As much as we can speculate on what the Dallas Stars need in order to elevate themselves into a playoff contender, there’s no clarity quite as clear as what the team actually does. That is, unless the team’s moves are so confusing that they somehow offer us even less insight than we had before.
Nill on Oleksiak trade:— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) January 28, 2019
"With our back end, we haven't had Methot or Johns all season, they are both big heavy weighty guys. When we started to realize that Marc was done for the year and with Stephen's unknown, we knew we had to add a weight guy that could eat up some minutes."
On Monday, the team announced that it hit Ctrl+Z on last year’s Jamie Oleksiak trade to the Penguins. Seriously.
Big Rig returns to Big D!— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) January 28, 2019
The Dallas Stars have acquired defenseman Jamie Oleksiak from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft. https://t.co/7NkXgxBP7G
The fourth-round pick is the same pick the Penguins gave the Stars last season for Oleksiak.— Matthew DeFranks (@MDeFranks) January 28, 2019
Thus concludes the interest-free loan of Jamie Oleksiak to the Penguins for the last year or so. Call it an extended conditioning assignment, or maybe even call it a free bit of playoff experience for the Dallas defender who never got it in, well, Dallas.
First, the details: Dallas has officially ended Marc Methot’s season, as the veteran defender underwent a knee operation to repair a “cartilage defect” in his left knee. This move was not really a surprise.
Marc Methot lost a chunk of bone under the knee cap where the cartilage is, had to get a donor bone put in during surgery. Had tried a little bit of everything, this was last resort option for Methot.— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) January 28, 2019
Jamie Oleksiak (traded to Dallas for a pick) is an average defender. pic.twitter.com/Thi6G4FbyV— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) January 28, 2019
Oleksiak has played third-pairing minutes in Pittsburgh, and he’s been...fine. The team doesn’t ask him to do much behind a fabulous group of forwards, and Oleksiak has responded by being more or less a third-pairing defenseman. Not a bad return, in a vacuum, for a fourth-round pick, right?
Pittsburgh had a bit of logjam in the bottom of their blueline, as Jack Johnson’s return means they had a group of Johnson, Pettersson, Riikola and Ruhwedel all vying for minutes. This move says as much about what Pittsburgh thinks they don’t need for the playoffs as it does about what Dallas thinks they need to get to the playoffs. I mean, think about this: who would Dallas be willing to trade out of their defense pool for a 4th-rounder? That’s about the size of things—or shall we say, lack of size—from Pittsburgh’s perspective.
With the injuries on their blue line and the organization’s lack of faith in Julius Honka’s development, Dallas had been using more or less a patchwork bottom-four defensemen, with Miro Heiskanen and Taylor Fedun being the most reliable performers. From a certain point of view, one can see how the front office might have felt a certain urgency to get more playoff-ready (no jokes yet, please) on the back end. Oleksiak played meaningful minutes (averaging 13+ minutes per night) for Pittsburgh last year in all 12 of their playoff games, so again, in a vacuum, he seems like a pickup that at least means Dallas has a bit more experience on the blue line. Expect something like this, I suppose:
The rub, of course, is this: Oleksiak was jettisoned from Dallas in the first place because Dallas, after parts of six NHL seasons, couldn’t get a consistent performance out of him. Ken Hitchcock famously saw Oleksiak as a top-four player going into last season, and that experiment ended rather quickly, with Oleksiak looking uncomfortable at the best of times. The thinking after last year’s trade was that it was an overdue fresh start for Oleksiak, giving him a chance to grow outside of the weighty expectations of the organization that made him a first-round pick and the team’s next big hope on defense at a time when Dallas desperately needed a top-pairing defenseman to build upon (i.e. before John Klingberg).
Now, with the team rocking a bottom-of-the-NHL offense and serious depth-scoring issues in lines 2-4, they have responded by acquiring a defenseman who is big and strong and has a lot of difficult history with the organization.
