The Dallas Stars did a lot of great work in re-creating the look and approach of the hockey team over the past few weeks, buoyed by a controversial trade that sent Steve Ott -- and Adam Pardy -- to Buffalo in exchange for Derek Roy. The trade is the sort of high-risk, high-reward trades that can make or break a General Manager's career as the Stars sent two years worth of a valuable Steve Ott for one year of a gamble in Derek Roy, who could be a letdown as he recovers from a disappointing season or the upgrade at the second-line center position that the Stars needed.
The fact that Roy was only under contract for one more season was tough to take, but a big season by Roy and a possible extension would help soften the blow of the popular -- and valuable -- Steve Ott. Yet when word came down today that Derek Roy would be out until at least November after undergoing shoulder surgery, it became clear just how big of a gamble this trade really was.
According to the team, Joe Nieuwendyk and Tom Gaglardi were aware of the shoulder pain that Roy had been playing through this past season. He was cleared medically for the trade, as is required for any trade in the NHL, yet the full extent of the damage to the shoulder was not known until a full physical in Dallas this past week. According to Joe Nieuwendyk, Roy could have played through the issue again this next season but "we want the best Derek Roy we could get."
The Dallas Stars are also very obviously preparing for a season shortened by a lockout due to the CBA negotiations, with the team making it known that Derek Roy is a long-term asset and that it was important for the team to get him healthy sooner than later. Roy has been playing with this shoulder injury and could have played this season as well, yet the Stars wanted to show "good faith" in Roy and go ahead with the surgery -- showing that while it may shorten his availability for this season they are willing to make that sacrifice if it meant taking care of his long-term health.
Tom Gaglardi was part of the decision to go ahead with the surgery, according to the team, considering that the Stars wanted to show Roy they were invested in his future and want him to be a long term part of this team. It's also clear that the team is being influenced by a belief that the season will likely be shortened, which would make this surgery almost a non-issue.
More after the jump.
Joe Nieuwendyk has made his share of questionable trades since taking over as General Manager in May of 2009, notably the trade that sent James Neal to Pittsburgh in exchange for Alex Goligoski. For many, we recognize how needed a player like Goligoski was but seeing Neal score 40 goals for the Penguins -- no matter who he was playing with -- is very tough for fans to stomach.
He's had his moments of genius, as well. The trade for Kari Lehtonen looks better and better by the day, and some of the contract extensions he's awarded -- such as Loui Eriksson -- are extremely well-valued compared to the same situations on other teams.
Yet the trade for Derek Roy was always going to be controversial and it would take Roy having a tremendous bounce back season to justify it, especially if Roy decides not to re-sign in Dallas after this season. Steve Ott was the most popular player on this team and the sort of player that every contending team would supposedly love to have. While the Stars are understandably trying to "move on" from the old core of players that have disappointed in recent years, it's hard to say that Ott has been part of the problem -- although his penalty issues were a problem at times last year.
In Roy, they received a player that provides better two-way play from the center position than Mike Ribeiro who could allow Jamie Benn to take on an expanded offensive role with the Stars. While Roy might only be under contract for one season, if he could help the Stars make the playoffs this year -- or re-sign for a reasonable amount midway through a good season -- then the "rental" issue becomes moot.
But if they potentially lose two months of his services, and especially if they knew of the issue when the trade was made, then this becomes a much tougher trade for the team to justify. The Stars say they knew of the problem when the trade was made yet did not know just how bad the injury was. Even if the decision to go through with surgery is one the Stars ultimately made, it just seems that knowingly trading for a player with an injury history that currently has another issue tips the scales of the trade into the "too risky" department.
While Steve Ott may not have been second-line center material, it was generally considered he could be a valuable part of the team the Stars were building. Ott is only 29-years old and while he may not be suited for a top-six role he has certainly proven to be a capable checking-line forward. The Stars had a surplus of third and fourth line forwards after acquiring Cody Eakin, so it's understandable then that the Stars would use one of those assets to upgrade the top two lines.
Yet when you knowingly make such a trade when the player in question has an injury, you skew all of the understanding that may have existed over such a controversial move. Because now that risk has come to reality, and Roy will potentially miss around two months of hockey -- as well as training camp and the preseason. This means an adjustment period for Roy when he does return and time for Roy to build chemistry with his new team -- something that is generally accomplished in October and November.
Now, there's a good chance that NHL hockey won't even be played in October this year and the Stars appear to be preparing for this eventuality, which likely factored into the team's decision to go ahead with the surgery. Yet that is another gamble the team is taking and if the season does start on time, then the Stars are without their No. 2 center for the first 6-8 weeks of hockey. Still plenty of season left for Roy to be effective, but for a team like the Stars who will be fighting for their postseason lives -- every game is that much more important.
To be fair to the Stars, if Roy is indeed a long-term option and a contract extension for the center is merely an eventuality awaiting the new CBA to be finalized and Roy to show he can still play the sport, then this turns out to not be a big deal at all. The season doesn't start on time, Roy returns just as hockey is getting underway again and he and the team agree to a reasonable contract extension soon thereafter. That would certainly make trading Steve Ott a reasonable risk to take, given the plan the team had in place and how the situation would actually work out.
Still, there are a lot of variables at play here -- not the least of which is the health of Derek Roy. The Stars say that this is not as major a problem as it may seem, yet Roy had a very disappointing year last season and history tells us that players rarely return from shoulder surgery the same as when they were healthy. It's easy to see the thought processes of Gaglardi and Nieuwendyk on this one, but this is certainly one of the biggest risks a team can take while rebuilding the roster.
If nothing else, the chances of Roy never being the player he once was just went up. Even if it's a minor surgery and not a complete rebuild of the joint, shoulder injuries for hockey players are tricky situations to work through.
We'll discuss how the Stars can best utilize the players in their system while waiting for Roy's return later, but for now this is an exercise in frustration as a questionable trade -- while understandable -- just hit a major snag. The Stars say this isn't that big a deal; we likely won't find out for sure for another six months. At least.