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Stars add assets in exchange for free-agent-to-be Grossman

by John Tranchina / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars, while keeping an eye on the present, looked towards the future as well on Thursday, trading 27-year-old defenseman Nicklas Grossman to Philadelphia in exchange for two draft picks, a second-rounder in 2012 and a third-rounder in 2013.

It was a good return for a blueliner who was slated to become an unrestricted free agent this coming summer and wasn’t likely to re-sign here. General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk indicated that in addition to wanting to get something in return for a guy who was likely to walk away for nothing in July, the deal was also made to give other players on the roster, and within the organization, more chances to earn ice time going forward.

“Well, obviously when guys have contracts and they’re nearing their end, you make decisions on going forward,” noted Nieuwendyk. “I think as an organization, we felt that we have some depth at that position now, which we hadn’t had in previous years and made the decision to make the deal that we did in order to give not only Mark Fistric more of an opportunity but to get Adam Pardy going and we have some kids that are knocking on the door as well.”

At 6-foot-2, 233 pounds, Fistric is a valuable physical presence who had been squeezed out of the lineup a bit lately, sitting out as a healthy scratch for five of the previous 10 games, while Pardy hadn’t suited up since Jan. 10, a span of 15 games, even heading down to AHL Texas last week on a two-game ‘conditioning stint.’ Meanwhile, the club has a pretty well-stocked group of defense prospects coming in the next couple of seasons as well, so the future should be well-covered.

“I couldn’t say that a year ago at this time or two years ago because the depth of our defense was not what it is today,” Nieuwendyk said of the organization’s overall blueline outlook. “You are going to hear some names in the next year - Patrik Nemeth and (2011 first-rounder Jamie) Oleksiak who we drafted. But I think Mark Fistric has performed really well this year, too, and deserves to at least get the opportunity to play more often and I still believe that there’s a lot of game left in Adam Pardy. So, it’s an area that we’re protected.”

Nieuwendyk did acknowledge that the club had not really engaged in any substantive contract discussions with Grossman or his agent, and with the recent decline in Grossman’s performance, which saw him register a -7 plus/minus rating over his last 12 games for Dallas, opted to go in a different direction.

“We had initial talks, I think a few months ago, three months ago, but we didn’t have any after that to be honest with you,” said Nieuwendyk. “We kind of watched our team and watched how we were unfolding and made the decision that this was the best thing for us moving forward.”

Apparently, several teams had inquired about Grossman’s availability, and Nieuwendyk liked the Flyers’ offer the best.

“Well, I’ve had discussions with a number of teams over the past couple of months,” Nieuwendyk admitted. “Nick being the player that he is, was a sought-after guy for a lot of teams. I think it just kind of came together with Philadelphia today over a few days. We wish him luck. It’s a good fit for him.”

The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Grossman was in his fifth season with the Stars and had skated in 52 games this season, leading the club with 100 blocked shots, while recording five assists and an overall plus/minus of 0. Dallas’ second round selection, 56th overall, in 2004, Grossman played one year in the Swedish Elite League before coming over to join the Stars’ previous AHL affiliate in Iowa in 2005-06 and has been a valued member of the organization since.

“I’ll start by thanking Nick Grossman for all his years of service here in a Dallas Stars uniform,” Nieuwendyk said. “He was a drafted player and developed through the system and has just been a tremendous pro all these years and been a good teammate. So, that’s the part that makes it difficult. But he’s a quality person and we wish him luck.”

With the trade deadline just 11 days away and the Stars in the midst of a mini-slump, having gone 1-3-1 in the five games prior to the deal that left them 11th in the Western Conference standings, there were questions about whether the trade signaled that Dallas would be sellers instead of buyers, but Nieuwendyk denied that notion.

“Well, I don’t really like the term and I know everyone wants to talk about that,” Nieuwendyk said. “I just think today is an isolated case and it shows that we’re going to be active. We’re going to look at things that make our hockey club better going forward and if things present themselves that do that, we’ll take a strong look at it. But I think it just shows today that this is not an indication that we’re going to be sellers. This is an indication that we’re going to be active and listen to everybody.”

As for the draft picks, receiving a second-rounder in the 2012 Entry Draft was a big part of the deal as the club continues to build for the future. The selection is actually Los Angeles’ pick and counting the Stars own selections, should give Dallas three choices in the top 50 of a draft that looks to be a deep one.

“I think after going through our scout meetings, they really felt that the top 50, there was a number of good players,” Nieuwendyk confirmed. “So now we have potentially three picks within that top 50, which is key. I think you know well enough by now we are trying to build something here that not only is a good product today but more importantly, we want to compete like the Detroits, like the San Joses, contending for Cups not just bordering on this 7-12 area. We want to be a consistent team.”

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