With the March 5 trade deadline just around the corner, it is time for trade talks and rumors to heat up, playoff hopes to be assessed and rosters to be thoroughly analyzed. It is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of possibilities and hope, but it is important to remember not all trades are meant to have an immediate boost to a team and many trades do not turn out as predicted.
Even with a franchise as relatively young as the Dallas Stars, some trades can be pointed out as overwhelming wins and possibly beginning of something great while others can be pointed out as just the opposite. I went through the Stars’ history of trades since coming to Dallas, and listed the top five trade gifts the Stars have ever received. When I say gifts, I do not necessarily mean the best trades in team history. I am referring to the trades in which the Stars received a real steal of a deal.
5: October 4, 2002- Dallas Stars Trade a 6th Round Pick in 2003 (Drew Bagnall) to the Atlanta Thrashers for Stephane Robidas
Yes, the Stars traded Robidas away a year later, but they saw and liked enough of him to bring Robidas back in 2005 and eventually have him as the default top defenseman on the team. He may not be the ideal top defenseman for a team to build around, but he filled the role exquisitely the past few years considering the circumstances of Dallas’ defensive units. Robidas quarterbacked the power play for a few years and was counted on game after game to shut down the opposition’s best. Additionally, he was instrumental to helping bring Brenden Dillon along. To acquire Robidas’ leadership, durability (until this season) and versatility for a pick that ended up playing a total of two games in the NHL is a steal.
4: September 30, 2006- Dallas Stars Trade Janne Niinimaa and a 5th Round Pick in 2007 (Andrew Conboy) to the Montreal Canadiens for Mike Ribeiro and a 6th Round Pick in 2008 (Matthew Tassone)
The picks in this trade became a wash. Conboy and Tassone never played a game in the NHL, so this basically comes down to Ribeiro for Niinimaa. The Stars traded a sub-par defenseman who left the NHL 41 games later for a top-6 center who registered 407 points in 461 games over six seasons with the Stars. He also added 20 points in 25 playoffs games, 17 of which came in 18 games to help the Stars reach the Western Conference Finals in 2008. He was a key part of the power play, scoring 37 power play goals in his time with Dallas, and he developed a real connection with Brenden Morrow on the ice that led to them becoming a dynamic duo for the Stars.
3: February 9, 2010- Dallas Stars Trade Ivan Vishnevskiy and a 4th Round Pick in 2010 (Ivan Telegin) to the Atlanta Thrashers for Kari Lehtonen
The Stars needed a goalie to carry the torch once Marty Turco’s contract expired in the summer of 2010. As the second overall pick in the 2002 draft, Lehtonen had lots of potential, but he carried the title of being injury-prone with the Thrashers. He played 204 games over five seasons in Atlanta, and he has already played the same amount of games over the past four seasons in Dallas. Lehtonen has since shown that he should be regarded as one of the top 10 goalies in the league. He is averaging a save percentage of .917 and a GAA of 2.57 with Dallas and has posted 11 shutouts. He has stolen victories and single-handedly saved the Stars many nights from scoreboard drubbings due to porous defenses. For the most part, the team sinks or swims based on Lehtonen’s health and play in net. Vishnevskiy never played in the NHL after he was traded, and Telegin spent the past four seasons in the minors.
2: June 23, 2007- Dallas Stars Trade Their 4th Round Pick in 2007 (Maksim Mayorov) to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Three 5th Round Picks in 2007 (Austin Smith, Jamie Benn and Michael Neal)
This analysis of this trade is not over yet… for the Stars. It could eventually take over as the top trade steal in Stars history. Mayorov played only 22 games for Columbus before heading to the KHL this season. Neal and Smith have yet to play an NHL game, but the deciding factor in this trade is Benn. Looking back now, he is arguably the biggest steal of the 2007 draft. The budding star and captain is gaining recognition and respect as his skills and production grow with every passing season. Benn has already tallied 104 goals and 244 points since jumping into the NHL five seasons ago. He played his way onto Team Canada for the 2014 Olympics, and is currently part of one of the most dangerous top lines in the league. And he is only 24.
1: June 22, 1996- Dallas Stars Trade Kevin Hatcher to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Sergei Zubov
Zubov eventually became the best defenseman in Dallas Stars history. It’s as easy as that. Zubov was among the league’s best in puck-handling and quarterbacking the power play, and he helped the Stars win the Cup in 1999. He registered 669 points in 966 games over 12 seasons with Dallas. His calm, slick skating and perfect passing up ice became his signatures, like Modano’s flapping jersey. Since he left for Russia in 2009, the lack of a true, number one defenseman like Zubov has been the Achilles heel of the Stars. Hatcher played five more seasons with three teams and registered 181 points. If the numbers aren’t clear enough, what the Stars gave up in exchange for a franchise defenseman, one who would anchor the team for over a decade, help them win a championship and leave a lasting legacy, is the steal of a lifetime.