If Dallas has a need on defense right now, it’s the need to find a second pairing that doesn’t include Roman Polák, whose lack of footspeed and inability to move the puck up the ice are, at best, balanced out when paired with Miro Heiskanen. At worse, Polák has been a liability for this team, with his inability to do much other than clear the net-front while the other team sets up a dangerous cycle.
The acquisition of Oleksiak doesn’t address that issue at all. If anything, this ensures that Polák will continue to play on the second pairing, with Nill himself saying that he envisions Oleksiak as a 15-minutes-a-night sort of player.
Here's how he compares to the rest of the Stars defense (when they were healthy). Fits in as someone who can clear the puck. pic.twitter.com/A6UwBVAP3d— Corey Sznajder (@ShutdownLine) January 28, 2019
As you can see that’s a pretty spot-on Marc Methot replacement, which is great if that’s what you’re looking for. Dallas, apparently, was looking for just that.
We’ll have more on Jim Nill tomorrow, but my immediate reaction to this trade is that the team is doubling down on Jim Montgomery’s comments after the All-Star break, forcing upon themselves an identity as a big, strong, defense-first team that is going to trust its goalies to give them a chance to steal games and its top line to score just enough (every night, presumably) to eke out victory. The defense will largely (heh) be clearing the puck to safety instead of looking to move the puck quickly in transition,
In other words, it’s the polar opposite of the relentless, dynamic team we might have been expecting to see leading up to opening night.
Jamie Oleksiak is a big third-pairing defenseman. The Stars clearly wanted that, and they see Oleksiak filling Methot’s place as a lower-lineup guy with size. If you think the Stars’ issues revolve around possession, puck movement and offense, this move does very little to reassure you that the front office wants to solve those issues. This move more or less ensures that the likes of Joel Hanley, Ben Gleason, Gavin Bayreuther or Julius Honka will not need to play meaningful games down the stretch. Clearly the organization saw that as a risk, and they didn’t exactly overpay to mitigate that risk.
Is it a good move? I mean, it’s not like they spent anything meaningful to make it. It surely is a confusing one, though. If Oleksiak can retain his Pittsburgh form in Dallas, it could be a nice bit of reliability down the lineup, and that’s not nothing. Oleksiak has always had decent footspeed for his enormous size, so I guess that’s helpful if the team is trying to get faster. There is some upside to the move, I guess is what I’m saying.
Of course, if Oleksiak does end up looking much better this go-round, it also speaks volumes about Dallas’s inability to get anything out of a first-round draft pick who then figured it out in just a year on another team.
Oleksiak, by the way, was signed by Pittsburgh to a $2.1 million AAV extension through 2020-21. He is also now the second-longest tenured Star, after Jamie Benn, if you don’t count his conditioning assignment to Pittsburgh.
Here’s the official release:
FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has acquired defenseman Jamie Oleksiak from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for a fourth-round selection in the 2019 NHL Draft. The fourth-round selection was originally acquired by the Stars from the Penguins on Dec. 19, 2017 in exchange for Oleksiak.
Oleksiak, 26, has appeared in 36 games this season for the Penguins, registering 11 points (4-7=11) and a +5 plus/minus rating. His 97 hits were third on the team, and his four goals were second amongst Penguins defensemen. Since being acquired by Pittsburgh, he appeared in 83 regular-season games played, recording 25 points (8-17=25) and a +18 plus/minus. He appeared in 12 postseason contests last season as well, recording one goal and 39 hits.
Having played in parts of seven NHL seasons with Dallas and Pittsburgh, he has produced 47 points (15-32=47) in 223 regular-season games played. He appeared in 140 regular-season contests with Dallas registering 22 points (7-15=22) and 100 penalty minutes.
”Our blueline has been depleted by injury all season and acquiring Jamie will give us depth at defense,” said Nill. “We know him very well and we’re excited to have him back in the fold.”
The 6-foot-7, 255-pound native of Toronto, Ont. was originally selected by Dallas in the first round (14th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft.
Additionally, defenseman Marc Methot underwent successful surgery to repair a cartilage defect in his left knee. The season-ending surgery was performed by Dr. Brian Cole at the Rush Clinic in Chicago, Illinois.