In just over one week, the Dallas Stars have traded away the franchise’s longtime captain, the club’s current leading scorer and a player the team got in an offseason deal that sent a fan favorite to the Eastern Conference.
Of course, Stars fans by now know that the first domino to fall came last Sunday when Dallas announced that captain Brenden Morrow had been dealt to Pittsburgh for minor-league defenseman Joe Morrow and a draft pick.
And by now, local hockey backers know that Jaromir Jagr will be heading to Boston and that center Derek Roy, who was acquired in a summer trade with Buffalo for the gritty and fan favorite Steve Ott, is headed to Vancouver with prospects coming back to the Stars in both deals.
Some Stars fans might lament the fact that these deals illustrate that the organization’s brass feel this year’s club as it was constructed had little chance of ending a playoff dry spell that extends back to the 2007-08 season. The team played poorly in back-to-back losses — on Sunday they lost 3-2 to the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings, and on Monday they lost 4-0 to the Anaheim Ducks — should anyone who follows this team closely really be surprised?
On one hand, after the Morrow trade, there was some thought that if the Stars made additional moves that they would come closer to the deadline. After all, Morrow was an unrestricted free agent at season’s end and it was clear that No. 10 didn’t fit into their future plans, so seeing him dealt to the Pens was no shocker in the least.
And after a lackluster showing against the Kings, one that led Stars second-year head coach Glen Gulutzan to call out his team in advance of Monday’s visit from the Ducks, a game where the Stars responded but in the end fell considerably short, giving up three goals in less than five minutes in the second period of a 4-0 loss, the writing was on the wall that Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk would be making additional moves prior to Wednesday’s trade deadline.
Jagr was great during his short time in Dallas, leading the team in scoring, being a great presence on the ice as well as in the room. Stars fans even got to see a bit of history as No. 68 got career assist No. 1,000, just the 12th player in NHL history to do so, in last Friday’s win over the Minnesota Wild.
There had been talk of possibly extending the 41-year-old Czech-born forward, who was on a one-year deal. But when Nieuwendyk addressed a small gaggle of media during the second intermission of the Anaheim game on Monday, it was clear that little to no progress had been made in securing extensions for either Jagr or Roy.
Jagr heads back to the Eastern Conference, a group of clubs he is more than a little bit familiar with as he hadn’t skated in the Western Conference before coming to Dallas. Boston is currently among the top five in the East and adding a player like Jagr could definitely help them out. If the Bruins advance to the East Finals, the second-round pick the Stars got in the trade becomes a first rounder, another bonus to the deal.
As for Roy, the Stars were in a similar boat with the ex-Buffalo centerman that they were in with their now former captain who skates in the Steel City alongside fellow ex-Stars James Neal and Matt Niskanen. Roy’s current contract was up at the end of the season and like Jagr, there wasn’t much progress to speak of when it came to signing him to an extension.
So, Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk did what he had to do, trading Roy to the Canucks for young defenseman Kevin Connauton, who has spent the last two seasons with the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League. Better to deal Roy before the deadline than take the chance of trying to re-sign him once free agency begins in July and have him walk with the Stars getting nothing in return.
Roy now heads to one of the West’s top teams in the Canucks, a club that played for the Stanley Cup not all that long ago, losing to the Bruins. Vancouver remains a contender in the West and adding an experienced center like Roy is definitely a nice piece to be able to add at this time of year for Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault.
One thing to consider is that the Stars now have a total of nine picks in the 2013 NHL Draft, including three in the second round. For a club that has talked about going much younger and has backed that up with the likes of defenseman Brenden Dillon seeing heavy minutes this season at the blueline, Dallas has definitely been stockpiling picks and the second-rounder they acquired from Boston in the Jagr trade could even become a first-rounder with a little luck.
So, it appears that the Stars are now in full-on rebuild mode, a point driven home with the trading of Jagr, Morrow and Roy. Most of us already figured this scenario was inevitable, but now that the rebuild has officially begun, let’s see what these kids can do going forward.