Ott trade to Sabres a definite shocker

Mike Ribeiro was the first to go, being traded to Washington on draft night in exchange for young center Cody Eakin on the night of the 2012 NHL Draft. Another Dallas Stars regular and big fan favorite and Steve Ott will now join Ribeiro in the Eastern Conference after being dealt to Buffalo along with defenseman Adam Pardy for Derek Roy, a 29-year-old center who does fill one of the more burning needs for the Stars.

But the trading of Ribeiro and Ott, two members of the club’s core that has been front and center not just during the club’s recent four-year playoff drought but also when the Stars were a perennial playoff team, which wasn’t all that long ago signals a definite paradigm shift in the Dallas front office.

And when new owner Tom Gaglardi took over in November, fans and media alike wondered what sorts of changes would be in the future. Of course, nothing much happened the rest of last season except for the trade of Nicklas Grossmann to the Flyers for a 2012 second-round pick, but many pondered how busy the Stars would be this offseason and the answer to that query is a resounding very as in very busy.

Ott, who just completed his eighth season in the NHL, all of which were spent in Big D, was a fan favorite for a number of reasons. Not only was he one of the more affable and approachable guys on the club, which is saying a lot because the recent Stars teams have been great whether it was on the ice, off the ice or interacting with fans and “Otter” was a big part of the club’s appeal.

However, there was the experiment last year where the Stars expected Ott to become a top-six player. To his credit, he gave that new role his all but just wasn’t the sort of offensive player that Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk thought he’d be. Ott is a lot of things but a top-six rotation guy isn’t what he is and that’s not a bad thing.

During his eight seasons with the Stars, his penchant for chirping and making life hell on other teams was on full display and not only were those capabilities a big part of his skill set on the ice, but they were also largely why fans of Dallas loved him and why other NHL fans despised him.

And even though he proved himself not to be a top-six producer last season, he still could have filled a valuable role on the third or even on the fourth line and knowing what little ego Ott has, either of those roles would have been ones he would he accepted because not only does he love playing and living in Dallas, but he also loves the other guys in the room as well as the organization.

But the fact he made over $3 million last year and that he now appears to be a third or fourth-line player if he is to be used most effectively might be things that made him expendable, fan favorite or not, in the eyes of Stars brass and that is why they traded him to Buffalo on Monday afternoon.

There is also the fact that in acquiring Roy, who is most likely a second-line center, the Stars filled a big need that was left when Ribeiro, who centered the club’s first line last year, was dealt to the Capitals in late June. However, the ex-Sabre doesn’t come to Dallas without some baggage. He comes off a season where he had just 44 points (17-27-44) in 80 games, his first full season after he played just 35 games in 2010-11 after he had surgery for a torn quadriceps tendon suffered in December 2010.

So, the big question is was last year an aberration in terms of Roy’s offensive production as he averaged 70 points a season between 2006-07 and 2009-10 but saw his production drop each of the last two seasons, one of those campaigns of course an injury-shortened one or are his numbers last year more indicative of what sort of production he’ll provide as a Dallas Star.

Then there is the whole issue of the Ottawa native being a free agent at the end of this year. Of course, that could mean the Stars could get something of note in return should they package him in a trade before the NHL trade deadline. But say they decide to hold onto him and he walks in free agency, then the club is left with nothing kind of like what happened when Brad Richards signed with the New York Rangers last summer.

One other interesting aspect of this trade is if Roy is going to center Dallas’ second line then who is line to center the top line? The answer to that could very well be Jamie Benn, a winger by trade who has played his fair share of center over the past year. And even though there seems to be a consensus among those close to the club that the 2012 NHL All-Star might best serve the club as a forward, could he indeed be the No. 1 center this fall? That could very well be the case.

Even with so much intrigue surrounding this deal, with the Stars trading a huge fan favorite in Ott for a guy in Roy who has a recent injury history and who is a free agent at the end of the year, there is another aspect of this trade, a somewhat uncelebrated one at that, the fact that Dallas unloads defenseman Adam Pardy in the process.

Pardy was an affable guy but it was clear from the first time he hit the ice that he wasn’t a great fit as a Star and while he did play in 36 games, he was by far the most lackluster addition Nieuwendyk made last offseason, one that netted Dallas such players as Vernon Fiddler, Eric Nystrom and Michael Ryder among others.

With Sunday’s signing of Aaron Rome from the Canucks, the Stars had eight defensemen and with Nieuwendyk saying the club  is going to give prospect Brenden Dillon a serious push once preseason starts to make the NHL out of camp, the writing was clearly on the wall for Pardy and who knows, maybe heading to Buffalo and playing for current Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff, himself a former NHL defenseman, might be just what the young blueliner needs.

So, as with any trade, we’ll just have to adopt a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to evaluating just how this swap will pan out for the Stars. Hopefully Derek Roy helps this team out, but one aspect of this trade that will be hard to shake is that when the Sabres visit American Airlines Center on March 23, 2013 to face the Stars, Ott will be doing so as a member of the opposition, something that might take more than a little getting used to for local hockey fans.