For the second summer in a row, the Dallas Stars have landed an elite center via trade.
About two hours later, they also landed a scoring wing to play with that center.
Twelve months after acquiring Tyler Seguin from the Boston Bruins, general manager Jim Nill poached Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators about an hour before the start of free agency Tuesday. The Stars sent promising second-year player Alex Chiasson, prospects Alex Guptill and Nick Paul and a second-round pick in the 2015 draft back to Ottawa, per NHL.com
Tough pill to swallow at times, but Spezza's worth something like 2 wins this year. Chiasson could produce that over next 2 years.— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) July 1, 2014
Nill then signed right wing Ales Hemsky, who played on a line with Spezza after being acquired at the trade deadline from Edmonton last season, to a three-year, $12 million contract, according to Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada.
Spezza has one year with a $7 million cap hit remaining on his contract, although he is only owed $4 million in salary, something that made him very appealing to the Stars. He had a short list of teams to which he would accept a trade and turned down one that would have sent him to Nashville, but approved this deal.
"It wasn't so much a 'no' to the teams I had on my no list," Spezza said on a conference call. "It was just that I really felt that Dallas was a fit for me. That was a team that I had targeted that I wanted to go to. I have a relationship with [coach] Lindy [Ruff]; he coached me at World Championships. I think the young group they have is an envy of a lot of the league."
During the call, news broke that the Stars had also landed Hemsky, something that presumably brought a smile to Spezza's face based on his reaction.
"If Hemmer signed with Dallas, I'm thrilled," Spezza said. "We had great chemistry at the end of the year. That's nice to hear. We played on a line for, what was he here for—23, 24 games [actually 20] we were on a line together. We got to know each other pretty quickly, so that's exciting for me, for sure."
One season after relying heavily on a line with Seguin and Jamie Benn to carry the scoring water, the Stars now have legitimate scoring threats on their second line that make them one of the more dangerous offensive teams in the West.
Last season, Seguin and Benn led the Stars with 84 and 79 points, respectively, which was good for fourth and eighth in scoring in the league, respectively. The Stars' third-leading scorer was defenseman Alex Goligoski, who had 42 points in 81 games.
The next-highest scoring forwards were Chiasson and Cody Eakin with 35 points each.
Spezza comes with baggage, no question. Not only can he walk into unrestricted free agency after this season, the 31-year-old arrives in Dallas with a questionable back. He played just five games two seasons ago because of surgery to repair a herniated disc.
Spezza played in 75 games last season and delivered 23 goals and 66 points for a beleaguered Senators team that did not meet expectations. Spezza and Kyle Turris were almost interchangeable as the team's No. 1 and No. 2 centers, as they both played about 18:30 per game and faced about the same level of competition at five-on-five.
With the Stars, Spezza should get cushier assignments with Seguin and Benn absorbing the opposition's best defensemen and defensive forwards on a regular basis. This will also allow Ruff to use Eakin as a third-line center, a more appropriate role after he looked overmatched at times last year on the second line.
I like Spezza as a hired gun for the Stars a lot. Ruff can give him cushy minutes thanks to Roussel-Eakin-Garbutt: http://t.co/0lWWVcIqqt— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) July 1, 2014
By adding Hemsky, the Stars are giving Spezza someone with which he can mesh immediately. In 20 games with the Senators, the 30-year-old had four goals and 17 points. He had spent the previous 10 seasons with the Oilers, where he had a pair of 70-point seasons but saw his numbers diminish thanks to a rash of injuries and playing on some of the worst teams in the NHL.
Hemsky's possession numbers the past three seasons have been mostly positive, as he has put up solid raw and relative Corsi numbers. Couple that with how he worked with Spezza, and it's easy to see why the Stars wanted to land him.
There's still plenty of time for free agency to reshape the roster, but as it stands now, it's quite potent.
|Left wing||Center||Right wing|
|Jamie Benn||Tyler Seguin||Valeri Nichushkin|
|Erik Cole||Jason Spezza||Ales Hemsky|
|Antoine Roussel||Cody Eakin||Ryan Garbutt|
|Colton Sceviour||Shawn Horcoff||Rich Peverley|
Potentially having Seguin, Spezza, Eakin and Shawn Horcoff as their four centers doesn't put the Stars on the same level as the Los Angeles Kings, but one year after making the playoffs with a top-heavy squad and taking the Anaheim Ducks to six games, they are now in position to go a little further next season.
The fourth line is clearly a work in progress, as the health of Rich Peverley is a big question mark, but the Stars have one of the better top-nines in the West, if not the league, entering this season.
But how long will this last? Spezza is only signed for one more year and said he has not begun to think about a contract extension with the Stars.
"We haven't talked about it," Spezza said. "There's been a lot going on, so it's something. I don't know, I don't even know where we would stand or the team would stand or where we'd progress with that. That's not a priority, by no means. I just want to go there, establish myself and play and show them how much I can contribute and help the team win.
"The contract stuff always takes care of itself. If it's a fit for the team and a fit for me, then we move forward with that."
If it turns out that Spezza is just a one-year rental, it's well worth the gamble.
But if Spezza stays long term, the Stars will be a force in the West for years to come.
Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.