the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver to the tune of three-years, $18 million. This just in: Van likes to sign goalies. For their sake, let’s hope this one works out better than Roberto.
- Second-most underrated signing (which actually took place last Monday): Marian Gaborik decided to stay with the Kings and not test free agency with a seven-year, $34.3 million deal. You have to admire his courage.