Tag: Jim Nill

2010 NHL Draft Portraits

Looking to make the leap: Stephen Johns


To some Dallas Stars fans, the Patrick Sharp trade was as much about grabbing Stephen Johns as anything else.

(Granted, that might be a small sampling, but there was such chatter.)

Following the move, Stars GM Jim Nill probably summarized the most exciting takes: he’s the sort of defenseman the franchise might just be lacking.

“Stephen was a big part of that trade,” Nill said. “We’re trying to change a little bit of the dimension of our back end … he’s 6-foot-4, 220 lbs. and can skate.”

That’s what makes the 23-year-old especially interesting: while he packs some punch and snarl – relevant factors on a blueline that leans more toward finesse – it sounds like he’s swift enough that he won’t bring the Stars’ high-octane attack to a crawl.

Of course, it’s a big assumption that Johns can make the roster.

The Stars currently have eight defensemen under contract, and while some seem like they could be trade fodder if needed (Jason Demers?), Johns would need to impress to force the Stars’ hand.

Johns thinks he has what it takes, at least.

“Personally, I think I’m ready but it’s not up to me,” Johns said in July, according to the Dallas Morning News. “I’m going to do the best that I can, play the best hockey I can, and try to impress them.”

If you’re looking at young players who have the highest odds of making the team, Johns isn’t that guy.

One would think that Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak and Jyrki Jokipakka would have a significant head start after playing quite a few NHL games in 2014-15. To some extent, they made their leaps – or steps up – already, however.

Johns is a more interesting story to follow during training camp. There’s a good chance that he’s not even the prospect with the highest ceiling hoping to make an impression – Julius Honka fits that bill – but Johns is at the age where he must be getting awfully antsy for a longer look.

For all we know, he may prove that he’s just too useful to send to the AHL.

Nill believes Stars have ‘two No. 1 goalies’

Jim Nill

Kari Lehtonen won’t have to play hurt next season.

Lehtonen made 65 appearances last season including a stretch, which had him as the goaltender of record in 14 of 17 games.

The Stars simply weren’t comfortable in starting Anders Lindback who eventually found his way to the AHL’s Texas Stars before being dealt to the Buffalo Sabres.

“There was a lot of games last year, people don’t know this part of it, where Kari Lehtonen was pretty banged up and we didn’t have a choice but to ride him,” Stars GM Jim Nill told Dallas radio station The Ticket per The Dallas Morning News. “Now he knows that he can get four or five days off and get re-energized.”

Jhonas Enroth and Jussi Rynnas also had stints in the Stars’ net last season – neither gave Nill confidence he had a reliable replacement when Lehtonen needed a night off.

As a result, Nill went out and acquired the rights to Antti Niemi and gave him a three-year, $13.5 million contract in June.

“I really believe it’s becoming a two-goalie league. It’s hard for one goalie with all of this travel and back-to-backs. The league is so close. If you can win an extra two or three games because you have a rested, healthy, very competitive No. 1 goalie that you can put in any time is going to make a big difference,” said Nill. “I think it’s going to be a great competition. I’ve talked to both goalies. They’re very comfortable with it. They think it’s going to be very great for them. They know that they got a chance if they go on a run winning five or six games in a row, good for them. And once they start to get tired or something they have another guy who can come in and play for them.”

Lehtonen was 34-17-10 last season to go along with a 2.94 G.A.A. and a .903 save percentage.

Niemi meanwhile made 61 appearances with the San Jose Sharks posting a 31-23-7 record to go along with a 2.59 G.A.A. and a .914 save percentage.

Together they’ll have a cap hit of $10.4 million next season.

“We think it’s going to be a split job. Now someone might get it and run with it for a while. We’ll play it by ear,” said Nill. “There’s always the unknown. There’s injuries. So many things can happen. Somebody can get sick. You don’t know what’s going to happen.

“In the end, I think it’s going to be a split situation. I think it’s going to work well. Like I said, we’re fortunate because of our cap situation that we can do it. I know that if other teams had the cap room, they’d do it. You can’t get any better than having two No. 1 goalies in your lineup.”

Change of Heart: Stars acquire Sharp from Blackhawks

2015 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Six

Just prior to last month’s NHL Draft, a Dallas Stars official told The Dallas Morning News that Patrick Sharp was “not what we need right now.”

That was then.

On Friday, Dallas acquired Sharp along with defenseman Stephen Johns from the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt.

Prior to the trade, the Blackhawks were $718,460 over the cap for next season.

Sharp, who was a member of all three of Chicago’s Stanley Cup wins, has two years remaining on his existing deal with a $5.9 million cap hit.

“On behalf of the entire Blackhawks organization, I’d like to thank Patrick for all that he helped our franchise accomplish during his time in Chicago, especially serving an integral role in bringing us three Stanley Cup championships,” said Hawks’ GM Stan Bowman said in a statement. “He was one of our leaders on the ice, most notably as an alternate captain for several seasons, as well as off the ice with his countless contributions and volunteer work with team partners, sponsors and Blackhawks fans everywhere.

