Friedman: Dallas Stars May Be "Quiet Lurker" For Defenseman Johnny Oduya
One of the NHL's premier insiders has indicated the Stars may be sniffing around free agent defenseman Johnny Oduya.
Elliotte Friedman is one of the most connected NHL insiders, and his regular 30 Thoughts column often tosses out intriguing nuggets worthy of further discussion. In his final such column of the 2014-15 season (with 14 bonus thoughts for good measure), one of the most intriguing bits applied to the Dallas Stars.
The relevant paragraph is here, bolding mine:
So, how long is Johnny Oduya willing to wait? The consensus is he wants to return to Chicago and the feeling is mutual. But is there a time limit on this? Bowman didn’t deal Saad until the last second and followed the same protocol with Nick Leddy one year ago. A couple of sources indicated Oduya’s contract requests are not unreasonable, so it all comes down to his comfort with the pace of the process. Boston is believed to be among the most interested parties. Buffalo was there at some point, although the Sabres’ desire is unknown now. A couple of teams suspect Dallas is a quiet lurker, especially since the term does not appear onerous. He’d be a great fit there.
That's quite an interesting tidbit.
On one hand, the Stars have repeatedly said they are much more likely to address any changes to the defense via trade rather than free agency, which makes sense given that they have eight NHL-experienced defensemen on the roster already. Even before the signing of Jamie Oleksiak to a one-year contract today, the addition of any defenseman would lead to the move of at least one other via trade or an attempt to sneak him back to the AHL.
But Oduya is one of the premier defenseman free agents available this offseason, and while the Stars defense was not as much of a problem as perceived after the first 8-10 weeks of last season, upgrades to the blueline are certainly tempting with the team entering win-now mode.
Now, there are several factors in play here.
Of the three non-Chicago teams mentioned, the Stars seem to be in the position to be contenders the quickest, but they may also be slightly reserved with things like cap hits over the long term given that they have a large contract extensions coming up in two and four years. A team like Buffalo, which seems to be attempting to come out of rebuild mode, may feel like offering more money or term. Boston is just full of contradictions this offseason, so I fully expect them to offer something like the keys to Loui Eriksson's house and a Duck boat.
Oduya is also slightly older than the group the Stars been assembling thus far. At 33, turning 34 just before the season starts, Oduya would be the oldest player on the Stars defense by two years, four if a signing causes them to somehow move current oldest player Trevor Daley. He would be the second-oldest player on the roster, less than a year younger than Vernon Fiddler. Listed at 6-foot, 190 pounds, Oduya plays a fairly physical game but does not bring the extra size some feel was lacking.
From a possession statistics perspective, Oduya had a positive Corsi but the lowest CorsiRel of the regular Blackhawks defensemen last year at -10.1 in 76 games, though that is somewhat mitigated by his relatively difficult zone starts and quality of competition as compared to his teammates. Given that, there are some interesting discussions to be had about how he would fare on a higher events-against team, especially as he gets older.
Finally, there is the question of the Blackhawks themselves. If Oduya does want to remain in Chicago, he may be willing to wait for the Hawks to try and clear cap space and/or sign a below market value contract to remain there. The fact that he's waited this long to sign may indicate he's waiting until the Hawks have put forward the best offer they can to make his decision. There have been other reports to that end as well.
The bottom line is that it's an interesting rumor. The addition of Oduya would almost certainly improve the Stars defense in the short term, but there are plenty of reasonable questions as to the type of deal the Stars might offer, let alone how that would compare to the other players and his reported desire to stay put.