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Why Rewarding Loyalty Isn’t Always a Bad Thing

Patrick Eaves continues to pile up the points and his loyalty should be reciprocated by Dallas this summer.

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

It’s almost 2017 and Patrick Eaves is currently leading the Dallas Stars in goals.

One might think “Wow everyone else must be having a terrible season” and while that is certainly part of the picture, I will choose to focus on the positive, which is Eaves is playing incredibly well so far this year.

Eaves having this type of season this late in his career is remarkable considering what he has gone through to get here. He has never played 82 games in a season as he has had to consistently battle injuries throughout various campaigns with the Ottawa Senators, Carolina Hurricanes, Detroit Red Wings, Nashville Predators and now the Stars.

It’s not just the injuries, it’s the kind of injuries. He’s dealt with broken bones, illnesses and above all else, concussions.

While he’s missed just one game this season, he has been absent for the majority of practices due to a lingering issue with his foot.

Despite all of that, Eaves has already eclipsed last season’s goal total and is just eight goals away from tying his career high of 20 set back in the 2005-06 season. He’s also done well in driving solid territorial play at even strength. (Data via corsica.hockey)

He currently sits third among Stars’ forwards in individual shot attempts as he has shown a willingness to get the puck off his stick quickly and towards opposing netminders.

That quick and lethal release of his has landed him a spot next to Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin for a good chunk of the first 34 games. Eaves has been a better scorer at 5v5 than both Seguin and Benn, scoring five goals at even strength to the dynamic duo’s three a piece.

He has kept up with them on the powerplay as well, his six tallies with the extra man is only bested by Seguin’s seven. If Eaves is able to avoid serious injury, he could be well on his way to setting a career high in goals at age 32.

Let’s Talk Contract

Patrick Eaves has entered the last three summers without a contract in place. Each time, he has signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Stars worth a total of $2.8 million when you combine the three deals. He’s earned himself a little bump in pay and Jim Nill would be right to give it to him this offseason.

Look, I enjoy numbers and I incorporate a lot of them when trying to form opinions on players, coaches and contracts. For a team to win the Stanley Cup, analyzing the value of players is critical. I understand that giving a multi-year deal to a 33-year-old player who has had many injury concerns throughout his career is a risk. There is, however, something to be said for the human element when it comes to re-signing players to new contracts.

Loyalty is an interesting thing in sports. I see fans all of the time hoping that Star Player X will take a hometown discount to show loyalty and allow their team a better chance at a championship. Look what went on in Tampa Bay this offseason. Players took discounts left and right to fit themselves safely under the salary cap.

But what about showing loyalty the other way? We hear about the bad ones often enough like Ken Holland with Daniel Cleary or Stan Bowman with Brent Seabrook. The argument is often the same; “Why did you give money and/or term to that player when this player is better and cheaper?” The question certainly makes logical sense, but I don’t think it’s that simple.

Showing loyalty to a player that has shown loyalty to you isn’t necessarily a negative thing for the team. If a general manager is consistently casting off players who had always put the team first, what kind of message does that send to potential players down the road? If Jim Nill had developed that kind of reputation, does Johnny Oduya sign as an unrestricted free agent in Dallas? Does Jason Spezza waive his no-trade clause to become a Star? Who knows.

Now that isn’t to say general managers should just always keep their loyal players and never look elsewhere to improve the team. Ultimately, both the front office and the players understand that hockey is a business. But when a solid veteran player has taken three cheap one-year deals and performed well during them, is it the worst thing in the world to offer a little more money than you initially wanted to? You’ve arguably underpaid the player for three seasons, after all.

Rewarding a player for past performance and loyalty certainly can hurt you in the future but each case must be looked at separately. Overpaying Patrick Eaves $400K isn’t the same as giving Brent Seabrook an eight-year deal.

Eaves has shown great loyalty to the Dallas Stars organization. Off the ice, he has taken three straight one-year deals to be a part of the team. On the ice, he’s been hit by his teammates’ slap shots on basically every square-inch of his body. Rewarding a player like that with a little extra money in the offseason wouldn’t look too bad to me.