Acquired LW/C Eric Nystrom from the Minnesota Wild for future considerations (Oct. 12, 2011)
On the morning of the 12th, the Stars were perilously close to the salary cap floor of $48.3 million. The only thing keeping their roster compliant was the presence of a couple of injured players in Scott Glennie and Adam Pardy. In that way at least, the excision of Sean Avery from the roster had the potential to come back and bite the team. While most teams are loath to make trades this early in the season, if for no other reason than the inherent salary cap ramifications, there are still roster amendments galore as teams ponder how best to dispose of tertiary veterans who cannot be simply assigned to the AHL without exposure.
Nystrom, a sometimes plucky defensive forward with NHL bloodlines (father Bob won multiple Cups with the early-80s Islanders) had lost out on a roster spot with the Wild, as his brand of hockey did not excite new coach Mike Yeo quite as much as it did for departed bench boss Todd Richards. Not helping was his brutal performance with Minnesota last year, as he performed below replacement level (-2.2 GVT).
Even at his worst, Nystrom is an adequate defensive forward, although he leaves a lot to be desired with the puck on his stick. The native of Syosset, NY has been below replacement offensively for each his last three seasons, bottoming out with last year's -2.2 OGVT. His value lies in his defensive play, a factor that must have been considered by his former coach, who only allowed him to take just over a third of his faceoffs in the attacking zone last year. His primary competition for the role of fourth-line left winger on Dallas seems to be Krys Barch. Unlike Nystrom, Barch has mostly been given offensive zone starts in his career, hovering between 55-65%. Whereas Nystrom has generally been a little above replacement in his career (last season notwithstanding), the pugilistic Barch has steadily been below par throughout his career, despite the frequent cushy assignments. Tom Wandell, another low-line left winger, has never shown the chops, neither offensive nor defensive, to have earned any job security at the NHL level.
One interesting aspect of this seemingly innocuous deal, and one directly related to the Stars' lack of cap floor flexibility, is that the Wolverine alum could have been acquired by Dallas on re-entry waivers a few days prior, at less financial cost and without the dreaded tag of future considerations on the other side of the ledger. But such is the labor agreement, that it is stipulated that a team acquiring a player on re-entry waivers would only be responsible for half of that player's cap hit. The irony here is that Nystrom is more valuable to the Stars at a cap hit of $1.4 million than he is at a more replacement-level-appropriate $700,000. As the Dallas Stars entity prepares to enter bankruptcy court (scheduled to begin on October 22), they could see themselves taking on much greater salary responsibilities before the trade deadline rolls around, barring any undue complications (Balsillie division and otherwise) in getting new ownership in place. Until then, expect a team with the league controlling the books to continue hugging the floor.
Acquired D Kyle Cumiskey from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for AHL D Jake Newton and a seventh round pick in the 2013 draft (Oct. 8, 2011)
By any account, this is a minor trade. A minor league trade even as Cumiskey, who had already passed through waivers while still with the Avalanche, was subsequently assigned to the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL. The diminutive native of Abbotsford, B.C. must feel at least a little bit dejected, as he seemed to be a rising regular during the 2009-10 season, as he contributed 20 points in 61 games for the surprisingly competitive Colorado club. His 4.3 GVT on the season would have prorated out to 5.8 GVT over the full 82 games, a number comparable to the typical output of a player the likes of Kings' D-man Matt Greene, or a good Zbynek Michalek season.
Before a concussion and other related problems derailed him early last season, Cumiskey was on pace to shatter his career highs in many categories, as he had eight points and 1.8 GVT in only 18 games. While there is no guarantee that he could have kept up that blistering pace, when prorated out to a full season, the former seventh round draft pick would have scored 36 points with a GVT of 8.2. Think Jack Johnson of two years ago (36 points, 8.2 GVT), or Jordan Leopold last season with Buffalo (8.7 GVT, 35 points, albeit in only 71 games). For a player who has shown himself capable of contributing in all situations, including logging regular minutes on both the power play and the penalty kill, he had the look of a keeper. VUKOTA was mildly bullish on a return to form for Cumiskey this season, projecting 16.5 points and 3.5 GVT in around half a season of playing time.
As a restricted free agent this past offseason, the purportedly healthy defender could not come to terms with the Avalanche until early September, finally agreeing on a one-year, two-way contract. Within three weeks of putting pen to paper, he was missing practice due to injury again, this time a groin pull. And with that, he was Pipp'ed, losing the seventh blueliner job to Matt Hunwick.
Jake Newton, the now part of Colorado's return, is in the AHL, but a very long way from contributing at the NHL level. Never drafted, the 23-year-old offers good size and not much else. He had signed with the Ducks as an undrafted free agent after one good season playing for Northeastern University, and scored nine points in 48 games as a professional neophyte in the AHL. The Avalanche now have a slew of more highly thought of youngsters biding their time in the AHL for the Lake Erie team. There are relatively few scenarios that see Newton getting even a cup of NHL coffee this season. In fact, it would not be wrong to think that the eventual seventh round pick would be just as likely, if not more so, to make it to the top. Hey, Cumiskey was seventh rounder, too, and look at him!
So why bother analysing this move? It is not often mentioned, but Ducks' GM Bob Murray absolutely loves to wheel and deal. Looking only at the Pacific Division, and only at players currently assigned to the NHL (including those on the IR), we see that the former Blackhawks' blueliner (one of two divisional GMs to meet that criteria, along with Doug Wilson, of San Jose) is much more likely to acquire a player for his top team through trade than through the draft, free agency or waivers. And it isn't really that close:
Team Number Players Acquired Through Trade
ANA 11 Beauchemin, Blake, Brookbank, Cogliano, Ellis, Foster, Guenin,
McGrattan, Parros, Sbisa, Visnovsky
LAK 7 Greene, Johnson, Penner, M. Richards, Richardson, Stoll, J. Williams
PHX 7 Klesla, Korpikoski, Langkow, Morris, Nokelainen, Rozsival, Vrbata
SJS 4 Boyle, Burns, Havlat, Thornton
DAL 4 Goligoski, Lehtonen, Ribeiro, Nystrom*
*Cheating a bit, as Nystrom is not technically on the active roster as of this writing
Even more interesting to note is that Murray seems to have used the trade route to pick up mostly role players (Visnovsky aside), while his Pacific Division brethren are more likely to use the blockbuster to acquire roster staples. If nothing else, the acquisition of Cumiskey (who should see time with the Ducks this season once he is healthy) was a nice way to study different styles of roster building.
Ryan Wagman is an author of Hockey Prospectus.
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