"We're going to wake up one of these days and have a pretty solid core of defensemen"
-- Jim Nill
The Johnny Oduya conference call has just ended. He is officially a Dallas Stars defenseman after signing a deal paying him close to $8,000,000 over two seasons.
It took over two weeks for Oduya to decide on his next destination. Many suspected that he was waiting for the Chicago Blackhawks to clear salary cap space for his return. Oduya confirmed that was the case:
"From the start that was something I was trying to do...As time progresses other things become more interesting and you start to see yourself in a different spot."
You can't really blame him. He had a very good thing going with the Blackhawks. He eventually did find a new landing spot. He mentioned several times how fast the Stars were, and when asked if the Stars were on the cusp of being a high quality team he had this to say:
"Last year was maybe not the result that the organization wanted. Any time we played them It was a really good team, a tough team to play against. The potential was there...It could just be a matter of one or two players maturing a little bit more to break through the next barrier."
He isn't a 20 year old walking into a situation blind. This is a veteran player coming off of winning a Stanley Cup playing for the most successful franchise of the Salary Cap era. He isn't picking the Stars out of charity. He wants to win, but he knows his role with the Stars will be a little different than Chicago:
Any time you come into a situation like I do now, if I'm not wrong I think I'm the oldest one back there now, of course you approach it a little differently.
The trade that sent Patrick Sharp to the Stars in exchance for Trevor Daley played a role in the move. Sharp did a little bit of lobbying to help persuade Oduya:
"He tried to get a hold of me. I got a text the other day. So far he only had great things to say."
Another important aspect of the trade was that it intensified the Stars desire for acquiring a defenseman. According to Jim Nill the Stars were in contact with Oduya from the opening of free agency and stayed in touch. The Daley trade opened the door for the signing:
"We went back to the springtime, we knew we wanted to get strong on the back end...The main thing was when we lost Trevor Daley we had a big hole...Once I knew we were going to make that trade I knew that was something we wanted to look at."
Despite the significant depth in young defensemen the Stars have, and they do have significant depth, they felt the need to add a veteran presence. Nill explained that they are "trying to be patient, you can't rush young defensemen." He identified Esa Lindell, Julius Honka, Stephen Johns, and Mattias Backman as guys right on the cusp of making the jump. Adding a veteran presence gives the group more time to develop while focusing on winning now.
(Nill also noted that Johns was "a key" to the Sharp trade happening, adding that "he wouldn't have made the trade without him". Note, not the key. Let's not overlook how good Patrick Sharp is.)
Nill had many good things to say about Oduya. The main focus was what type of person he is and the leadership qualities he brings:
"What I love about Johnny is the way he lives his life...He prepares right. He's a fitness fanatic"
Oduya is Swedish, and part of the thought process here is that he will come in and be a role model for Patrik Nemeth and John Klingberg. In fact, Nill said that Nemeth and Oduya already work out together so there "is already a connection."
The Stars did their background work on Oduya. They really like the fit he brings, and at that contract it would be hard to argue against it. Nill even acknowledged how familiar he is with Oduya.
"I've known him since my scouting days in Detroit....since he was 17".
The Stars seem done. Nill called Oduya the "last piece of the puzzle" before also acknowledging that Oduya was "at the top of our list". The team is improved from top to bottom, and at this point we can definitely call this a successful offseason.
How this all works out remains to be seen, but Nill put it best:
"Potential is just a word until you do it".