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What is the best trade in Stars history?

by J. Douglas Foster / Dallas Stars

On the road with DotCom

If legendary Texas sports columnist Blackie Sherrod was still scatter shooting every day, he might wonder whose arrival in Dallas caused a bigger buzz this week: Jason Kidd’s, or Barack Obama’s.

Either way, clearly the events of the day revolve around big time trades and an upcoming presidential election. The Mavericks got their guy – or their Kidd – just prior to the NBA’s trading deadline. Dallas got its first look at a presidential hopeful the same week.

We’re not sure just what, if anything, the Dallas Stars are going to do as the NHL trade deadline approaches. But in keeping with the theme (that being big trades and the all-important election year), we’re going to elect a winner of “best trade in Dallas Stars history.”

There’s no primary. No caucuses. No big budget commercials, mudslinging or Dallas Stars national convention to determine the winner. We’ll start with a field of early potential favorites, which eventually drop out until the winner is determined.

Oh yeah – and only one vote matters. Mine. Hey, my favorite journalism teacher told me freedom of the press is truly reserved for those who own the press. Or in this instance, those who have been awarded the Internet platform.

March 10, 2003
Stars acquire Stu Barnes from Buffalo for Mike Ryan and a second-round draft pick
This very likely could be one of the most underrated trades ever pulled off by the Dallas Stars, mostly because Stu Barnes is quietly a better player than he’s ever given credit for.

Since that trade, Ryan  -- who is now 27 – has played a total of 63 NHL games. He’s got seven goals, six assists and is minus 12 with the Sabres. The second round pick acquired by Buffalo has produced no fruit either.

On the flip side, Barnes has played 313 games in a Stars uniform, never failing to play more than 77 of the team’s 82 games in his three full seasons with Dallas. In those 313 games, he’s got 49 goals and 65 assists for 114 points. More importantly, he’s been better than a 50-percent faceoff man for Dallas and is an exceptional penalty killer. You figure in his even-keeled, balanced nature and his leadership abilities, and this trade was a landslide win for the Stars.

Oct. 4, 2002
Stars acquire Stephane Robidas from Atlanta for future considerations

People might overlook this trade because Robidas later left Dallas, only to return as a free agent in the summer of 2005.

But because of this trade, the Stars front office got to know just what kind of player Robidas is. And it was that initial stint in Dallas, no doubt, that led to his return.

The bottom line is this – any time you send away “future considerations” and get in return a 19-minute per night defenseman who is as hard-working and honest as they come, who can play in virtually any situation and with any partner and who is plus 31 in his 304 games in a Dallas uniform – well, you get the picture.

February 17, 1996
Stars acquire Darryl Sydor and a fifth-round pick from Los Angeles for Shane Churla and Doug Zmolek

As much as the bloodthirsty segment of the Stars fan base might have cursed the loss of the ever-popular, pugilistic Churla, this trade brought in one of the most productive defensemen in Stars history.

After leaving Dallas, Churla and Zmolek combined for 290 more NHL games, scoring five goals between them (four by Zmolek) and dishing out 32 assists. That’s 37 combined points in 290 games.

Sydor? Well, his 321 points with the Stars is third most by a defenseman in franchise history. One also can’t overlook the incredible chemistry he shared with Sergei Zubov while running the Stars’ power play for years, and certainly can’t dismiss the heart, determination and intestinal fortitude he brought to the ice every night. He will go down as one of the grittiest, most caring and committed players this franchise has ever had, something that can’t be registered like points. Incredibly accountable to his teammates, the fans and media at all times, Sydor epitomized the teammate every hockey player hopes to have.

Dec. 12, 2005
Stars acquire Niklas Hagman from Florida for a seventh-round pick

In his 263 games with the Panthers, Hagman appeared to be anything but a strong scoring threat. Sure, he was a powerful skater and excellent penalty killer, but with just 30 goals and a minus 27 rating in those 263 games, Florida clearly felt he was an expendable asset.

As they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Since coming to Dallas, Hagman has registered 45 goals and is plus 6 in exactly 200 games. This season, he’s netted 22 goals, third on the team, and his eight game-winning goals are tied with Russian phenom Alex Ovechkin and Calgary superstar Jarome Iginla for the NHL lead.

If Hagman never scores another point for the Stars, Dallas still fleeced Florida on this one.

March 24, 1998
Stars acquire Mike Keane and Brian Skrudland from NY Rangers for Bob Errey, Todd Harvey and a draft pick.

It would be one more calendar year before the benefits if this trade became apparent to Stars fans.

But those in the locker room realized the impact right away.

Having already won a combined three Stanley Cups between them – Skrudland in 1986 with Montreal and Keane in 1993 with Montreal and 1996 with Colorado – the duo brought instant championship experience. But it was their veteran leadership that outweighed any numbers they put up with the Stars. When Dallas fell just short of its goal by losing in the Western Conference finals to Detroit in 1998, it was Keane and Skrudland who knew the formula for taking the extra step in 1999.

Just for the record, Keane also registered 14 goals and 12 assists in 73 playoff games with the Stars, none bigger than the two goals he netted in Game 7 of the 1999 Western Conference finals against Colorado and former teammate Patrick Roy in a 4-1 Dallas win.

