Ever since the Dallas Stars parted ways with Kevin Connauton and Sergei Gonchar they have been in the uncomfortable position of needing to scratch a defenseman on a nightly basis that they don't really want to scratch. They've been carrying the young John Klingberg, Jamie Oleksiak, and Jyrki Jokipakka. Klingberg has established himself, but the other two haven't been able to do so.
Enter David Schlemko. The Stars claimed him off of waivers from the Arizona Coyotes to give them a more conventional seventh defenseman. Jim Nill envisions Schlemko giving the Stars the opportunity to always have Jokipakka and Oleksiak playing.
"What I want to do is I want to keep the young guys playing, so we're going to look at the situation," said Nill, on having eight NHL defensemen. "I want the young guys playing all the time, so we might create a situation where the guys go down (to the AHL) for a week or two weeks and play four or five games and then come back up and maybe the next guy goes. Now that can all change quick as you know with injuries and that, but that's kind of the game plan right now. I want the young guys to keep playing. They'll still be up here, but I want them kind of when they're not playing get in the lineup down there and play."
It's a clever plan that will help them continue to develop the kids without the kids being forced to take a shelling if things go south.
Schlemko, for his part, has an opportunity to get a fresh start. Brandon briefly mentioned a bit about Schlemko when he wrote up the transaction:
Schlemko is a 6-1, 190 lb puck-moving defenseman who has had some struggles this season for the Coyotes (like most of them) and has already passed through waivers once, with Arizona failing to trade the left-shot defenseman. He's not very physical, and was getting into trouble earlier this season for bad decisions with the puck.
He sounds like he fits the profile of what Kevin Connauton provided. He'll be an offensive leaning seventh defenseman that will find more ice time if he earns it. He's actually been a pretty productive player in his career despite the fact that he was just plucked off of waivers. In 129 AHL games Schlemko has 64 points. In 207 NHL games he has 50 points, and there's also this:
Schlemko ranks 69th out of 257 skaters who've played 1000+ mins since 2010 in Points/60 at 5v5. Same as Jake Gardiner and Matt Niskanen.— Face Puncher (@GerWilderness) January 3, 2015
Perhaps the Stars can get some good value out of Schlemko. If he can fix his defensive issues the way the rest of this roster seemingly has who knows? He has been trending in the right direction lately. Per war-on-ice.com, in his last seven games Schlemko is +34 Corsi at even strength. In his first 13 games Schlemko was -46. It's a curious time to put him on waivers, and we'll see how it works out as we go along.
The Stars have already decided that Jokipakka is the first one to go down to the AHL. He was demoted prior to the win over the Wild. Management has gushed over him since training camp. At times he looks fine in the NHL, but lately he has looked lost even in wins. Looking at Corsi in close situations Jokipakka has been a -25 over his past nine games including -20 in his last two. Some time in the AHL won't kill him.
Oleksiak has been up and down. When he was demoted to Austin prior to the new year I got to witness his last game with the Texas Stars. He was brutal. Reports from others in attendance suggest that he wasn't very good in the prior games either. He returned though. Against the Wild Oleksiak was +11 Corsi for the game. In those same close situations over his past 13 games Oleksiak has posted a +18 Corsi. He has earned the right to stay for now despite the hiccups.
The main purpose of the move appears to be to get both Oleksiak and Jokipakka more playing time, but the Stars could get some mileage out of Schlemko. He has proven the ability to score at this level, and he doesn't strike me as the type of guy a team like the Coyotes should be waiving. They did though, and now he's a Dallas Star. Welcome to town David.