We've been discussing the Derek Roy contract and trade situation almost non-stop over the past month or so, but I thought it was important to take a moment to sort of consolidate the opinions and facts as we inch ever-closer to next week's NHL Trade Deadline.
The Dallas Stars traded center Steve Ott and defenseman Adam Pardy to the Buffalo Sabres for Derek Roy last summer, a move designed to a) further the dynamic change the Stars have undertaken in the past year and b) attempt to find a long-term solution for a much-needed commodity. With Ott and Mike Ribeiro gone the Stars were in need of a second line center that was capable taking some of the defensive burden off of Jamie Benn, a player capable of two-way play at center while also providing good scoring punch up front.
Enter Derek Roy, a once-prolific two-way center who had fallen on bad times in Buffalo due to injury issues and a perceived issue with his team and in particular his coach at the time.
The trade was made with the thought that the Dallas Stars would likely want to re-sign Roy long term after the 2013 season -- depending on how he rebounded from a sub-par 2011-2012 season. Part of that process was going ahead with a corrective shoulder surgery that led to four months of rehab that paid Roy his full salary during the lockout, a sign of good faith by a franchise that certainly wants to show its players they care.
I'm sure he's appreciative of that gesture but make no mistake; loyalty does not enter into the equation of the situation the Stars now face.
Derek Roy has been very good for the Stars, putting up four goals and 20 points in 27 games after working through a groin injury at the start of the season. He's provided the two-way play at center the Stars have needed and it seems as if he's starting to build some great chemistry with Loui Eriksson and Ray Whitney on what looks to be a very lethal second line.
Now the Stars are looking at the very real possibility of trading Derek Roy, or face the likelihood of losing the center for nothing when free agency hits.
There has been a pervasive rallying cry as this situation has played itself out, that the Dallas Stars should be willing to pay whatever it is that Roy is seeking for his next contract -- that this franchise is going to have to go out and spend money eventually, that this franchise has gone too long without being willing to spend money and that losing Roy is just not worth whatever the return might be.
There are a couple of problems with this approach, however. Let's break them down:
1) Derek Roy likely wants to hit the open market, simple as that.
Derek Roy (and perhaps Mike Ribeiro, oh the irony) are going to be two highly sought-after centers this summer when free agency hits. With Ryan Getzlaf and the Anaheim Ducks laying down the market for a top center at around $7 or so million (and likely more), Roy and Ribeiro are looking at a potentially heavy payday when they can get teams bidding against one another on a long-term, final contract.
Roy and his agent are looking to this summer, when they can go back to the Stars with a seven-year, $49 million contract offer from another team and see if that can be matched and thinking "why settle now for less when I can get much, much more in the future." We may think of it as greed, but these days it's just called business.
2) The Dallas Stars should absolutely not pay "whatever Roy wants" just to keep from losing a talented center.
By all accounts, the Stars and Roy and far apart on the contract talks. The Stars are not interested in getting locked into overly expensive contracts that are "unmoveable" and certainly show no signs of wanting to sign a 30-year old center with injury issues to a six or seven-year contract. This was brought up time and again during the Brad Richards situation, with the Stars unwilling to meet the long-term and exhorbitant contract demands of a departing center who went on to sign an incredibly lucrative contract with the New York Rangers -- who he appeared to have his mind set on all along.
Which brings me to...
3) Is Derek Roy the player the Stars need to be spending $7 million a season on, just because they "can" or "need to eventually?"
Brad Richards is in danger of being bought out this summer by the Rangers (I don't think it will happen) as the center has struggled to live up to the demands of his contract. This was the argument being made two years ago in Dallas, that while the Stars would have liked to have kept Richards there was no logic in giving him that contract just because someone else would be willing to do so.
There's no guarantee that Roy is a player that can remain healthy, although he's certainly appeared more durable as this season has progressed. Any contract carries with it a very significant risk but there's also something to be said about wanting to mitigate that risk by not overreaching financially and hurting the franchise long-term by handing the wrong players the big contracts -- just because that is what teams eventually must do to be competitive.
Ask the Buffalo Sabres how their spending spree has gone, or the Florida Panthers. The Minnesota Wild seem to have gotten it right, at least for now, but there are warning signs all over the league that spending too much money on the wrong players is something that can be severely detrimental to a franchise.
Now, that's not to say that the Stars couldn't use Derek Roy long term or that the franchise doesn't want to keep him; the Stars are very much interested in signing Roy long term and avoiding having to trade a second-line center at the deadline while still in reach of the playoffs.
So, it seems that getting Roy signed to a contract extension by April 3 is likely not going to happen -- although Roy stated yesterday that talks "went well" between his agent and the team earlier this week. Perhaps Roy is liking what he's seeing and he's willing to take a bit less than what he'd get on the open market to remain a vital player for the Dallas Stars moving forward; perhaps the Dallas Stars felt that it would be worth spending a few extra dollars to keep a second line center, especially when there are zero promises he could be immediately replaced.
It's important to note that, with this new CBA, the financial landscape of the NHL has changed. Teams are going to be top loaded in cap space, since star players can no longer be wooed with 15-year contracts; teams will have to up the AAV of these deals to keep the very best players. The Stars are going to have to eventually decide just how to build a contending team and part of that will likely be having to "overspend" on top players to bring them or keep them in Dallas. It's just the nature of the beast.
Is Roy that player, however? Is the best decision for the Stars to meet his demands and overspend now, or to pick up what could be a very nice return in a trade. Perhaps flipping Roy for a top prospect and first-round draft pick is what is best for the franchise right now, rather than getting handcuffed into a bad contract. Perhaps Roy just flat-out wants to hit the open market for his one last big payday and the Stars really have no choice in the matter.
No matter what, all signs indicate Roy will likely be traded before the April 3 deadline.