The Dallas Stars returned to the ice from their bye week with a 5-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes at American Airlines Center Friday night, but the game was overshadowed by news earlier in the day. The Stars dealt forward Patrick Eaves to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.
"He's one of the most unselfish guys I've ever played with. A great teammate and a great guy. That was tough news to hear," Stars captain Jamie Benn said of the Eaves deal. "We put ourselves in this situation. I wish we hadn't put ourselves in this situation."
With the Stars playoff chances looking slim, GM Jim Nill started to get calls about some of his players, especially those who will be unrestricted free agents this summer. Eaves, who is on an expiring contract and comes with a low salary cap hit, generated a lot of interest from teams that are looking to add a player for a possible playoff run. Nill took the opportunity to look ahead, and grab a future asset.
"My job is to look after the franchise today, tomorrow and in the future. We have to do what's right," Nill said. "This is part of the business, and we've put ourselves in this position. It's going to be an opportunity for somebody else. We are probably going to call some players up as we get going here. It's an opportunity for other players and players know they have to do their jobs."
Eaves was having a career year with the Stars, posting a career-high 21 goals and 37 points in 59 games. That attracted a lot of attention from several teams.
"He's probably been our MVP of the season. He's got 21 goals, played great for us and done a great job," Nill said. "You can put him anywhere in the lineup. He can kill penalties, be on the power play, he does all the little things right in the offensive zone."
The second-round pick in the deal can turn into a first-round pick if Eaves plays in 50 percent of Anaheim's playoff games in the first two rounds and the Ducks advance to the conference finals.
"That was the key," Nill said. "We were talking second-round pick and maybe a prospect, and as we got closer to it, there were other teams involved, and when they were willing to make it a possible first-round pick, that was kind of the last part of the trade."
Players were disappointed to hear the news, knowing that the trade was a result of where they are in the standings.
"It's unfortunate. You almost feel a little bit guilty because it's the product of the season that we've had," said Stars center Jason Spezza. "You lose could people and good players. He's one of the only guys that can say he's had a great year. When you lose a guy like that because of the situation we are in, you've got to look at yourself in the mirror a little bit. It's frustrating to lose a guy like that because you want to be adding this time of year, not subtracting."
Said Stars coach Lindy Ruff, "I think that everybody knows where we're at. Patty has been our most consistent player while fighting through injuries the whole year. We're going to miss him. He does a lot of real good things inside the game. He just plays the game the right way.
"We're going to miss his game, but I'm happy for him and happy he'll get a good opportunity. For us, it's a place you don't want to be, but we know where we're at. I talked to him for a good period of time afterwards. He's excited and disappointed. He likes it here, and he's going to miss not being here."
Nill didn't rule out the possibility of Eaves returning when he hits the free agent market in July.
"We'll wait and see," Nill said. "He's been a great Dallas Star. He and I go way back, and he will be a UFA, so that is something we'll approach down the road. We'll keep an eye on him and see where it goes."
The NHL trade deadline is Wednesday at 2 p.m. Central Time. The Stars have other players on expiring contracts who are expected to generate interest from contenders including forward Patrick Sharp and defenseman Johnny Oduya.
"We're getting down to the last three, four, five days here and there is lots of talk going on," Nill said. "We'll just monitor it and see where it goes."
Stars 5, Coyotes 2
The Stars (24-27-10) came out of their five-day bye week with a 5-2 win over Arizona Friday. The Stars rallied from a 2-1 deficit, scoring four straight goals to put away the Coyotes and win their second straight game. Jamie Benn's slick wrap-around goal at 3:03 of the third period snapped a 2-2 tie and held up as the game-winner.
Devin Shore, John Klingberg, Lauri Korpikoski and Cody Eakin also scored for the Stars, who had 12 different players register points in the game. Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 of 27 shots.
"You have to give the guys a lot of credit," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "I thought they skated well and moved the puck well. I think they took pretty good care of themselves during the time off."
The Coyotes (21-32-7) lost their second straight game.
"That third [Dallas] goal was a big goal," Arizona coach Dave Tippett said. "Benn makes a great play on that, and then we just couldn't generate anything after that. We got to open up a little bit, opened up too much and ended up chasing it."
*The Stars were just the fifth team to win in their first game coming out of the bye week. Teams are 5-12-4 in those games this season.
*The Stars outshot the Coyotes 37-27 and had an 80-55 advantage in shot attempts
*Tyler Seguin led the Stars with seven shots on goal and 13 shot attempts.
*The Stars were 1-6 on the power play and 4-4 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 44 of 74 faceoffs (59 percent). Radek Faksa won 9 of 12 faceoffs (75 percent).
*Esa Lindell had two assists, a plus-two rating and led the Stars with 24:31 of ice time.
The Stars continue their homestand Sunday against the Boston Bruins. Game time is 11:30 a.m. This will be the first meeting of the season between the Stars and Bruins this season.
Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Brett Ritchie
Antoine Roussel - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Sharp
Lauri Korpikoski - Radek Faksa - Jason Spezza
Curtis McKenzie - Devin Shore - Jiri Hudler
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Jordie Benn
Jamie Oleksiak - Stephen Johns
Scratched: Patrik Nemeth
Injured: Johnny Oduya (ankle), Adam Cracknell (lower body), Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee)
This story was not subject to 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.