It may have come somewhat out of the blue, but for the Dallas Stars, signing defenseman Trevor Daley
on Wednesday to a long-term contract extension was a high priority for General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk.
The 27-year-old Daley, skating in his seventh season for the Stars, has continued to grow into a valuable member of the club’s core and the six-year deal worth $19.8 million (a salary cap hit of $3.3 million per year) that kicks in next season prevents him from testing the open market as an unrestricted free agent next July.
“Trevor is a big part of our team and an important member of our blue line,” said Nieuwendyk. “We feel his career is pointing up. We expect him to continue to develop and grow as he takes an even bigger role on our team. We are pleased to have him under contract for another six seasons.”
“It’s a great feeling to know that they like you around here, so to start off with, I was pretty excited about that,” said Daley, who was the Stars’ second round selection (43rd overall) in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft. “To spend another six years in this dressing room is special in its own right. The atmosphere that Joe’s trying to build around here is pretty good and I’m looking forward to being a part of that. It’s a great feeling. I’m excited about it, my family’s excited about it. It should be fun.”
The smooth-skating 5-foot-11, 205-pound Toronto native is enjoying another strong season in 2010-11, taking on the role of a top-three blueliner who plays in all situations. Through 39 games, Daley ranks second on the team in ice time, averaging 22:53 per contest and his 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) are second to Stephane Robidas
among club defensemen. He also ranks third on the squad with a solid +9 plus/minus rating, and his 53 blocked shots are third on the team, too. Additionally, Daley leads Dallas blue liners with 55 shots on goal.
“When you sign a long-term deal, six years is a long period of time and it says that you’re going to be one of the people that we’re going to be building around and you’re a focal point of our club,” noted Stars coach Marc Crawford. “Trevor’s a guy that plays a lot of minutes, he’s a great skater, and he’s continued to get better each and every year that he’s played. His ability to play against top people and better players in this league has continued to improve and I think offensively, he shows good ability.”
“It’s well-deserved, I think he’s a big part of this organization, a young guy that’s up-and-coming,” added Stars assistant coach Charlie Huddy, who primarily handles the defensemen. “He seems to be getting better. This is only my second year and I think he’s improved a lot from last year and he’s going to keep getting better for us. I think it shows good commitment by the team signing some young guys to keep them around and build a strong foundation. That’s what you need. Some guys who are going to be around for a while are going to be good warriors for us.”
Not surprisingly, Daley’s teammates recognize his importance to the club’s performance and endorse the move enthusiastically.
“It’s great news, I think, for everybody,” said Robidas, 33, the squad’s de facto leader on the blue line. “He’s a big part of our team and we know he’s unrestricted at the end of the year and that he probably left some money on the table, because he probably could have gotten a lot more in free agency. But he likes it here and he wants to be a part of this team and that’s a big step for this organization.”
As a player who entered the NHL as somewhat of a dynamic offensive defenseman, Daley has continually refined the defensive aspect of his game as a pro, developing into a solid two-way player who contributes at both ends of the rink.
“I think his penalty killing has been a lot better, but I just think his D-zone (coverage) has been a lot better,” Huddy said. “We all know that he can skate and make plays and get up ice, but I think defensively, he’s improved a lot, even last year as it wore on and this year too, so I think putting it all together makes for a good package.”
“He’s been great,” Robidas added. “Since he came into the league, he’s been really good. He’s improved a lot and has been doing a lot of good things, a lot of little things that sometimes go unnoticed on the scoresheet, but he’s moving the puck real well, he’s using his feet. He’s a great skater, he can defend real well, he can play power play, he can play PK. He can play in all situations, he can stop opposing lines - it’s tough to find a guy that can do all that. I think at the price we got him, it’s really good.”
And the great thing about locking in a player who is still evolving as he enters the prime of his career is that there is still plenty of room for him to continue growing.
“We still think that there’s still upside to his game,” said Crawford. “He’s still relatively young in terms of defensemen - most defensemen start to get very good in their 26-27-28-29 age range and that’s what he’s just entering. We hope there’s still some upswing in his play, and we think that for him to be able to play and contribute to us is a given, so that’s the reason why he’s been signed to such a long-term deal, and we’re really pleased that he’s decided to invest in us the same way that the Stars have invested in him.”
As he’s assumed more responsibility on a fairly young blue line, Daley keeps nudging his way up the depth chart and while he’s happy with his progress over the years, he also believes he still has his best days ahead of him.
“Just taking steps, trying to keep going, trying to keep improving every night and every year, as I get a little bit older and wiser,” Daley said of his current mindset. “There’s still a long way to go and I’m looking forward to doing that here.”