The Stars were one of the few teams that made some moves on day one of free agency. While the Avalenche in my mind not only made the most noise but also made the best moves, the Stars in my summation didn’t do so bad themselves. Let’s take a look at each of the two players they picked up in short order. Starting with the least important piece…
Aaron Rome is a physical defenseman who is likely most famous outside of Vancouver for his hit on Nathan Horton back in the 2010-2011 playoffs. It was a truly dirty hit and it is unfortunate that that is what most people will immediately think about. As far as I can tell Vancouver fans are largely happy to get rid of him, siting their Coaches penchant for giving him too much ice time and the turn overs that were a result. I personally can’t pretend to know what the truth is. No offense to the majority of the Between the Bench readers who are likely Canadian, but I tend to take theories of the fans of Canadian teams with a grain of salt. Too passionate is usually an understatement. But then again, I’m one to talk as I sit here pouring over a Texas-based hockey club, right?
He isn’t going to score goals or even get assists for that matter, but before last season where he saw the key stats drop – he was a solid physical defenseman on the bottom rung of a strong Vancouver blue line. He was hitting and he was blocking shots and I think that given his contract length he will have no choice but to pick those numbers back up for a team that took a chance on him with a 3 year deal. With Souray being signed to a 3 year deal by the Ducks that certainly leaves a hole – but isn’t that going to be filled by Brendan Dillon?
So, what is the grade I would give the trade?
I would love to give the move a higher grade, considering any depth on the blue line is likely a good thing. But I simply think that this leaves very little room for Dallas to make moves for the blue line and for what? He’s a bottom group defender with a very linear set of skills that has seen a dip in the previous season. Take a look at the current defenders for the team. I will include Brendan Dillon in the mix as in recent interviews Joe Neiuwendyk has made comments about Dillon specifically getting his shot in the NHL. These duo’s are in no real order.
Robidas – Goligoski
Daley – Larsen
Dillon – Rome/Fistric/Pardy
As Neuiwendyk says, that puts 8 defenders on the roster. At some point they need to solidify their 3rd pairing and leave the revolving door closed for once. Fistric and Pardy could never get traction because they were swapped in and out of the line-up so much and it looks like with Rome also looking to fill that bottom pairing slot it is only going to be more crowded. He is in theory replacing the hole that Souray is leaving, but Souray had a prominent roll on the defense core and wasn’t making that bottom pair so clustered. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to have an NHL-quality defenseman in the stands ready to step in if someone is injured or simply is playing miserable for an extended period of time. But the coaching staff showed even less patience than Marc Crawford did. That is one of the main things that plagued their first term as the new coaching staff of the Dallas Stars as I state in my previous article when I graded Glen Gulutzan’s performance.
I can’t see the purpose of paying a guy 1.5 million for 3 consecutive years if you’re going to sit him on the bench the entire time. Then again, I said the same thing about Adam Pardy’s 2 year contract worth 2 million per year as well. And look what happened there. I can’t honestly say we don’t need a physical defenseman on the back end, because where I was once a huge fan of Fistric, I didn’t see enough of him last season to really keep my affection for his play strong. But I can’t see how Rome really helps beyond that fact either.
But, Aaron Rome joining the back end of the Dallas Stars for the next three years was not the only move the Stars made on the first day of Free Agent. No, this July 1st we saw two signings.
Despite his age, the 40-year-old forward was likely the highest profile signing of the day. Coming off of an amazing season with the Phoenix Coyotes that saw him score 77 points during the regular season then help lift the desert dogs to their first appearance in the Conference Finals ever, seeing what he would go for on the open market was an interesting prospect to think about. Little did we know that the Dallas Stars would be solving that riddle themselves with a 9 million dollar payout over 2 years. Reportedly, that is 4 million per year with up to 1 million in total bonus based on performance.
Is it too much? I guess that depends on how you look at it. If you ignore the age all together and look at his numbers alone – then no, absolutely not. This is a free agency of inflation and as the highest scoring forward on the list, a 4-4.5 million dollar payout is actually pretty modest. But if you see him as a 40 year old who probably won’t hit that milestone again then the answer is a definitive, “yes”. The question is, how do you see it personally? Because, the Stars have already made it clear that they see it as putting 4.5 million dollars on a man who scored 77 points – higher than Dallas Leading scorer Loui Eriksson by 6 points.
The real question that everyone is wondering vigorously about is, what does Brian think…?
I really wanted to put this as an A-, but the price tag was simply too steep to love the move that much. It’s true that the Stars have to hit the cap floor at the very least. It is also true and understandable that this free agent class is going to see inflation out the wazoo thanks to how thin it is and how needy the teams are regardless of that fact. But, call me a fan first and a writer second, but he is a 40 year old and that inherently makes him a crap shoot. That said, if you ignore his numbers from last season then you are missing out on a very solid season for a man of any age – let alone a 40 year old. With 77 points and a plus/minus rating of +26, Ray Whitney lead his team in scoring and pulled them along all the way to the Western Conference finals before they were trounced by the eventual Cup winners.
But I think an important way to look at this is as a filler for the hole that the Ribeiro trade left in the team’s scoring depth. Ribeiro put up a solid 63 points (18g, 45a) and was a “meh” +5 on the season. Whitney put up 77 points (24g, 53a) and a +26. Obviously those are upgrades, especially where the +26 is concerned. That certainly fills the hole Ribeiro left, even if Whitney does fall off a bit due to his age. In addition they won’t be playing Whitney at center. Which may seem like a problem, considering that even with the point production of Ribeiro replaced, you can’t simply add a bunch of wingers and hope that nobody notices your distinct lack of players on the faceoff dots. But, in a way it is. Whitney is a playmaker, even ignoring his 24 goals last season he had an astounding 53 assists and is known as a playmaking winger. Something the Dallas Stars will definitely need considering the nature of their current line-up of shooters and grit players.
I’m certainly not sold on the idea of him being on Benn’s wing, but I certainly could see Benn scoring 30+ this season pretty easy with him there. At the end of the day, the Stars still need more depth in the forward core and that was never limited to the center position – that was simply the most glaring hole on the roster. This is Dallas signing someone who is likely to put up 60 or so points this year and will be a player who can make the players around him better, rather than being a player like Ribeiro who requires the best players be around him to succeed. Something a lot of people may not line up right away, but I have a feeling once they see this 40 year old in action the people who aren’t so keen on this move will understand rather quickly.
In closing, the first day of free agency was a bore across the league. But most of the big names are still out there and other than being completely out of the Parise parade and almost definitely never a contender in the race for Suter, players like Semin out there that could certainly help the forward situation a ton (in my opinion) there is still some players out there that could upgrade the roster. I look forward to more free agent happenings and hope that the Stars keep making plays. What do you guys think of the new additions?
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