The 2013-2014 New York Islanders looked a lot like the 2014-2015 Dallas Stars. Both teams were explosive offensively and spotty defensively. Last summer the Islanders went out and got defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy. The team responded by posting their highest point total since 1984.
These additions are the types of transactions Stars fans are hoping to see in the coming months. Like the Islanders, the Stars want to win now. Dallas doesn't need more long term prospects and likely need more than one defensemen at $2.5-$3.5 million per season.
Looking at the Unrestricted Free Agent class of 2015, Johnny Oduya sticks out as a player that would fit the Dallas mold. At 33, the Swedish defenseman is at the end of his prime. In his four seasons in Chicago, his CF% is 52.7%. He scored 2 goals and had 8 assists in 76 regular season games in 2014-2015.
At 6'0, 190 pounds Oduya does not provide a massive frame. However, his ability to eat minutes would be of great value to a Stars team full of youngsters requiring a modicum of coddling. He played just over 20 minutes per game during the regular season, with 50.3% of his zone starts coming in the defensive end. As of Friday night, Oduya has played almost 26 minutes per game in the 2015 NHL Playoffs. These minutes came while he was on the same team as Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.
His versatility would allow the Dallas coaching staff to slide Jordie Benn down the lineup, and would give Jason Demers a more reliable version of his current partner.
Oduya is the Swiss Army Knife that the Stars have needed on the blue line for several years. In Chicago he has played the shutdown role with Brent Seabrook and the puck moving role with Michal Rozsival in the same game. While his speed is not elite, his positional instincts and subtle skill allow him to function consistently for as many minutes as are required of him.
Hits have never been a large part of Johnny Oduya's play, but he is an excellent shot blocker. He is a methodical penalty killer, but would not be expected to play much on the power play. With the Hawks Oduya has played with and against great players night-in and night-out. He played big minutes against guys like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, David Backes and TJ Oshie, and Jeff Carter and Anze Kopitar. He draws these assignments because of his ability to stifle play and efficiently exit the zone. You hardly noticed when #27 is on the ice, and for defenseman that is always a good thing.
Oduya made $2.825 million last year. While he is dependable and can play 20 minutes every night, his stats will prevent him from demanding an absurd raise. Depending on how good his agent is, he should expect a small raise on a short term deal if he hits the open market. It is possible he will re-sign in Chicago at a discount, but not likely. Given the current payroll situation of the Blackhawks, Oduya should be an available unrestricted free agent at a reasonable price of $2.5-$3 million on a one or two year deal.
Versatility - he can wear several different hats in the same game, including...
Penalty killer - he is a reliable shot-blocking positional penalty killer, something the Stars need desperately.
Affordable price - on a one or two year deal at $3 million, he would make the team better without killing the Stars' cap flexibility in the coming years.
Veteran - because speed is not the cornerstone of his value, his decline curve should prove predictable and slow. He is the perfect partner for Jason Demers.
Limited Production - he scored 10 points (2G 8A) in almost a full season last year.
Statistical Decline- almost every statistic has slowly declined over the last several years, with the exception of ATOI.
Small - he does not solve the "size" problem of the blue line.
The Stars would be a better team with Johnny Oduya wearing Victory Green. His versatility and positional acumen guarantee a steady diet of boring. While boring is sometimes mistakenly perceived as uselessness, it is a characteristic the Stars' defense has lacked for years. Dallas needs more boring defensemen that show up every night, block shots, and don't pass the puck to the other team.
Oduya would be a useful player and his services would go a long way to shoring up a young defense.