Sept. 30, 2006
Stars acquire Mike Ribeiro and a sixth-round pick in 2008 from Montreal for Janne Niinimaa and a fifth-round pick in 2007

Even if I convinced Brett Hull and Les Jackson to use that 2008 pick to draft me – or for that matter, my 18-pound cat – the Stars still win this trade.

Consider just a few basic facts. For starters, Niinimaa played just 41 games for the Canadiens last season, registering three assists to go with his minus 13 rating. Now, he’s out of the league, hoping for a phone call from someone.

Ribeiro? Well, he’s become the Stars’ top line center, which is something in itself. In two seasons and 142 games with the Stars, he’s got 42 goals and 84 assists for 126 points and a plus 17 rating. He and Dallas captain Brenden Morrow have created one of the more difficult tandems to defend in the NHL, and entering Friday’s contest against Edmonton Ribeiro’s 67 points this season rank second behind only San Jose’s Joe Thornton among Pacific Division players.

Enough said.

Dec. 19, 1995
Stars acquire Joe Nieuwendyk from Calgary for Jarome Iginla and Corey Millen

Unlike all the deals listed before, this one wasn’t great for Dallas because it was lopsided.

In fact, it was anything but. You could make a case that it was one of the most fair, even trades in NHL history, one that truly benefited each team in the long run.

That says a lot for what Nieuwendyk meant to the Stars, because since Iginla played his first NHL game in the fall of 1996, he has registered 362 goals. Only future hall of famers Jaromir Jagr (417) and Teemu Selanne (379) have found the back of the net more often than Iginla has during those 11 seasons. He also won the Rocket Richard trophy with 52 goals and the Art Ross trophy with 96 points in 2002, and could very easily add the Hart Trophy as league MVP to his resume this season.

All that being said, it was still a whale of a great deal for the Stars.

Nieuwendyk, hungry for another ring after hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup with the Flames in 1989, came to Dallas as a proven veteran and a legitimate goal scorer who had registered 45 goals or more four times and had eclipsed 50 goals twice. Joining a Dallas team that was strong defensively, he provided a stout injection of legitimate offense, and was the perfect complement to Dallas superstar Mike Modano.

A true class act and extremely loyal teammate, Nieuwendyk’s leadership also proved vital in the Stars’ locker room. His best season in Dallas was 1997-98, where he led the Stars with 39 goals. Many believe had he not gotten hurt in the first playoff game that spring, the Stars might have eclipsed the Red Wings in the conference finals because the one-two punch of Modano/Nieuwendyk was too lethal.

He made up for it the next season, winning the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP, notching 11 goals and 10 assists in 23 playoff games. He also had six game-winning goals during the Stars’ Stanley Cup run that season, the ultimate goal and main reason he was lured to Dallas.

Would you love to have Jarome Iginla now, playing on an opposite wing from Morrow and creating the best combination of lethal scoring touch and sheer toughness on one line in the league?

Of course you would.

Would you go back and undo that trade to get it?

No way. Not if you like looking up at the lone black banner hanging in American Airlines Center. Someday, expect number 25 to be hanging in the same general vicinity.

June 22, 1996
Stars acquire Sergei Zubov from Pittsburgh for Kevin Hatcher

Just six months after adding Nieuwendyk, the Stars made the absolute, single best trade in franchise history.

In fact, this one is so good, it still blows people away nearly 12 years later.

Earlier this year, when the Stars visited Edmonton, hall of fame reporter Jim Matheson was doing research for a wonderfully crafted career retrospective piece on Zubov. While discussing Zubov with Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish, he mentioned the trade that made him a Star in 1996. When MacTavish asked whom the Penguins received in return for Zubov, Matheson gave him the answer: Kevin Hatcher.

“Ouch,” MacTavish said.

Penguins fans are still feeling that sting.

It’s not like Hatcher had an awful career after leaving. In 351 games post-Dallas, he registered 53 goals and 128 assists before retiring in 2001.

But compared to the impact Sergei Zubov has had on the Dallas Stars, those numbers don’t even register.

Simply put, Zubov is not just the most talented defenseman in Stars history, he’s the best defenseman in Stars history. His 829 games, 111 goals, 434 assists, 545 points, +107 rating, 60 power-play goals, 233 power-play assists, 293 power-play points, nine shorthanded assists and 20 game-winning goals are all tops among franchise defensemen. He owns virtually every record for a Stars blueliner, and even still, that doesn’t tell half the story.

A puck-moving virtuoso, Zubov has hypnotized even the best of players throughout his days in Dallas. He’s easily one of the top three defensemen of his era, and what he lacks in Norris Trophy nominations is made up for by the tremendous awe and respect he receives from every other NHL player and coach.

There’s not a G.M. in the league who wouldn’t give up valuable body parts to have Zubov manning his blueline. Fortunately, we can’t see Jackson and Hull getting rid of him as easily as the Penguins did 12 years ago.

Oh, and for the record …. Two months before dealing Zubov, the Penguins traded Markus Naslund to Vancouver for Alek Stojanov.

Don’t’ remember that name?

You’re not alone.

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