The Dallas Stars are expected to announce a five-year contract extension for general manager Jim Nill on Friday, according to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News. A five-year extension would put him on the books through the 2022-23 season.
Nill has managed, in his tenure, to build a roster that sits atop the Western Conference and is second in the NHL, halfway through the 2015-16 season. It’s a roster full of talented young players who could be the foundation of a lasting power. He’s created a nice balance of development through the draft on both forward and defense and bringing in talent through free agency and flashy trades.
Brining in Talent
Nill was hired in April 2013 and has made a big mark on the team very quickly, bringing in coach Lindy Ruff and pulling off one of the summer’s bigger trades in each of the last three offseasons. He traded with the Boston Bruins to acquire Tyler Seguin in summer 2013, the Ottawa Senators to acquire Jason Spezza in summer 2014 and the Chicago Blackhawks to acquire Patrick Sharp in summer 2015.
In each case, it looks like history will smile on Nill’s negotiating prowess. Seguin has emerged as one of the league’s top talents. Alex Chiasson, a key piece of the Spezza trade, has the same scoring rate as All-Star enforcer John Scott since the trade. In Chicago, Ryan Garbutt has been snakebit and the team cut bait on Trevor Daley already. Don’t forget, Nill not only got Patrick Sharp in the deal for Garbutt and Daley, but prospect Stephen Johns as well.
He’s also made some moves to improve the team through free agency, like the acquisition of Antti Niemi (he made a trade to acquire negotiating rights) and Johnny Oduya.
Those have been significant moves, making their top six one of the most formidable groups in the NHL, featuring two of the NHL’s scoring leaders in Seguin and Jamie Benn.
Nill has also brought in prospective talent through trades, like with Mattias Janmark, Mattias Backman and Stephen Johns. The first two were acquired in a fleecing of Nill’s former employers, the Detroit Red Wings, when he sent Erik Cole to Detroit in exchange for Janmark, Backman and a second round draft pick.
When you look at the trades he’s made since becoming Stars GM, he’s largely been the winner and other GMs should probably stop answering the phone when he calls.
The talent pipeline has improved under him as well. AHL Texas has been a strong program for the last few years, stocked full of young talent. They also have burgeoning talent elsewhere, like Denis Guryanov in the KHL and Roope Hintz in the Finnish Liiga.
The blue line was once a position of weakness, but has developed into a young group that could be solid with an impressive offensive-minded star in John Klingberg.
While Nill may get credit for the emphasis on development, the young NHL group was largely drafted before his time, including Klingberg, Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth and Jyrki Jokipakka. Even Esa Lindell, one of their top defensive prospects outside of the Nill-drafted Julius Honka, was drafted in the pre-Nill era.
But Nill has done a good deal to make sure that defense isn’t an issue again in the future, through being determined to retain his top defensive prospects despite making a lot of trades. He’s also padded the group through the acquisition of Johns and Backman and bringing in veteran talent like Oduya.
In all, it’s a well-earned extension for a GM who has made the Stars a serious force in a very deep Central Division.
The extension has been made official.
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) January 8, 2016
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.