The Dallas Stars announced today that they had traded defenseman Jamie Oleksiak for a conditional fourth round pick in the 2019 draft from the Pittsburgh Penguins. The condition is based on both the finishes of the Penguins and the Minnesota Wild, as Pittsburgh has both of those fourth round picks in the draft. Dallas will receive whichever pick is earlier, so it’ll be a season before we know what pick number that ends up being.
This move comes in the wake of news earlier this week that Marc Methot is getting healthier and close to a return. He practiced for the first time on Monday after injuring himself and requiring a knee scope, and head coach Ken Hitchcock at morning skate today said there’s an outside chance he could return as early as Saturday. That’d be on the shorter side of the four to six week recovery projected at the time Methot went out of the lineup.
Recently, Dallas has played better on the road, and that better play has coincided with Julius Honka’s insertion into the lineup. Facing likely more healthy scratches, and with roster choices looming once Methot returns, Dallas decided that it could part ways with Oleksiak.
Oleksiak has been, for a while now at least, a polarizing player within the Dallas Stars fan base. For some, Oleksiak represents an abject failure by the Stars to draft and develop defensemen that are solid at the NHL level. For others, Oleksiak represents untapped potential - and the fear that the right system, coach, or situation organizationally will turn him into the Zdeno Chara-esque blueliner most dreamed of when the 6’ 7” specimen of a human was when he was drafted.
He never seemed to find his identity in Dallas, though.
Oleksiak played 140 games at the NHL level over six seasons, and in those he often failed many people’s eyeball test (the missed passes, missed positioning, mixed up coverages) and the statistics test (quite often posting the worst possession metrics of Stars players in each game). He was always on the cusp of an every day NHLer here, not doing enough to find and hold a spot in the lineup during that time (and Dallas had some U-G-L-Y ugly blueline mixes in seasons past) but never quite doing bad enough to be sent to the minors for more development.
It’s likely the debate of whether Oleksiak didn’t have the tools that matched the system in Dallas in order to succeed here was the issue or whether the team’s inability to stick with seven blueliners for seemingly eternity impacted his development to the point where he was never going to realize his potential here will rage on for a while yet. But the Stars finally made a decision, for better or for worse, and now the answers on the blueline get one body closer to being determined for the long run.