If Patrick Eaves didn't have bad luck, he would have no luck at all.
There was the friendly-fire shot from John Klingberg last season that caught him in the head and gave everyone a concussion scare. There was the flu that everyone on the team got but turned into pneumonia and a month out of the lineup. There was yet another friendly-fire shot, this one from Stephen Johns, that knocked him out for significant stretches of the playoffs.
The list is long enough that you start to wonder who Eaves annoyed in a previous life to come back at this point of the karmic cycle. But when he did stay healthy, as he was for 54 games this season (the most he's played since 2010-11), he was an extremely valuable part.
It wasn't quite the breakout return he had last season. The 11 goals and 6 assist in those 54 games were 10 points (most of them assists) behind that total. But he had a knack for scoring big goals, particularly as the net-front man on the power play, and for being the type of utility player who could move up and down the lineup with relative ease.
That's saying sometime, as the Stars once again struggled to find a true long-term winger for the dynamic Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin combination. Patrick Sharp, Valeri Nichushkin, Cody Eakin and even a flash of Ales Hemsky tried their luck there this year, but Eaves was one of the more successful (particularly defensively) options of the many.
Eaves also upped his game in the playoffs despite that injury after taking the Johns shot, playing in nine of Dallas' 13 games and putting up six points in about 15 minutes per game. He continued to bounce around the lineup but had a sparkling 57.7 percent playoff Corsi even so.
The real question with Eaves is not did the Stars get their money's worth - they took a flyer on him two offseasons ago coming off of the very nasty concussion recovery, and $1.15 million this season is more than reasonable for his contribution. The real question is what to do with him now.
At 32 (though a just-turned-32), Eaves isn't getting any younger, and the Stars have a number of young forwards like Devin Shore and Jason Dickinson who should be pushing for playing time next year. At the same time, his all-around game is a little more robust at this point in his career, and he clearly fits in well with the Stars playing style and group. He's a perfect complimentary veteran, particularly if the Stars decide to let players like Vernon Fiddler sign elsewhere.
And obviously, other teams are a factor as well. As an unrestricted free agent, Eaves can price-shop to his heart's content. He doesn't seem like the type of player who would command a monstrous contract at this point, but the Nashville Predators paid out the nose for Eric Nystrom a few years back, so anything is possible.
The partnership with Eaves has been a fruitful one for both parties. The Stars have gotten a very reasonably priced utility player who fits in well on the top power play when called upon, and Eaves has proven he still has what it takes to play in the NHL after a concussion knocked him out for about a year. With the style of game that takes him right to the front of the net, more injuries are inevitable, and even with the time missed he has been an asset.
So what say you, Stars fans? How did Eaves fare relative to your expectations last season, and perhaps more important, do you think the Stars should bring him back for another go round?