The Dallas Stars have traded Sergei Gonchar to the Montreal Canadiens, in exchange for veteran winger Travis Moen in a move that many expected to be coming way before this season even began. So what does it all mean?
For starters, it was clear that the move to bring Gonchar to Dallas and sign him to a two-year deal never worked out the way either the Stars nor Gonchar really wanted. Last summer the Stars were in need of veteran help on the blue line and someone who could help on the power play from the point, yet Gonchar never was able to really find his groove in Dallas in the ultra-competitive Western Conference.
It was tough to see for a player who has had such an incredible career struggle as Gonchar had during his time in Dallas, and there were just too many bad nights and not enough good ones and for the Stars -- moving on from this deal started to become a necessity.
Per Mark Stepneski, Stars GM Jim Nill had this to say immediately following the trade:
"Sergei and I talked, things just weren't fitting in for him here. He wanted an opportunity somewhere if it was available. In the end, we had some young defensemen we want to start getting ice time. It was time to start bringing the young defensemen in. It's an opportunity for some of the younger defensemen to start growing into their positions. That's why Klingberg is up here."
This was something that was likely in the works for quite some time, as Nill rarely just makes a trade on the fly. The Stars needed to find the right fit for Gonchar that he would approve a trade to, as well as the right team that would be able to take on the salary the Stars needed to shed to make the move worthwhile for Dallas.
While this may seem on the surface to be a quick-reaction trade based on this slump the team is currently in, this is a more of a long-term move than anything that likely was delayed by Gonchar's broken ankle as well.
"There's nothing more," said Nill when asked whether there's something more to the trade. "That's why Klingberg is up here. That something more is something internal. These guys earned this last year, over the last two or three years, all these young kids have earned this opportunity. They won the Calder Cup, they're knocking on the door. It's their opportunity now and we'll see if they grab it. If they don't, now we got some more coming up and we'll go that way. We're always open to other moves, but this is the first step.
Freeing up a roster spot for the young defense was part of this equation, but so was clearing up salary cap space in order to give the Stars more financial flexibility moving ahead into the season. Asking the Habs to take 92% of Gonchar's salary for the remainder of the season came with a price, and that price will be nearly two years of Travis Moen.
"Travis Moen is a big, strong power forward," said Nill. "He is going to bring a presence on the ice for us. He's a great character guy and he's been around the league a long time. "
We'll have more on Moen separately.
The big question here is what this move means for the Stars specifically on defense moving forward, as many expected this to be a precursor to a larger move either right away or even a bit down the line. For now, Nill and the Stars are saying this was about giving the young players on the team and in the organization an opportunity to get playing time and to prove themselves.
Lindy Ruff has been saying lately that when it comes to defensemen, everyone will have to start earning playing time. Doesn't matter what their status might be -- and that begins with rookie defenseman John Klingberg, only recently called up.
"We're in the mode that we have to win and it is who ever is playing well," said Nill. "If Klingberg plays well he is here and if doesn't we have other young guys in the minors to come up. It's an opportunity for all those young guys - Klingberg, Connauton, Oleksiak, Jokipakka, Honka, Gaunce. It's an opportunity to grab something."
Klingberg will make his NHL debut tonight against the Arizona Coyotes, and will be playing on the second pairing next to Alex Goligoski. With Gonchar now traded, the Stars have way more flexibility to move the young players around and to share the minutes with the younger defenseman and as Nill put it, to really see what the Stars have when it comes to these young defenseman at the AHL level who are on the cusp of sticking with Dallas.
If Klingberg plays well, he's staying. If not, someone else will move up and get the chance.
Whether this is conducive short-term for winning and pulling out of this slump is questionable, but it's not as if the Stars were relying heavily on Sergei Gonchar as it were.
Here's video of Nill discussing today's trade: