If there’s one thing that Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill knows well, it’s how to make a huge splash in the summer months.
First, in the summer of 2013 and only months into his GM career, he made a blockbuster trade to acquire Tyler Seguin from the Boston Bruins. He then followed that up by making another blockbuster trade in the summer of 2014, acquiring Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators.
So, suffice to say that Nill had some pretty high expectations to live up to entering the summer of 2015.
And, boy, did he ever.
He kicked things off by trading a 7th round pick for, and then signing, free agent goalie Antti Niemi. He then swung one of the biggest trades of the summer, picking up Patrick Sharp and prospect Stephen Johns from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt.
Nill then masterfully capped off his hat trick of summer splashes on Wednesday, signing free agent defender Johnny Oduya to a two-year deal worth an AAV of $3.75 million.
While none of Nill’s moves this summer had the same heft of the ones he made the prior two, the sum of all the parts is still pretty remarkable nevertheless. Most importantly of all, however, is that the changes that he made this summer put the Stars significantly closer to the upper echelon of NHL teams than they’ve been in years.
Last year’s Stars team was, by all accounts, a disappointment. To even call them “middle of the pack” would be a bit generous considering they finished 19th overall in the NHL.
The 2014-15 team was done in by a few factors. League-basement goaltending. A defense that struggled more than it thrived. A roster that was skewed much more to the inexperienced side of things than it did to the experienced.
All of those issues have been improved upon over the past weeks. Niemi will soon be 32, but his addition gives the Stars two number one-caliber goaltenders that will have the benefit of consistently being fresh. He has one Stanley Cup. Oduya was asked to eat up tough minutes against top competition in this spring’s playoffs and proved himself to still be a defensive stalwart. He now has two Cups. And even though the Stars didn’t need much help in the scoring department (finishing 2nd in the entire NHL in that regard last year), Sharp also brings with him a wealth of playoff experience and the ability to be an integral mentor for the younger players on the team. Oh, and three Stanley Cups.
Adding those players to a roster that already includes Seguin, Spezza, Jamie Benn and a litany of other core players like John Klimgberg, Alex Goligoski, Ales Hemsky and Cody Eakin certainly makes Dallas look, at least on paper, like a team that could cause a serious amount of damage.
For his part, Nill hasn’t been mincing words about what all of these moves mean for the organization and for group of players that he is the current architect of:
“Our ownership has made a strong statement that we want to win now, and I think we’ve really helped change some key positions.” he said recently, as reported by Mike Heika of The Dallas Morning News.
The Stars still have a long hill to climb from where they were last year to becoming one of the league’s top teams, but the changes that they’ve made recently signify that they’re dead set on getting to that point.