Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill said he tried to work out a new contract with Alex Goligoski, but the two sides couldn’t reach a deal. So, with Goligoski set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, Nill decided to get something in return before losing the defenseman, trading him to Arizona for a fifth-round pick in next week’s NHL draft.
“We negotiated with him. We made an offer and in the end we just couldn’t agree on terms, which was fine. Negotiations were very well taken on both sides,” Nill said. “In the end, Alex wanted to see what was out there. When I was talking to teams, Arizona showed a lot of interest. So, I called Alex and said, ‘Do you want to go and talk to another team that showed interest in you?’ And he thought that might be a good idea, give him another feel for the market. So, we ended up making the deal with Arizona.”
Goligoski, whom the Stars acquired from Pittsburgh in 2011, played 385 games in five-plus seasons with the Stars, registering 187 points (32 goals, 155 assists). Goligoski, who has played 562 NHL games between Dallas and Pittsburgh, would be one of the top defensemen on the market if he becomes a free agent this summer.
“He’s earned this right. He’s earned this right to become a UFA. I told him I fully understand that,” Nill said. “For him and his family, he needs to see what is the right fit monetarily-wise and team-wise. If there is something that fits, good for him. He was a good player for us.
“I talked to Alex after I traded him, and it’s tough. It’s always hard. He’s been a warrior for us. He was an assistant captain and he meant a lot to our team on and off the ice. He’s a first class individual and a great family man. You wish him all the best, and you never know down the road, the paths could cross again. You never know.”
The trade was the first for new Arizona GM John Chayka, who will try to sign Goligoski before free agency opens on July 1 and add a veteran defenseman to a young Coyotes team.
“I think he’s the perfect fit for our team with where we’re at with our young group of forwards," Chayka told the Coyotes official site. “They need someone who plays the new age of defense, which is transition to offense and getting the puck up to our forwards and joining the rush and supporting the attack. Those are some of the key variables that we see that he brings to the table. And with a team that over the last few years has not been good in defensive metrics, he’s got real history of being strong defensively and good on penalty kill and being used in all situations. He's a very versatile player that our coaching staff would really enjoy.”
The trade of Goligoski now leaves the Stars with three defensemen who are pending unrestricted free agents: Jason Demers, Kris Russell, and Jordie Benn.
“I’ve been talking to them, going through the process,” Nill said. “A lot of them want to see what is out there on July 1. Our team is getting better. The cap is part of the equation, so I’ve got to make things fit within the cap. If there is a fit for us, great. If not, then they have a right to go see what is out on the market.”
The Stars are looking to bring in some youth on the blue line next season, and they have a group of young defensemen ready to step up. Stephen Johns came in late last season and played well. Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak both were on the roster last season, didn’t play a lot and could be ready for bigger roles. Esa Lindell, who is coming off a strong season in the AHL, appears ready to make the jump to the NHL. And Julius Honka, the Stars’ first-round pick in 2014, isn’t that far away. There’s also the option of making a move via free agency or trade. But the plan is to inject some youth on a defense that will also include John Klingberg and Johnny Oduya.
“It’s time for them to start grabbing more of the action,” Nill said. “If nothing happens, we are comfortable going with what we have right now. If there is somebody out there that is a fit for us, great. They’ve got to fit for us as a player and fit for us financially. We’ve got lots of flexibility, and it opens the door for us in other ways.”
Nill also was able to land a draft pick in the deal, pushing the team’s total to six picks for next week’s draft in Buffalo.
“It gives you one more chance at a player. The more opportunities you have, the better chance you have. Could we add some more down the road? We’ll find out,” Nill said. “It’s a funny business. You go to the trade deadline, and you are willing to give up those picks because it gives you a chance to win. Now, when you are closer to the draft you want more picks.”
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.