Out with the old for the Dallas Stars.
Dallas is clearly focusing on the future and its up-and-coming young Stars after trading 41-year-old points leader Jaromir Jagr and surging centre Derek Roy on Tuesday.
The deals came a day before the NHL trading deadline, following consecutive losses and just more than a week after longtime Stars captain Brenden Morrow was traded.
“The overriding factor was that this team, I felt, needed to be altered in order for us to move forward as an organization looking ahead,” general manager Joe Nieuwendyk said.
“The ability to acquire some young kids and some good draft picks in a deep draft was a big factor.”
Dallas got two young prospects from Boston, along with a second-round pick that could become a first-rounder this summer if Jagr and the Bruins advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
The Canucks sent Dallas a 23-year-old defenceman and a second-round pick for Roy, who has a goal and five assists his past five games after only one assist the seven games before that.
“This is by no means closing the door on this season,” insisted Nieuwendyk, who has nine picks in next summer’s draft. “To make the playoffs, that is still the goal, and these kids are going to have an opportunity to show their stuff.”
Asked if there could be more moves before Wednesday’s trading deadline, Nieuwendyk said his phone would be on and his ears open.
Within a couple of hours after that, the Stars acquired 23-year-old defenceman Cameron Gaunce from Colorado for 22-year-old forward Tomas Vincour.
With only 13 games left in the shortened season, the Stars (16-16-3) were 12th in the Western Conference, three points behind the eighth and final playoff spot.
Dallas lost 4-0 on Monday night at home to Anaheim, a team the Stars play twice more this week in California.
The Stars have lost three of their four games since the 34-year-old Morrow was dealt to Pittsburgh for unrelated defenceman Joe Morrow.
Jagr, Roy and Morrow all had expiring contracts.
Nieuwendyk said there had been some dialogue “at one point” with Jagr and Roy about new contracts. The GM didn’t elaborate.
Morrow’s rookie season with the Stars was 1999-2000, when they were Stanley Cup runner-ups a year after winning the championship. He had to waive a no-trade clause to be sent to Pittsburgh.
Even before sending away the trio of veteran leaders, the Stars had already been leaning heavily on youngsters this season. They were using as many as six rookies in the lineup at a time.
Many nights, Dallas has employed at least two rookies on the blue line, including 22-year-old Brenden Dillon, who ranks third on the club in ice time, averaging more than 21 minutes a game.
Roy, who spent the first eight seasons of his career in Buffalo, had off-season shoulder surgery after being acquired in a trade last summer. He had four goals and 18 assists in 30 games for the Stars.
Jagr, one of the NHL’s top career scorers with 1,679 points, signed a one-year free agent deal with the Stars last summer. He had 14 goals and 12 assists for a team-leading 26 points in 34 games for Dallas.
“In the case of Jaromir, treating our fans to some of his game at the age of 41 was exciting for the people here in Dallas,” Nieuwendyk said. “It was a great experience for us and for him. He’s been a class act.”
Now the ice belongs to the youngsters.
“You’re going to see some kids that are going to help us get to the next level to where we want to go,” the GM said. “These young kids, they want to show what they have. Sometimes when you have that type of attitude, a team can come closer and I expect that we’ll play hard, we’ll challenge and we’ll get a good look at our young kids.”
Gaunce was assigned to the Texas Stars, their development affiliate that has the most points in the American Hockey League. Kevin Connuaton, the defenceman who came from Vancouver in the Roy deal, was also assigned there with forwards Reilly Smith and Francis Wathier.
The Stars recalled forwards Alex Chiasson, Tom Wandell, Matt Fraser and Colton Sceviour from the Texas Stars.