January 10, 2006 Just past the midway point of the 2005-06 NHL season, the Dallas Stars sat in first place in the Pacific Division and one point out of first in the Western Conference. However, rather than standing pat with their roster, the Stars added another solid player to the mix in veteran defenseman Janne Niinimaa.The Stars acquired the 30-year-old defenseman, along with a fifth round draft pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, from the New York Islanders on Tuesday, bolstering the already stout blue line and adding a veteran presence to the locker room.
Dallas did, however, have to part with defenseman John Erskine and a second round draft pick in 2006 in order to acquire Niinimaa. But as the sports cliché goes, you have to give up something to get something.
"Janne is a veteran player who will help upgrade the depth of our defensive corps," said Dallas Stars General Manager Doug Armstrong. "He has a great deal of NHL experience and has proven he can play at a high level in this league. We wish John Erskine the best as he continues his career with the Islanders and we thank him for his solid service as a Dallas Star."
Niinimaa has appeared in 41 games with the Islanders this season, registering one goal and nine assists for 10 points with 62 penalty minutes. The 6-1, 220-pound defenseman has appeared in 678 career NHL games over a nine-year career, notching 52 goals and 258 assists for 310 points with 673 penalty minutes.
"Janne has a proven track record of solid play on both sides of the puck," said Stars Head Coach Dave Tippett. "He moves the puck extremely well and can play in any situation, whether it's on the power play, penalty kill or at full strength. He's capable of skating 20-plus minutes for us and we're excited about adding him to the mix. I am sad to see John Erskine go though, since he's a great kid and has a bright future ahead of him."
Originally drafted by Philadelphia in the second round (No. 36 overall) of the 1993 Entry Draft, Niinimaa has played for Philadelphia (1996-98), Edmonton (1998-03) and the New York Islanders (2003-06). He has appeared in 55 career Stanley Cup Playoffs games, notching three goals and 20 assists for 23 points with 52 PIM. During the 1997 Playoffs, he skated in 19 games and registered 13 points (three goals, 10 assists) as his Flyers club advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. Niinimaa was a member of the 1997 NHL All-Rookie Team while with the Flyers, collecting four goals and a career-high 40 assists for 44 points in 1996-97. He was also named to the 2001 NHL All-Star Game while with Edmonton, when he recorded 12 goals and 34 assists for a career-high 46 points in 2000-01.
A native of Raahe, Finland, Niinimaa represented his country in both the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics and recorded three assists in each tournament. He played for Karpat Oulu in the Finnish Elite League a season ago and was a teammate of current Star Jussi Jokinen. Niinimaa joins fellow Finns Niklas Hagman, Jokinen, Niko Kapanen, Jere Lehtinen and Antti Miettinen on the Stars roster, giving the club an NHL-high six natives of Finland.