Last night we speculated on a trade that I honestly didn't think was actually possible. While the long-time fan in me wanted Jamie Langenbrunner back in Dallas -- it's an absolute travesty that he ever left -- I really didn't believe that the Stars would make the trade.
It just seemed that there were too many factors working against Joe Nieuwendyk and the Dallas Stars. The financial considerations of adding over $1 million in salary, the reluctance at giving up valuable draft picks for a rental player and the difficulty of fitting in a player like Langenbrunner on an already tight roster just seemed too much for an actual trade to go down.
Yet last night, when we learned that the Flyers and Kings were officially out of the picture it appeared that the Dallas Stars were really the only option left. While some were rightfully skeptical -- including Mike Heika and our Brad Gardner -- this morning all the signs pointed to Jamie Langenbrunner heading back to Dallas. Now the trade is official and the Stars only had to give up a conditional third-round draft pick to acquire a veteran forward with Stanley Cup experience.
What does this really mean for the Dallas Stars, however? When you get past the nostalgia factor, how will the return of Langenbrunner affect the Stars the rest of the season? Let's take a look.....
Where Does He Fit?
This is the big question right now for Dallas Stars fans. Langenbrunner is a right-handed shot off the right wing, which is exactly what the Stars have been needing for well over two seasons now. Adam Burish certainly helped fill a need but the Stars still only had one right-handed forward and while Burish has been a great addition, he's not exactly the offensive boost that the Stars need from the right wing.
Jamie Benn has been able to alleviate much of that concern but it's been very obvious -- especially on the power play -- how much the Stars need a right handed shot from the wing.
Langenbrunner instantly fills this void on the roster. Where exactly he's going to fill that void is the question. With the way that Morrow, Ribeiro and Benn are producing it's tough to break them up and I doubt that Crawford is going to change up one of the best top lines in the NHL. This means that Langenbrunner likely plays with Steve Ott and Adam Burish on the third line, and gives Ott two very capable wingers with which to wreak havoc.
Langenrbrunner is also going to see significant time on the power play, almost immediately. This is where the Stars will likely get the biggest impact from the veteran forward as he provides an instant offensive punch from the boards with a right handed shot, something that the Stars have desperately needed all season long. Don't underestimate how important this is to special teams play.
The key is to not displace too many players while finding a fit for Langenbrunner. It's possible that Crawford tries him on different lines, including the Ribeiro line, but he's likely going to get most of his playing time on the third line. This means that Wandell will slide back down to the fourth line, which is frustrating to see for a young player, but this also means we're going to see a player like Brandon Segal put on waivers.
How Does This Impact The Locker Room?
I've seen this concern raised a couple of times, that the Dallas Stars are messing with something that is working very, very well this season. The Stars are a team that succeeds because of how well they play together as a team and all signs point to a very cohesive, very tight locker room. Would the addition of a player like Langenbrunner, who certainly has a commanding presence of his own, disrupt something that is working? Some people seem concerned that Langenbrunner's "cancer" status is New Jersey will carry over to Dallas and we'll have another Sean Avery situation on our hands.
I do not have any concern this will happen.
Langenbrunner is not Sean Avery. The Dallas Stars do have a tight locker room, but this is a move being made that is making the team better and is not costing the Stars any personnel in return, with the exception of possibly the sacrifice of Segal or Sutherby.
He's also a very respected player and I have to think that Brenden Morrow -- who was teammates with Langenbrunner for three seasons -- will lead the team in welcoming the veteran forward. It also helps that Langenbrunner had to approve this trade, meaning that he chose to come to Dallas and this is a team he wants to play for. He's going to be a humbled and motivated hockey player and I have a good idea that he's going to be welcomed with open arms.
What Does This Mean For Future Trades?
This is the other concern.
I've seen some fans express concern that the Stars should not be focused on adding salary and a rental forward, instead attempting to trade for defensive help closer to the trade deadline. I honestly don't see how this trade will hinder the Stars from making a trade next month for a defenseman, if the right deal comes available. That the Stars are adding salary is certainly a good sign but be assured that any trade involving a decent defensemen coming to Dallas would mean equal salary going back in return.
The Stars are likely going to be buyers at the deadline, especially if they're in the position they're in now. Some may think that Brad Richards may be traded but if the Stars are on top of the division next month, he's not going anywhere just yet. Instead, the Stars will likely be looking to add a defensemen, but only if they are able to match the salary that is coming. This would have been the case even if Langenbrunner were not acquired.
It's also very possible that if the Stars were still in a contending position that Nieuwendyk would stay firm with the defense in place. It's going to be very hard to acquire a good defenseman without adding salary and and he has expressed a reluctance for giving up any major prospects or draft picks is the trade isn't perfect. He's not going to just give assets away, especially if he is forced to take on salary -- which might not even be possible. So who would be given up to offset the incoming salary? James Neal? Jamie Benn? Mike Ribeiro? After the first half of the season, I'd say that all three are near untouchable, although Neal's struggles may make him more susceptible to trade now although his recent extension might hinder such a move.
I doubt this trade affects another trade this season.
What Jamie Langenbrunner Will The Stars Get?
Langenbrunner has struggled this season offensively, which is to be expected as he played for a bad team in a very bad situation. He's been disgruntled for nearly two seasons now and despite his age many feel that he is still much better than what he's produced lately.
The Stars are going to get a motivated, humbled and proud Langenbrunner. He's going to be committed to proving himself and to playing for a team that actually wants and needs him in order to succeed. Some wonder if he'd be ok playing on the second or third line after being the captain in New Jersey; I say that having that pressure off his shoulders is likely exactly what he needs.
Some fans are concerned about his lack of production in New Jersey. Yet Langenbrunner is not going to be asked to produce at the same level he was expected to for the Devils. He's going to likely be on the third line, he's going to be an offensive "boost" for the team and is going to provide a much needed scoring ability from the wing on the power play. That sort of pressure coming off his shoulders is going to make a world of difference.
He also doesn't need to replicate past production in Dallas to make this trade worth it. He just needs to produce better that Barch, Sutherby, Segal or Wandell and instantly the Stars are a better team. I'm expecting he's going to be able to do just that.
He's not going to set the NHL on fire. He's not going to be one of the top scorers for Dallas. But he is going to provide heart, leadership and an offensive boost that is exactly what the Stars are going to need if they do hope to contend for the playoffs.