Monday, 26 June 2017

Dallas Looks To Improve

The Central Division seems to be in some topsy-turvy movement as teams reload for the upcoming season. We saw Chicago deal Artemi Panarin and Niklas Hjalmarsson away while bringing back Brandon Saad, Nashville lost a key goal scorer through the expansion draft in James Neal, and Dallas went out and got themselves a bonafide starting netminder in Ben Bishop. Today, the Stars went ahead and solidified their defence a little more in trading for former Ottawa Senators rearguard Marc Methot who had been acquired by the Vegas Golden Knights through the expansion draft. While some were questioning this move by Dallas GM Jim Nill, the addition of a physical defenceman who can play top-line minutes is almost always a welcome addition to any team.

The Vegas Golden Knights dealt Methot to Dallas for goaltending prospect Dylan Ferguson and a 2020 second-round pick as they continue to assemble an impressive array of picks over the next number of drafts. For cap gurus, Methot has two years left on his contract at a salary-cap hit of $4.9 million US per season that Dallas will pay. He was paired on the top pairing with Erik Karlsson in Ottawa, and his physical brand of play will be something that head coach Ken Hitchcock could use alongside skilled defenceman John Klingberg. Regardless of how he's used, he will be a vital cog in the Dallas system this season when it comes to clearing the front of the net and physical play in the Dallas zone.

"He has proven to be a capable and steady defenseman that can play well with an offensive-minded partner, and he will add a tremendous amount of leadership and experience to our blue line," Stars general manager Jim Nill said. Outside of Dan Hamhuis, the Stars defensive experience in the NHL is represented by John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, Stephen Johns, and Greg Pateryn who are under contract along with restricted free agents Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak. Julius Honka may factor in, but his NHL experience counts for just 16 games. With Hamhuis leading the way, you can see why Methot's leadership and experience were two items that Nill mentioned.

If you look over those names, though, none of them stand out as a guy who will take a bullet in front of a goaltender in trying to clear the front of the net. Methot has never been one to shy away from the little things - shot blocks, physical play, possibly dropping the mitts - that make others' jobs easier. That's not to say that he's going to be employed as a third-pairing defenceman who lumbers out there to relieve the four main guys, though. Methot was a huge piece of the puzzle in allowing Erik Karlsson to do the things he did over the last few seasons, and his presence on the Ottawa blue line may be noticed depending on how Ottawa fills that void. Dallas will benefit from Methot's addition.

Methot has experience with a few people in the Dallas organization as he played with Jason Spezza in Ottawa and was coached by Ken Hitchcock in Columbus. While his work with Hitchcock ran from 2006-10 previously, Methot has grown as a player dramatically in the last seven years to the point where Guy Boucher leaned heavily on Methot throughout this season and through to the Eastern Conference Final. It's this kind of reliability that Nill is looking for in helping the Stars move from giving up the second-most goals-against to a possible playoff spot next season.

Methot won't cure all of Dallas' ills. They may still need to find some scoring, they need to lose a goaltender in terms of salary cap implications, and they'll still battle injuries. Methot will be good addition on the back end for Dallas, and he'll bring intangibles that the Stars didn't have before and may rub off on others. That's a very good thing for a team that was seen as "soft" last season when it came to playing in the physical Western Conference.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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