The trade for Jamie Langenbrunner was finally made official earlier today, and GM Joe Nieuwendyk and Langenbrunner held a conference call soon after with their first public comments on the biggest move the Dallas Stars have made this year. (Get it? Because it's 2011?)
First, let me point out something that Nieuwendyk cleared up about the conditional picks. If the Stars make the first round of the playoffs or resign Langenbrunner, then the pick they sent to New Jersey will become a second round pick. If the Stars resign him after July 1st, then New Jersey will get the Stars' second round pick and the Devils would send their third round pick to Dallas.
Right off the bat, Joe was asked about the reasoning behind the move. Nieuwendyk said the addition of Langenbrunner wouldn't have been made if the team wasn't sure of itself at this point in the season.
"I think no one really had a crystal ball and knew what kind of team we were going to be coming out of training camp," Nieuwendyk said. "But we're halfway through the season and I think all of us are really happy with where we're at. There's a good feeling in that locker room and there's a belief in that locker room, and I think this move today will even strengthen that belief."
Something I know many Stars fans were worried about was the impact Langenbrunner would have on the team's chemistry. This is obviously a tightly knit group that has really bought into each other, and some were afraid that any move like this would upset that balance. However, Nieuwendyk said that wouldn't be a concern with Jamie.
"I know the character of Jamie and I know he'll be a terrific fit for us in the locker room," Nieuwendyk said. "He's familiar with our organization, he's familiar with a couple of our players, and I think it helps for where we are currently to have a guy who's the type of character like Jamie, the type of leader and helping us push forward to the playoffs."
Langenbrunner also addressed those concerns, saying that he's ready to take on whatever role the coaching staff asks him to. The former Devils captain also said he hopes to bring some leadership qualities to the locker room.
"I'm going to come there and be who I am," Langenbrunner said. "I've always considered myself a leader in a certain way. I'm pretty eager to get there and meet all of those guys on the team, but they're doing a lot of good things there so I'm going to come there and support what Brenden's got going from a leadership standpoint."
As far as on-ice roles are concerned, it's been speculated here that Langenbrunner would have to take a third line role with the Stars. Breaking up the Morrow-Ribeiro-Benn line at this point would appear to be counterproductive with the way they've been playing. Nieuwendyk said that Langenbrunner would bring an asset that the team has been lacking on the ice for awhile.
"We've really been missing a right-shot power play presence," Nieuwendyk said. "I think from a performance standpoint he's really going to help us, he can solidify a third line with options. He obviously has the capability to play up in the lineup too. We'll be using him in a lot of different roles, I know he's had success on the power play in New Jersey and that's an area I know we can utilize him as well."
The lingering question after the trade was announced was how the Stars managed to get a trade done given their financial situation. Fitting him under the budget was one thing, but getting the lenders to approve such a deal was another situation that seemed difficult to overcome. But Nieuwendyk said that the lenders were understanding of the Stars' situation when they signed off on it.
"It was a lot of hard work from people on our side and on the business side as well with Tony Tavares and Mr. Hicks as well," Nieuwendyk said. "I think it was a group effort but the reality is that the backing and support of the league and the lenders was the reason for this trade. I think they appreciate what we've done this year, they know we're in a strong market. And I think we wouldn't have made the case strongly if we didn't think this was good for our hockey club, and I think they believe in what we're doing."
"Well, it's a case by case basis, but we've never been held back," Nieuwendyk continued. "The lenders and the league realize our situation. They've given us the go ahead to do what's right for the hockey club. They know that we strongly feel that pursuing Brad Richards to a longer-term deal with us is good for our hockey club, so they haven't held that back from us."
Another issue Nieuwendyk addressed was what this trade meant for the signing of Brad Richards.
"This trade and the Trevor Daley signing do not impact that at all," Nieuwendyk said. "If anything, I think this sends a message to our group that we feel good about our team, and we've enhanced our team today with the acquisition of Jamie, and I think Brad will respect that we're doing everything possible to win hockey games on the ice."
Langenbrunner was traded to the Devils with Joe Nieuwendyk in March of 2002, so it's just a little bit ironic that the two are involved in this trade years later. Langenbrunner had a great deal of praise for his former teammate.
"He's the boss, he's not my roommate anymore," Langenbrunner said, chuckling. "It's a great deal of difference. I have a lot of respect for Joe, not only how he treats teammates as a player but the way he treats the staff from being a GM to (being in) the locker room. He's a guy that understands that different guys do different jobs, and they're all important. I like the way he's built that team. I agree with a lot of his philosophy, I respect what he's doing, and I feel privileged to play for him."
Langenbrunner is a free agent after this season, and though he said the Stars had "bigger fish to fry" with Brad Richards, he admitted Dallas would be on his wish list. Nieuwendyk said Langenbrunner could fit in their plans going forward.
"We've already started to do our homework on potential free agent lists and Jamie would be high on our list," Nieuwendyk said. "You look at that depth chart, the kids we have coming up like Scott Glennie and Alex Chiasson...they're all right wingers but realistically are a couple years away. Jamie would be a good gap guy to bridge that until they're ready."
As for the rest of the season, the winger said that coming back to Dallas is something he is looking forward to.
"I definitely love playing there, and it was hard for me to leave when (the trade) happened, Langenbrunner said. "I'm excited to come back. Dallas was where I started in the NHL, and I have a lot of great memories of playing for that organization. I'm excited about where that team is headed, and I want to come be a part of it."