I recently wrote an article (in the fan-posts) where I unloaded a whole dump-truck load full of things that have crossed my mind during this off-season. Alas, as I re-read what I typed...I realize I made a glaring error. When I was speculating on the line combo's (always a hairy subject) I completely left off Jamie Oleksiak. (Shame, Shame, Shame).
Once I realized my error, It kind of threw me a little bit. We may have a pretty big problem coming up.
Lets run down the list of Defense-men who have a legit shot at making this team. This according to the Stars website: http://stars.nhl.com/club/roster.htm
1. Jordie Benn - Age 26, 6'-1", 200 lbs
2. Kevin Connauton - Age 23, 6'-1", 185 lbs
3. Trevor Daley - Age 29, 5'-11", 198 lbs
4. Brenden Dillon - Age 22, 6'-4", 228 lbs
5. Alex Goligoski - Age 28, 5-11", 181 lbs
6. Sergei Gonchar - Age 39, 6'-2", 206 lbs
7. Jamie Oleksiak - Age 20, 6'-7", 242 lbs
8. Stephane Robidas - Age 36, 5'-11", 196 lbs
9. Aaron Rome - Age 29, 6'-1", 218 lbs
Before we move on, lets look at everyone's contracts and their waiver status. All these come from Capgeek.com and all contracts include this year 2013-14.
1. Jordie Benn - Age 26, 6'-1", 200 lbs - 3 yr (0.7M) - Not Exempt
2. Kevin Connauton - Age 23, 6'-1", 185 lbs - 3 yr (0.683M) - Not Exempt
3. Trevor Daley - Age 29, 5'-11", 198 lbs - 4 yr (3.3M) - Not Exempt
4. Brenden Dillon - Age 22, 6'-4", 228 lbs - 1 yr (0.9M) - EXEMPT - 20 Games
5. Alex Goligoski - Age 28, 5-11", 181 lbs - 3 yr (4.6M) - Not Exempt
6. Sergei Gonchar - Age 39, 6'-2", 206 lbs - 2 yr (5.0M) - Not Exempt
7. Jamie Oleksiak - Age 20, 6'-7", 242 lbs - 2 yr (1.369M) - EXEMPT - 2 years or 127 games
8. Stephane Robidas - Age 36, 5'-11", 196 lbs - 1 yr (3.3M) - Not Exempt
9. Aaron Rome - Age 29, 6'-1", 218 lbs - 2 yr (1.5M) - Not Exempt
Not surprising Gonchar, Robidas, Daley, Goligoski, Rome and Benn are not exempt. They are well above the age requirement. Plus four of those six will make the team. Sort of surprising is Connauton is not exempt while both Dillon and Oleksiak are exempt.
Well, lets start out with one obvious statement. First: Robidas, Dillon, Daley, Gonchar and Goligoski are all locks for this squad. Pending no one gets traded (or injured) in the next couple of weeks, these 5 will be the mainstays for this back end. All 5 are very serviceable defensemen on this team and that is a great thing to have.
Here is where things will get a bit sticky. Talking strictly this year, this team will have to sit 3 of the remaining 4: Connauton, Oleksiak, Rome, Benn.
My prediction is Jordie Benn gets sent down to Austin for a good chunk of the year. He doesn't have the potential as Connauton nor Oleksiak and is a bit smaller than Rome. I think a good bulk of the year in Austin would help him more than just sitting in the pressbox.
My other prediction is Rome is shifted into the line-up only rarely (similar to how Larsen was last year). He is good in short bursts, but a liability when needed for multiple consecutive games.
So now what do you do with the remaining two? Connauton vs. Oleksiak?
Well, if Connauton makes the last roster spot over Oleksiak, Rome and Benn (and anyone else that impresses during camp) then I'd think the big rig goes back to Austin. Just look at what GM Nill had to say about him on NHL.com:
"He's right there, Jamie's going to come to camp. Show us what you can do. If you're in the top six, you're there. I don't want guys sitting in the press box with me. I want them playing every night. So if he comes in and shows he's a top-six guy, he's on the team."
Sounds like if the guys can play in the minors then that is exactly where they will play. But it also sounds like Jim is expecting Oleksiak to make the team out of training camp.
In a pretty descent segway, what happens if Jim Nill's expectation becomes the reality? If Oleksiak makes the team and Connauton is left off the starting 6, what does Jim do then? Send Connauton through waivers? Pressbox? He has already expressed he doesn't want guys up with him in the box...so it sounds like to the waiver wire he goes.
I can respect the situation as a great thing too. Connauton fighting with Oleksiak for the final spot makes them both better, as does the other 5 in front of them. And when the inevitability of injuries strikes, it will be a great benefit to this team to have guys waiting in the wings waiting for their opportunity. It is what we as Dallas Stars fans have been hoping for for a long long time.
But it does sound like their is one too many bodies on this blue line. If Connauton does almost make the team out of camp, does that make someone like Goligoski or Daley expendable?
What should we read into Robidas this season? Jim Nill has already indicated he wants to name a captain before the start of this season. If Robidas is named captain as some suggest is a possibility, a contract extension should be not too far behind that. If he doesn't get named captain, what is to become of our fearless warrior? Do we re-sign him or is this his last hurrah?
Far too many questions for my liking. Let's see how this all shakes out. I hope beyond hope that Connauton doesn't get snagged in waivers just because we don't have the space for him quite yet. Other than that, I really wouldn't mind any situation that would play out (trades, call-ups, etc.)