Stars 5 Potential Trade Partners for Jamie Oleksiak

Are we being too impatient or is Jamie Oleksiak destined to fall short of his potential?  The Stars drafted the hulking 6’7 250 defenseman in the 1st round (14th overall) in 2011.  Still just 22 years old, the Toronto native, has yet to seize the opportunity to solidify a top 6 spot on the Stars defense.

The physical tools are undeniable.  Oleksiak’s shot and skating ability are above average and his reach allows for a tremendous advantage if used properly.  However, his physical play tends to waver between inconsistent and invisible.  Personally, I’m not a big believer in professional aged players making huge strides in developing the physical side of their game.  You either have it or you don’t.  See Derian Hatcher and Scott Stevens.

Stars Oleksiak’s 2014-15 Review

The 2014-15 season marked his 3rd consecutive season of shuttling back and forth between Dallas and Cedar Park.  From a progression standpoint, it also provided the largest sample size of NHL experience in his 3 seasons.

Games 36, 1g, 7a, 0 plus/minus rating and 8 pims. (Dallas Stars)

Games 35, 4g, 12a, +26 plus/minus and 12 pims. (Texas Stars)

At first glance these are rather pedestrian numbers for a former 14th overall NHL Draft pick.  To me the most concerning stat above is the combined 20 pims.  That is a Lady Bing-like pace for a player nicknamed “The Big Rig.”

Oleksiak’s advanced stats were also poor.  Of the 12 defensemen who played for the Dallas Stars last season only Trevor Daley had a worse on-ice scoring chances differential (Oleksiak was minus 31 while Daley was minus 52}.  Stats are per war-on-ice.com:

Name SC+/-
Alex.Goligoski 194
Jason.Demers 128
John.Klingberg 112
Jordie.Benn 87
Patrik.Nemeth 31
Jyrki.Jokipakka 16
Sergei.Gonchar 0
Brenden.Dillon -1
Kevin.Connauton -2
David.Schlemko -19
Jamie.Oleksiak -31
Trevor.Daley -52

On the positive side his +26 with Texas easily led the team, in fact no other Texas Stars defenseman was able to reach +10.  Oleksiak supporters could argue the plus/minus results are more valuable than his lack of physicality.

 

Further clouding Oleksiak’s AHL performance assessment was a disappointing first round playoff exit.  The Stars were swept 3-0 by the Rockford Ice Hogs and Oleksiak (0g, 0a) had a -5 plus/minus which was tied for worst on the team.  As Stephen Meserve reported for 100degreehockey, Oleksiak closed the season with a feeble effort defending Rockford’s Stephen Johns on the series clinching overtime goal in game 3.

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2011 NHL Draft

Coming into the 2011 NHL Draft many had Oleksiak pegged as a future top pair defenseman.  The Boston Bruins had just won the Cup and their captain, 6’9 255 defenseman Zdeno Chara, was a big reason for their success.  Oleksiak’s coach at Northeastern Greg Cronin, coached a young Zdeno Chara with NYI.  Naturally this led to Oleksiak and Chara comparisons.

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“I saw Chara play at that age and Oleksiak is way more developed and does possess better coordination than Chara had,” Craig Button told NHL.com. “A 6-foot-7 defenseman with the skill of Oleksiak doesn’t come very often. There’s a big development window in front of him. I could see three or four years down the road, NHL teams that passed on him might be saying ‘We should have taken him.'”

An Updated Assessment

Now 5 years later, THW caught up with Craig Button and asked if Oleksiak’s potential developmental ceiling has changed?  Does he still have another level of development to reach or will he plateau at say a Hal Gill level instead?

“The key in assessing any 18 year old player in draft is to look at the qualities & attributes that translate to the NHL. Then to assess what is truly developmental in his game, understand it, implement it and be patient. All of those working in unison. Every player develops at a different rate. As for Jamie, he has attributes that are of NHL quality and IMO can be a solid player in the NHL. He may not be Chara but he very well could be a Jonathan Ericsson.  Have to keep working with him as long as he is putting in time and effort and be patient.”

Where Will Oleksiak Play in 2015-16?

In no particular order..

Dallas Stars
Oleksiak is a Restricted Free Agent.  This means the Stars have until June 30th to extend a qualifying offer which would be a one year deal at 105 percent of his salary from last season.  That would mean a cap hit of about $875k.
Jamie Oleksiak is making his case that he is NHL-ready thanks to strong play recently (Josh Rasmussen / Texas Stars)
Jamie Oleksiak is making his case that he is NHL-ready thanks to strong play recently (Josh Rasmussen / Texas Stars)
The money is certainly reasonable but does he deserve a raise?  And perhaps more importantly do the Stars have room for him?  Currently the Stars have 5 defenseman under contract for 2015-16 and have Patrick Nemeth and Jyrki Jokipakka to sign.  They also have top prospects Esa Lindell and Julius Honka signed beyond next season.
New York Islanders
Oleksiak’s former Northeastern coach, Greg Cronin, is back with the New York Islanders.  Clearly some time has passed but there was a lot of mutual respect between the two.  The Islanders also have a young RFA defenseman in 25-year-old Matt Donovan who is from Edmond, Oklahoma.  Perhaps the two could be part of a larger deal involving draft picks or other prospects.
Carolina Hurricanes
After moving veteran defensemen Andrej Sekera and Tim Gleason the Hurricanes are in need of blue line help.  Justin Faulk is really the only significant piece on their defense.  Former Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk drafted Oleksiak and has been working remotely from Dallas as a pro scout/advisor for the Hurricanes for the past year.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Another team reportedly in the market for defensemen.  Last season the Blue Jackets quietly claimed Stars defenseman Kevin Connauton off waivers and it turned out to be a great fit.  Columbus pro scout Sam McMaster was very high on Connauton according to Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen.
 
Edmonton Oilers
(Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)
(Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports)
After winning the 2015 NHL Draft lottery the Oilers are suddenly overflowing with top-tier offensive talent upfront.  They are almost certain to flip a forward for a defenseman or two this off-season.  Newly appointed GM Peter Chiarelli was part of the Ottawa Senators management team that acquired Zdeno Chara from the Islanders.  As hockey fans well know Chiarelli later went on to sign Chara for Boston.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf  (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (Photo Credit: Andy Martin Jr)
The obligatory Dion Phaneuf trade reference.  Consider Oleksiak’s hometown roots of Toronto and the Maple Leafs willingness to blow up their current roster and rebuild and this one may not be so far-fetched.  Of course, Phaneuf has a limited no trade clause which may or may not include Dallas, and 6 years left on a hefty $7M annual cap hit contract.
Where do you think Oleksiak will end up next season?

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Ed Sarno is a Dallas Stars staff writer for The Hockey Writers. You can follow him on Twitter @Edtexmass09.