Brent Sopel doing his best Stephane Robidas impression.
With the 2011 draft complete, and confirmation that the Stars' payroll is not only increasing but will be above the cap floor, we will continue to take a look at some Free Agents. Today we will focus on a shot blocking defenseman that will make a great addition to the Stars' blueline. Let's look at Brent Sopel.
Why he'd fit: Last season, Karlis Skrastins blocked 139 shots. There were only three defensemen on the entire Stars roster that blocked more than 100 shots in the season (Robidas and Daley were the other two.) With Skrastins not expected to return next season, the Stars will definitely miss the shot blocking defenseman. Enter: Brent Sopel. Sopel blocked 152 shots last season while playing for both the Atlanta Thrashers and the Montreal Canadiens. With Goligoski, Daley and Robidas as the "offensive defensemen", Sopel's shut down defense will be a perfect complement on the blue line.
Another item of interest is what coming to the Stars will do for Sopel's family. His wife and kids currently reside near Chicago, where Sopel won the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks. Playing in Dallas would allow Sopel to be closer to home, being a quick hop from Dallas to Chicago (significantly shorter travel time than from Montreal.) Sopel also connects well with fans. He has a story that makes you want to root for him: Sopel has struggled with dyslexia and dysgraphia (a deficiency in the ability to write.) That alone makes people want to root for Sopel -- and Dallas loves to get behind athletes such as him, who have worked hard and continue to persevere to succeed.
Why it won't work: Sopel is no spring chicken -- at 34 years of age, he would be a short term contract for the team not something you would expect to make a long-term part of the future. He is also not known for his defensive play, with gaffes in his own end usually ending in a quality scoring opportunity for the opposition. That being said, he doesn't make those mistakes as often as some of the other defensemen on the market. There is also a thought that Sopel would take a generous pay cut to re-join the blueline for the Blackhawks so that he will be closer to home once more. With the trading of Brian Campbell to the Florida Panthers and Jordan Hendry as an unrestricted free agent, the Blackhawks have recently been in the discussion as possible destinations for Sopel.
Final verdict: Sopel offers some added veteran leadership on the blueline and a shotblocking ability that is in the top 25 in the league. The Stars could do much worse than signing Sopel. He made $2 million last season, at the end of a 3 year / $7 million contract. Sopel could be a perfect signing to help bridge the gap between now and when the Stars' young defensive prospects are ready to make the big club. Personally, I would really like to see Sopel in a Stars uniform. What do you think -- sign or pass? Tell us in the comments.