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Dallas Stars shoring up the Center position

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Shoring up the center position was a top priority for Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill this offseason and he accomplished that goal Thursday in a blockbuster trade with the Boston Bruins. Nill acquired centers Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley along with defense prospect Ryan Button from Boston for forwards Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and defenseman Joe Morrow.

“We’re excited about it,” said Nill. “Both (Seguin and Peverley) are right-handed shots, which you don’t find a lot of, and this gives a good mix of centers.”

It was a spectacular deal worthy of the Fourth of July, considering the names involved. Seguin is one of the top young players in the game, and was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. Eriksson has been one of Dallas’ top players the last several seasons and is considered one of the league’s most underrated players.

The deal involved big contracts, allowing the Bruins to free up some cap space. Seguin has a new six-year deal kicking in for 2013-14 that carries a $5.75 million cap hit. Peverley has two years left on his contract with a $3.25 million cap hit. Eriksson has three years left on a deal with a $4.25 million cap hit.

“It wasn’t an easy trade for either team to make. We both gave up great players and great assets,” said Nill. “We all know that money is part of the new CBA, so we’ve kept in touch. I think what people need to realize is that we are talking some pretty good players here. I know Tyler Seguin is a big, big part of this trade, a big name plus Rich Peverley. Louis Eriksson, from our end, is a very good player and probably hidden a little bit down here in Dallas. Boston knew that and knew that was a big piece of their puzzle and I know he’s going to be a great fit for Boston.”

The pieces of the puzzle the Stars were looking for involved the center position, and Seguin and Peverley look to be ideal fits. Seguin, a natural center who has been playing wing in Boston, can slot in as the Stars’ No. 1 center and allow the team to move Jamie Benn, who has been playing center, back to his natural position of wing.

“One weakness we had here in Dallas is we had no depth at center ice and this moves Jamie Benn back to the wing and puts everybody in their proper positions and adds depth to our organization,” said Nill.

Added Stars coach Lindy Ruff: “We’re looking for someone who can play with Benn. It’s a position we wanted to fill, it’s a natural position for Tyler and he’s looking forward to playing it.”

The 21-year-old Seguin has 121 points (56 goals, 65 assists) in 203 career games, including 67 points (29 goals, 38 assists) in 81 games in 2011-12 and 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists) in 48 games last season.

Seguin, who won a Stanley Cup with Boston in 2011 and helped them get to the Final again this past season, is looking forward to moving back to center and playing with Benn.

“Very excited and I am looking forward to the opportunity of course. I’m excited to get back to my natural position at center,” Seguin said. “I’ve watched his game, met him at the All-Star Game. He’s a great player and seems to be a great person. I am looking forward to the opportunity to play with him and obviously form new friendships. I’ve definitely seen the guy shoot the puck, so I’ll definitely be looking for him out there.”

The 30-year-old Peverley gives the Stars a versatile forward who can play both center and wing, kill penalties and is an excellent faceoff guy. He has 211 points (77 goals, 134 assists) in 380 NHL games. He’s won 414 of 693 (59.7 percent) faceoffs over the last two seasons.

“He’s a great player,” said Nill. “Very effective player, very versatile, can play any position and is very strong on draws. He is going to add the depth we need at that position for us moving forward.”

The Bruins acquired Peverley from Atlanta prior to the 2011 NHL trade deadline and he helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2011. He’s also played for Nashville during his NHL career and is looking forward to the move to Dallas and is excited about what the Stars are doing.

“I’m really excited about bringing in Tyler, obviously. I’ve been able to play with him the last three years, and he is a dynamic player. He’s incredibly gifted and he’s only going to get better,” Peverley said. “Some of the players they have there, bringing in new management, new coaches. Everyone is going to be motivated to take the team to another level. I am really excited about the opportunity.”

Thursday’s deal with Boston gives the Stars a group of centers that currently consists of Seguin, Peverley, Cody Eakin and Vernon Fiddler. Nill said he would be content going into training camp with that group, but he wouldn’t rule out making additions.

“I think that’s enough, but like I said we’re always looking,” Nill quipped. “I know it’s a lot better than it was an hour ago.”

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