While a number of the Stars’ Western Conference rivals made moves to improve their clubs, in the end, General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk opted to hold onto guys like Steve Ott
and Sheldon Souray
, keeping the current Dallas roster intact.
Certainly, the fact that the Stars have reeled off four straight victories, including an inspiring 3-2 overtime triumph over NHL-leading Vancouver Sunday, and are 5-1-1 in their last seven games, helped play a role in Nieuwendyk deciding to remain on the sidelines.
“No moves today,” Nieuwendyk announced shortly after the deadline passed at 2 pm Central. “A pretty uneventful day league-wide, it seemed, but our plan has been pretty consistent - we weren’t going to do anything unless it made sense for now and for the future. Nothing in that regard really presented itself. I think it made it challenging in the last few weeks, too, with the way our team has performed and that’s a good thing, because they really stepped up and shown they were here for the fight.”
The Stars’ recent surge has lifted them into the eighth and final playoff spot, just one point back of seventh and three back of sixth, a run that Nieuwendyk noted was a factor in opting not to make a deal.
“It would have made the evaluation a little different for sure, but nothing would have been done whether it was good for us moving forward, whether it was three weeks ago or even today,” Nieuwendyk said, regarding how different his strategy would have been had the Stars remained in 10th or 11th, as they were about two weeks ago. “There’s no doubt that I’ve been pleased with the way we’ve been playing lately. I know we have a tough road ahead, but it’s also a message to this team that we do believe in them and that this group has shown some resiliency.”
Nieuwendyk did acknowledge that he received some fairly attractive offers that had to be considered, but decided not to act on them, declining to be more specific.
“I would say there was a couple of things on the table that took a lot of time to sort through,” he admitted. “But at the end of the day, we had a responsibility to put the best team on the ice right now, to challenge to make the playoffs here, and didn’t want to risk moving anything that would not help us in the return, going into the future.”
There’s little question Ott himself was happy to remain in Dallas, as he put out a tweet seconds after the deadline passed saying, “Time to continue #PeskyStars hockey #playoffbound thanks for all the nice tweets over the last 48 hours!!”
There was actually a flurry of activity by Stars players in the Twitterverse shortly after the deadline passed, with both Ott and Souray expressing relief at remaining with the squad, while several teammates noted how glad they were that the gang wasn’t broken up at all. Perhaps that camaraderie, and desire to keep the group together, contributed to the club’s improved play of late.
“I’m sure if you talked to our players, they were probably a little nervous and uptight about the situation and maybe that focuses you a little bit more,” Nieuwendyk said. “I think there’s been a real commitment to playing for one other and being a real team here the last two or three weeks.”
Meanwhile, a number of other Western Conference clubs made deals, something that could indirectly affect the Stars over the season’s final 19 regular season games.
The West-leading Canucks, who were rumored to be extremely interested in Ott, wound up adding Sami Pahlsson from Columbus instead. Nashville also added a key player as well, with gritty forward Paul Gaustad coming over from Buffalo.
Also, a number of the other clubs battling with the Stars for the final playoff spots in the West were active on the deadline, with San Jose acquiring Daniel Winnik and T.J. Galiardi from Colorado, Chicago dealing for Johnny Oduya from Winnipeg, and Minnesota adding Tom Gilbert, not to mention the Avalanche picking up Steve Downie from Tampa last week and Detroit’s acquisition of Kyle Quincey.
But Nieuwendyk pointed out that the Stars will be adding two more impact players of their own shortly, as key forwards Jamie Benn
and Brenden Morrow
are due to return from injuries over the next week or two.
“The way I look at this deadline is that we’ve got some pretty good players coming back to us in Brenden Morrow
and Jamie Benn
, so let’s not forget about that either,” Nieuwendyk noted. “I think with the boost of energy that Ryan Garbutt
has given us, we have some pieces that are going to helps us going forward here. We’ve talked a lot about the prospects that we have turning pro pretty soon, so we feel really good about the future. And for right now, this team has shown that they’re really committed to each other and they’re going to fight hard to get into the playoffs.”
Nieuwendyk said that Benn, who has missed six straight contests with a lacerated leg, should be back soon, possibly as soon as Wednesday match-up against the Pittsburgh Penguins (6:30 pm start, NBC-SN formerly Versus).
“I think Jamie Benn
is closer, he’ll skate with the team tomorrow, he skated today, and he very well could be a player Wednesday night,” Nieuwendyk said.
Morrow will take a little longer to get back into the lineup after dealing with his ongoing neck/back issue that has kept him on the sidelines for the past 13 contests, but Nieuwendyk is confident that when he does return, it will be the captain that we’ve all become accustomed to.
“Brenden is probably going to start skating at the end of the week and after that point, it’s probably just matter of getting himself into game shape and going from there,” Nieuwendyk said. “I think he looks terrific, I think his mind is at ease now that he’s found out what he needed to do to get ready, which is something different than what he had been doing before, the rehab program. If he comes back and gives us the boost that we expect he will, it’s going to be really good for us.”
As well as the club has performed lately, adding players of that caliber back into the mix could hopefully be the additional spark that helps the Stars ride their momentum into the playoffs.
“Three weeks ago, it was hard to figure out what our team was all about, we were having a lot of difficulties, so that’s encouraging to see how this group, in the absence of Benn and Morrow, how they’ve really come together,” Nieuwendyk said. “I think Mike Ribeiro
and Michael Ryder
and Loui Eriksson
have stepped up and provided what a number one line should provide and we’re getting great minutes always from the Fiddler line. I think Adam Burish
has stepped his game up, I think a lot of other guys have stepped their game up and said, ‘Hey, we got to make a push here.’ We’re in the soup with about five other teams for those final two playoff spots and I think our guys are believing now, now that we’ve beaten a team like Vancouver, that we’re going to be a tough opponent.”