BUFFALO, NY - NOVEMBER 11: Derek Roy #9 of the Buffalo Sabre scores at 2:09 of the first period against the Ottawa Senators at the First Niagara Center on November 11, 2011 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The Dallas Stars made fans wait just one more day for the big splash everyone was waiting for, and it came in the form of a trade that sent fan favorite Steve Ott to Buffalo in exchange for center Derek Roy. There has been discussion that Roy could be a target for the Stars for quite some time now and as second day of free agency comes to a close it's clear that both teams were able to fill a glaring need on their respective rosters.
For the Stars, that need was obviously at center, as the team had traded away Mike Ribeiro and needed a top-six center that could help the team both in the short term and aid in the transition to the young centers waiting in the wings.
"Obviously, a lot has been mentioned about our center position, especially with Mike Ribeiro going out and having Cody Eakin coming in with only 30 games of NHL experience," said Joe Nieuwendyk during a conference call after the trade. "I think it was a hole that we needed to fill. It's something that has been talked about for months leading up to this. Having the opportunity to acquire a player like Derek Roy, who is only 29 years old and is a proven point producer in this league at a position that is very rare to find. It seemed like it was just a real good feel for us."
Roy, a relatively small center who has found success on the top line for the Buffalo Sabres, is entering the final year of a six-year contract and scored just 44 points last season in 80 games -- far from the 70 and 80-point pace he enjoyed just a few years ago. Roy was hampered by a torn quadriceps muscle in 2010-11, followed by a hamstring injury he suffered while rehabbing last summer. As such, it's generally felt that Roy's production took a tumble because of the injury -- yet it's been determined that he is indeed fully healthy once more.
"There was a significant thigh injury that he had and he's fully recovered from that," said Nieuwendyk. "As I said earlier, our scouts really paid attention to him and thought that he was really get back to his normal production and pace of play late in the season. It kind of went hand in hand with the run Buffalo went on late in the season."
After the jump, Roy talks about the trade and we hear from a Sabres writer and his thoughts on the newest Dallas Stars center.
The first question we had for Roy was how he felt the leg was doing, a legitimate concern for a center expected to take on second-line center duties with the departure of Mike Ribeiro.
"The leg is good," Roy told Defending Big D. "We had an MRI there at the end of the season and it wasn't a hamstring related issue, it was a disc issue that was pushing on the hamstring and the nerve and we corrected that. I haven't felt this good since last July."
When asked if the leg was a major factor in his drop off in production last season, Roy was quick to admit that his health was nowhere near where it normally would have been.
"It was a huge factor," said Roy, when asked about his injury and how it affected his production last season. "What happened, with the surgery and then I worked really hard to get back and then I pulled the hamstring in the summer time. I couldn't get my training down. I'd wait a month and do therapy on my hamstring, stuff like that. But it feels great now and I can't wait to get back on the ice and get going again."
So what are the Dallas Stars receiving in Derek Roy? The Stars traded Mike Ribeiro, despite the lack of depth at the position, because of how one-dimensional he had become at the position and the negative effect it had on the rest of this roster. Roy, on top of being capable of scoring 60+ points when healthy and paired with the right wingers, comes as a much better two-way option and a player more than capable of taking on tough minutes and defensive-zone assignments. He's shown in his career -- and even last season -- that he is more than capable of playing in all situation and being overall successful in that role.
This, along with the addition of Ray Whitney, should finally allow the Stars to give Jamie Benn the offensive freedom he so desperately needs. Benn, a capable two-way forward in his own right, will no longer be asked to eat all of the difficult minutes on the team and has another center that can take such pressure off his shoulders. When you consider where the Stars were last year with Ribeiro and his liability issues in his own zone -- this certainly appears to be a major upgrade for the team.
Yet Roy comes with some major question marks as he leaves Buffalo on what seems to be less-than-pleasant terms. The forward openly criticized coach Lindy Ruff at the end of this past season and has gained a reputation as a player that doesn't always give his all on the ice -- and has even been called a "locker room cancer."
I decided to go to the experts on this one, asking Die By The Blade editor Andy Boron some detailed thoughts on the newest player for the Dallas Stars:
What are your general thought on Roy and the trade overall?
Roy was a valuable member of the Sabres organization for a long time, but is a polarizing figure among Sabre fans. You either love him for his production, enthusiasm, and favorable contract, or you hate him for his bouts of laziness, hockey-bro lifestyle, and the supposed harm he brings to the locker room. Roy's departure from the organization marks a seismic shift for a team that has too-long overvalued their core players that looked good on paper, but never actually accomplished anything meaningful. He absolutely has the ability to be a very productive offensive contributor, but just seemed to lack that elite drive and passion that raise the game of everyone around him, at least the players in Buffalo. He was long overdue for a change of scenery, and that change could be the shot in the arm that inspires both him and the Sabres. If Roy can bounce back from last season, he should have 20+ goals and 40+ assists to go along with good faceoff numbers.
How much truth is there to the rumor that he was a "locker room cancer" and a lazy player?
It depends on how much faith you have in the local media. The flagship newspaper and radio station in Buffalo have been pushing the locker room cancer angle for a number of years now, but have never actually produced evidence that they can share with fans - it's always an unnamed source or shadowy figure. Outwardly, Roy says the right things in his interviews and no player or coach on the team has ever come out and said that he was a problem, but those cancerous claims are easy to believe when he skates slowly off on line changes every night and hits the bars after every Friday or Saturday night games. On the plus side, he'll usually buy you a shot if you see him out.
Did he improve as the season progressed, as his leg healed?
He certainly did, but so did the entire roster as the Sabres put together their miracle run to 9th place post-All Star Break, so take that with a grain of salt. Roy was definitely looking more like his old self at the end of the season, and I would have more confidence in his healed leg than not, especially considering that he's been very healthy during his career aside from that. When healthy, he can be explosive (when he chooses to be, that is.)
What are his overall strengths and weaknesses?
Roy has good vision on the ice and shuld easily rack up 40 assists playing with decent goal scorers, but isn't afraid to let it rip, either. When fully healthy, he's very quick while carrying the puck, and can be described as "feisty" when he's trying to get it. He's defensively responsible, pretty good on faceoffs, and is equally adept at both playing the half-wall on the power play and being the point man on the PK. Things he simply won't do include any sort of hitting or fighting, hard forechecking, or getting to the dirty area in front of the net. His effort will amaze you at times, and other times will have you pulling your hair out. Sabres fans have thought of him as either a not-great #1 center or a really good #2 over the past few seasons.
We'll have much, much more on Roy and what he brings to the Dallas Stars, as well as the tough departure of Steve Ott, tomorrow.