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|Dallas looking for turnaround under new owner|
|Written by Andrew Knoll|
|Tuesday, 31 July 2012 10:36|
The past four seasons have been rough for the Dallas Stars, who missed the post season now four straight times. They hope to remedy that with the additions of Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney.In Dallas, four straight playoff misses have given the Dallas Stars the impetus to change their roster while new owner Tom Gaglardi has afforded them the means to do so.
Although the Minnesota Wild undoubtedly made the biggest splash this offseason signing the top two free agents in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, Dallas has loaded up on bridge players following a solid draft and their effort to re-sign restricted free agent forward Jamie Benn.
Dallas signed 40-year-old wingers Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney to one- and two-year contracts, respectively. It also added free-agent stay-at-home defenseman Aaron Rome as well as center Derek Roy in a trade with Buffalo. Rome received a three-year contract while Roy is in the final year of his deal.
“I think it makes sense for us to try and add some of these bridge guys, that can help facilitate some of our young players,” said Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk, who added that he felt that long, complexly structured deals were “not an ideal situation.”
In Whitney and Jagr, the Stars acquired perhaps the most bankable talent available on the open market. Still, they did so by outbidding as many as 20 other teams for Jagr to the tune of a 50 percent increase over his 2011-2012 salary and signing Whitney for a second season, something few if any other clubs were willing to do.
“There was one team that didn’t see anything in my game that would make them afraid of giving me a second year and that was what I most appreciated,” said Whitney, who was brought in to bolster a struggling Stars' power play and add Stanley Cup experience.
Nieuwendyk lauded Whitney as a player who still produced at a high level and elevated the play of his linemates. He and Whitney both had high praise for Gaglardi, whose support as an owner Whitney said gave the franchise a voice within the league and the means to improve itself.
“Having an owner in place is very important,” said Whitney, who played last year with the NHL-operated Phoenix Coyotes. “We got stuck with some of the worst scheduling I’ve seen in 20 years. There was a stretch of 23 games in a row where we had to fly into the game.”
Jagr came from a much more stable situation in Philadelphia, where the ownership had deep pockets and high ambition. He said that he saw parallels between the young core and ambitious management in Dallas as the Stars brought in a point-producer in Roy, improved their depth at center, acquired Whitney and got a stay-at-home defenseman in Rome.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s don’t underestimate anybody, ever,” said Jagr, who believed the Stars were a playoff team following agonizing near-misses in recent years. “The Kings were so close to not making the playoffs and then they totally dominated in the playoffs. The margin of error between the champion and the teams not making the playoffs is so small, the little details make a huge difference. “
While the Stars want to test the adage that once a team is in the playoffs, anything can happen, their postseason hopes rest in large part on the performance of two of the league’s five oldest players.
“Just because you’re at an age, it doesn’t mean you’re supposed to decline,” Whitney said. “For most of my career, it was my size, I was too short to play the game. After that, people questioned my age.
"There’s nothing that says you can’t play into your forties, nobody questioned Mark Recchi or Nick Lidstrom playing through their forties.”
While both players relish the opportunity to mentor rookies and young players in their prime — Nieuwendyk said Jagr was tentatively set to skate with Benn and Loui Eriksson — Jagr believes the team will be immediately competitive.
“I missed out on the playoffs one time in my life, I don’t want to do it again,” Jagr said.
Photos by Getty Images
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 31 July 2012 05:37|