The Dallas Stars claimed right-handed defenseman Sami Vatanen off waivers today. The 29-year-old veteran had been playing for the New Jersey Devils this season on a contract that expires this summer and carried a cap hit of $2 million, per Cap Friendly. In 30 games played this season, he’s scored two goals and six points and is a +2.
Vatanen is likely a depth move to shore up the blueline with Andrej Sekera going out of last night’s game in a fairly gruesome-looking injury. Mark Pysyk is currently also out with injury. Additionally, Joel Hanley returned for the first time after missing five games since getting injured April 1st versus the Nashville Predators. He returned last night, and with the team off today, there could also be some bumps and bruises from him and others on the blueline that could preempt this type of move by the Stars.
It also could signal that Sekera will be out for an extended period, and Vatanen’s veteran experience gives them some additional depth for that third pairing. Vatanen also has played penalty kill time, a role that Sekera has had for the Stars. His pending UFA status this summer doesn’t handcuff the team to something long-term to get short-term help, and doesn’t really play into the expansion draft picture for the Stars this summer either with the Seattle Kraken getting their choice from veteran forwards, defenders, and goalies to kickstart their team.
This move doesn’t necessarily signal that another move isn’t incoming either, though. Depth is important when you’re going to deal away another player. They have Taylor Fedun on the taxi squad that could fill into the third pairing. But with the injury status of a team that looks to still be in the thick of the playoff hunt, this feels more like a move meant to buttress the depth — not sell away another piece.
Anything can happen on trade deadline day, though. Until the clock strikes 3 PM EDT and general manager Jim Nill addresses the local media later this afternoon, things can change in a heartbeat.