On Wednesday afternoon the story broke that Dallas Stars center Derek Roy, acquired last week from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy, underwent shoulder surgery. Roy will likely be out of the lineup until November as he recovers from the procedure.
The news is a tough pill to swallow for Stars fans, as Roy was added to the team at the loss of fan favourite Ott, and is expected to replace another former fan favourite, recently traded Mike Ribeiro, as the team’s second line center.
Barring a delayed start to the season due to prolonged CBA negotiations, Roy will likely miss Dallas’ training camp, preseason, and the first month or two of the regular season. And considering how narrowly the Stars have missed the playoffs the last few years, getting points in all months of the season is incredibly important.
Compounding matters is that Roy is in the final year of his contract and could become an unrestricted free agent at years end, while Ott is signed through to the end of 2014. If Roy misses a large chunk of the season and departs as a free agent, it could cost Dallas a key core piece for a short-lived rental.
But that being said, the pendulum swings both ways, and this is not a move without it’s potential benefits for the Stars.
At 100% health, Roy is a dangerous offensive weapon. He had 35 points in 35 games for the Sabres in 2010-2011 before suffering the torn quad tendon that ended his season, albeit for one playoff game. He was especially effective on the powerplay that year, with 14 powerplay points in those 35 games, a breath of fresh air for a Stars PP that went dead last in 2011-2012.
Last season, however, was not nearly as productive, as Roy played through his injury but only managed to score 44 points in 80 games, well below the 60-80 point pace that he had been consistently achieving the five years prior.
By electing to have surgery and sacrificing a couple months worth of play, the Stars are hoping to get the healthy, point-per-game Roy on their team, opposed to the injured and underachieving one that the Sabres had last year. Although it must still be said that there is no guarantee that Roy will ever be capable of returning to the player he was before the injury, he will have a much better shot at reclaiming that level of play after going through with the surgery. And at only 29 years of age he still has a lot of good hockey years left in him.
By allowing Roy to have the surgery it shows that the Stars have a vested interest in the long term capabilities of the 5’9″ center, and likely plan on extending his tenure with the team. Whether this act of good faith will overpower the allure of a bigger payday on the free agent market at this time next year remains to be seen.
While Roy watches his new team from the press box it will also open up an interesting competition for the role of interim second line center, with Cody Eakin and Tom Wandell the main competitors. Eakin, 21, was dominant in junior and has second line potential, but might not yet be ready for the role, while Wandell, 25, had a brief stint in that spot last year and is fighting for his place on the roster against an oncoming influx of talented prospects.
The Roy trade was a big risk for the Stars from the get-go, and has only increased with this latest news. But the Stars have put all their chips into the pot now, and it will be months until the cards are on the table and the team knows if they lose it all or manage to win big.
The Stars gambled in 2010 by trading for the injury prone goaltender Kari Lehtonen and keeping him in favour of veteran Marty Turco, but it turned out to be a move that has already paid huge dividends for the club. With the importance of a playoff berth more important now than ever before for the success of this franchise, the Stars are hoping to hit the jackpot once again.