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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Sunday’s trade that saw defenseman Darryl Sydor return to the Dallas Stars from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for fellow blueliner Philippe Boucher largely flew under the radar, with one THNer chocking it up to “When in doubt in Dallas, deal for Sydor.”

Looking at the numbers, the trade seems to be a saw-off. Both players make $2.5 million and are UFAs come July 1. Sydor is 36, Boucher 35. Sydor was the seventh overall pick in 1990, Boucher the 13th pick in 1991. And their best years are behind them.

But the acquisition of Boucher for Sydor was a steal for the Pens; more than just a minor tweaking and a move that will play a significant role for the Pens moving forward.

Here’s why:

By moving Sydor, the Pens rid themselves of a seventh defenseman who hardly played and was perpetually in coach Michel Therrien’s doghouse. Sydor does have a winning history (two Stanley Cups, one Memorial Cup, one world junior championship) and good-to-excellent play on his resume (including a season of 48 points and plus-37 in 1996-97).

But he was a healthy scratch for 16 of Pittsburgh’s 20 playoff games last season and nine of their 17 games this season. So far in 2008-09, Sydor has averaged 14:23 of ice time (last amongst Pittsburgh defensemen) with a stat line of one goal, two points and a plus-5 rating.

Boucher didn’t break into the league full-time until 2001-02 and has been hampered by injuries in recent seasons, managing just 38 games in 2007-08. But in Boucher, the Pens get a major upgrade over Sydor.

The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder immediately becomes Pittsburgh’s No. 2 defender. He’s big, burly and not afraid to throw his weight around, but he can also score. His best season was 2006-07, when he tallied 19 goals and 51 points and finished with a plus-2 rating, while regularly playing the point on the power play and earning a place in the All-Star Game.

Most importantly for now, Boucher takes a lot of pressure off rookie Alex Goligoski and sophomore Kris Letang, both of whom were having more asked of them than the Pens anticipated this season. And when Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar return from injury, Boucher will offer depth and offense from the second or third pairing.

When it’s all said and done, the Stars get a familiar face back who they know can offer some leadership to their young blueliners – early reports have Sydor lining up with Matt Niskanen – if not top-two pairing play. In divesting themselves of Sydor, the Pens get rid of a potential headache in a veteran who can’t be happy sitting in the press box, while relative no-names Rob Scuderi and Mark Eaton aren’t.

In Boucher the Pens get a solid blueliner who offers both physical play and offensive touch and when the blueline is fully healthy again – and assuming Boucher can stay healthy himself – a top-of-the-line No. 3 or 4 defender.

John Grigg is a copy editor with The Hockey News and a regular contributor to with his blog and the Top 10.

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