We recently took a look at the best trades that Jim Nill has made in his time with the Dallas Stars. However, do those moves stand up to all of those made in Stars’ history?
Bob Gainey Era (1992-2002)
1995: Stars Acquire Joe Nieuwendyk From the Calgary Flames in Exchange for Jarome Iginla and Corey Millen
This is one of the rare trades in the NHL that worked out perfectly for both teams. The Calgary Flames received their future star while Dallas was able to win their first Stanley Cup in 1999. Joe Nieuwendyk was an integral part of that championship team.
His production was not as high as it was in Calgary, but he added to the offense and was a dominant force in the playoffs. In the 1999 playoffs, he scored 11 goals, including six game-winners. He also added 10 assists as he carried much of the load, while Brett Hull and Mike Modano were both hampered with injuries.
Along with the offense, Nieuwendyk brought a ton of experience with him from Calgary. He had already won the Calder Trophy, played for Team Canada at the 1998 Olympic Games, and won a Stanley Cup. That type of experience can be the difference when it comes to playoff success. He added a Conn Smythe Trophy to his resume being named the most valuable player of the playoffs in 1999.
Unfortunately, he was also part of what is said to be the worst trade in Stars’ history. In 2002, he was traded along with Jamie Langenbrunner to the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Jason Arnott and Randy Mckay. Langenbrunner and Nieuwendyk went on to win the Stanley Cup in 2003, while the Stars did not receive much from their acquisitions.
Nieuwendyk was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011.
1995: Stars Acquire Guy Carbonneau From the St. Louis Blues in Exchange for Paul Broten
Guy Carbonneau may have flown under the radar as his stats were nothing impressive. However, similar to Andrew Cogliano and Blake Comeau of today’s Stars, he made his biggest impact in other areas of the ice.
He was a part of the gritty third line on the dominant Stars for five seasons. He was the best example of the Stars’ defense-first hockey that allowed them to win their first championship and nearly repeat the following year.
In his career, Carbonneau was a three-time Selke Award winner for the league’s best defensive forward. He was known to be the best player along the boards, shut down the opponents’ top players, and do everything possible to win the game.
He consistently proved his worth being matched up against some of the greatest of all time, like Peter Forsberg in intense playoff series. Not only did he provide that style of play for Dallas, but he was a huge part of the learning process for young players like Modano. He also brought a much-needed veteran presence with nearly 1,000 games and two Stanley Cups under his belt that proved vital to the success of the Stars.
Carbonneau was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019.
1996: Stars Acquire Sergei Zubov From the Pittsburgh Penguins in Exchange for Kevin Hatcher
Sergei Zubov was a special type of defenseman. He had incredible mobility and vision that was not common like it is in today’s game. Similar to Miro Heiskanen, Zubov was able to make passes, find shooting lanes, and make plays that other players simply could not.
Zubov scored over 40 points in 10 of his 12 seasons with Dallas. After the lockout in 1994-1995, the NHL removed a rule that probably should have never been there in the first place, the “two-line pass” rule. Now allowed to make passes from anywhere on the ice, Zubov took off and perfected the breakaway pass, constantly sending teammates in alone on the opposing netminders. He posted 13 points in the 1999 playoffs helping the Stars capture their first Stanley Cup.
In his career, he had seasons with 89 and 71 points with both New York and Dallas, ending his career as the all-time NHL scoring leader for the Russian-born defenseman. There is little doubt that his number 56 will hang in the rafters at the American Airlines Center someday. He was also inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019.
Doug Armstrong Era (2002-2007)
2007: Stars Acquire 2007 Fifth-Round Pick (128th overall), 2007 Fifth-Round Pick (129th overall), and 2007 Fifth-Round Pick (149th overall) From the Columbus Blue Jackets in Exchange for 2007 Fourth-Round pick (94th overall)
At first glance, this trade may not seem important at all. However, with that 129th overall pick, the Stars selected one Jamie Benn.
Benn made his NHL debut for Dallas in the 2009-10 season. He recorded 41 points in his first full season and increased his output every season after that. His finest moment came in 2013 when the Stars named him the sixth captain in Stars history.
Benn is a player who leads by example, playing the type of style that helps his team win games. His teammates consistently speak highly of him and follow his lead. He is known to go into what Stars’ fans call “Beast Mode,” where he looks to be the most dominant player on the ice, hitting everything that moves and usually finishing with the puck in the back of the net.
His offensive production grew when he found instant chemistry with the recently acquired Tyler Seguin in 2013. He has been near the top of the team in scoring consistently and even won the Art Ross Trophy in the 2014-15 season for leading the league in points. He went on to better himself with 41 goals and 89 points the following season, his career-high in both.
His points have decreased over the last couple of seasons as he has led his team in their more defensive-minded approach. Benn and the Stars reached their highest point in the 2019-20 COVID inflicted season, where they were just two wins shy of winning their second Stanley Cup in franchise history in the Edmonton bubble. He picked up his 400th career assist this season and has 709 points in 850 games. Benn is the backbone of the Stars and leads them in just about every way possible.
Jim Nill Era (2013-Present)
2013: Stars Acquire Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, and Ryan Button From the Boston Bruins in Exchange for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser, and Joe Morrow
Jim Nill started off his time in Dallas with a bang. In perhaps the biggest trade for Dallas of all time, they acquired their future number-one center, Seguin. Seguin has led them in scoring nearly every season since coming to Dallas, including multiple 30-goal seasons and one 40-goal campaign in 2017-2018.
He transformed into a true number-one center when he changed his style of play, similar to what Modano did to help the Stars win their only Stanley Cup in 1999. He became a two-way player.
He is the Stars’ best faceoff man at 52%, leads the team in shots, and even contributes to the penalty-kill. He is also a massive part of the power play and leads the Stars with 43 game-winning goals since 2013. On top of all of that, he is also the Stars’ best option in the shootout at 50%, which is far above the next best. He has shown the ability to make a difference every season in every area of the game.
2017: Stars Acquire 2017 First-Round Pick (26th overall) From the Chicago Blackhawks in Exchange for 2017 First-Round Pick (29th overall) and 2017 Third-Round Pick
This is another trade that does not look like much until you look at what players the Stars selected with those picks. The Stars knew who they wanted to draft and traded up a few spots to select Jake Oettinger 26th overall.
Oettinger has shown his skill this season, replacing the injured Ben Bishop while splitting time with Anton Khudobin. He has a 6-5-6 record with a .917 save percentage and 2.29 GAA. The most promising part of his game is his overall calming presence in the net. He allows his team to play their game in front of them with the confidence that he will bail them out when they break down. That is a rare trait in a goaltender and even more so in a rookie.
Nill was clearly sure that Oettinger would be their future when he traded up to pick him, but I do not believe that anybody expected him to be as NHL-ready as he has been this season.
I know that it is bold to choose a rookie as one of the greatest trades of all time, but I truly believe that Oettinger will be a superstar goalie for Dallas for many years to come. They have been searching for a young goalie to be their long-term solution, and I believe that Oettinger is it.
The Stars have made many big trades in their history. Some have been excellent, and some have worked out poorly for them. While the first three on this list led the Stars’ first-ever Stanley Cup in 1999, it may be that the last three will be what leads to the second Stanley Cup deep in the heart of Texas.
Sam Nestler is a Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the NHL and NCAA. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!