“He will forever be a Blackhawk and we wish him and his family nothing but the best in Dallas and beyond.”

Johns, 23, has yet to make his NHL debut.

The 6-foot-4, 233-pound blue liner registered a career-high four goals and 21 points in 51 AHL games with the Rockford IceHogs last season.

“Stephen adds to the corps of young defensemen that we have coming up in our system,” said Stars’ GM Jim Nill. “He brings an element of size and physicality to our mix and we look forward to him coming in and competing.”

Garbutt has spent parts of the past four seasons in Dallas. The 29-year-old scored eight goals and 25 points in 67 games last season.

Daley has two years left on his deal with a $3.3 million cap hit. The 31-year-old scored 16 goals and 38 points to go along with a minus-13 rating in 68 games last season.

“We want to thank both Trevor and Ryan for their contributions to the Dallas Stars,” said Nill. “Trevor has been an important piece of the Stars organization for many years and we could not be more grateful to him. The strong leadership he displayed both in the locker room and in the North Texas community has created a lasting impact on everyone around him. We wish them both the best.”

Related: Toews admits Chicago’s cap crunch feels ‘a lot like 2010′

Stars make contract offer to Eaves, Oleksiak and McKenzie

Dallas Stars v New Jersey Devils
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On the same day the club announced it would be parting ways with veteran center Shawn Horcroff, Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill said he has extended contract offers to Patrick Eaves, Jamie Oleksiak and Curtis McKenzie.

Eaves, who is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, scored 14 goals and 27 points in 47 games during the 2014-15 season. His one-year, $650,000 contract is set to expire.

The 31-year-old had his season shortened by multiple injuries.

“We need to hear from their camp. We’d like to have him back,” Nill said of negotiations with Eaves. “We made him a contract offer and if he doesn’t accept that he’ll be looking at free agency. We’d like to bring him back, so we’ll see where that goes.”

Oleksiak will become a restricted free agent as his three-year, $4.2 million entry-level deal expires on July 1. The 22-year-old split the 2014-15 season between the AHL and NHL. He appeared in 36 games for Dallas scoring a goal and seven assists. The defenseman also dressed in 35 games with Texas scoring four goals and 12 assists.

McKenzie also split the 2014-15 season between the AHL and NHL. The 24-year-old appeared in 36 games with Dallas scoring four goals and an assist to go a long with 48 penalty minutes. The forward registered six goals and 21 points in 31 AHL games with Texas. His two-year, $1.4 million entry-level deal expires next month.

“We’ve talked to both, made contract offers and it’s just negotiations,” Nill said of Oleksiak and McKenzie. “It’s pretty straight forward. We’ll make qualifying offers and go from there.”

Goaltender Jhonas Enroth, who was acquired by the Stars from the Sabres in February, will go to free agency. The 26-year-old appeared in 13 games for the Stars following the trade going 5-5-0 with a 2.38 G.A.A. and a .906 save percentage.

Enroth was in the second year of a $2.5 million deal and will become an unrestricted free agent.

“I’ve talked to Enroth and told him we are going to look at the market,” Nill said. “He
wanted to look at the market. We are going to keep in touch.”

Dallas will also part was with forward Scott Glennie. Originally a first-round pick of the Stars (eighth overall) in 2009, Glennie appeared in just one NHL game during parts of five seasons with the organization.

Nill said defenseman Cameron Gaunce, who is a Group 6 unrestricted free agent, will also test the market.

“When you’re a kid and this is your first chance to be free, you want to see what is out there,” Nill said of Gaunce. “His goal is to make the NHL and he looks at our depth chart and he sees that we have 11 or 12 defensemen that have a chance to play in the NHL. He’s going to look around. We’d like to have him back, but for him it’s a chance to see if there is opportunity somewhere else.”

Nill said the club would not be offering restricted free agent Ludwig Karlsson a qualifying offer. The Stars acquired Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators in the Jason Spezza deal.

Ruff on Lehtonen: ‘We need him to be better. There is no masquerading that point’

Los Angeles Kings v Dallas Stars

After Dallas Morning-News columnist Tim Cowlishaw took Kari Lehtonen to task over his inconsistent play, Stars’ head coach Lindy Ruff agreed his No.1 goaltender needs to be better moving forward.

The 31-year-old is coming off a 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday night, which saw him allow four goals on 28 shots including goals on the first two Lightning shots.

“We need him to be better. There is no masquerading that point,” Ruff said Friday. “Met with him again this morning. We’ll just take it one game at a time here. It seems like every night the other goalie is outdueling us.”

Lehtonen had what he referred to as a productive meeting with his coach following Thursday’s loss.

“I think they always are,” Lehtonen said. “We’re both trying to do the same thing, help the team win and find ways to be more productive and more successful out there. It’s good stuff.

“You want to go through all the situations and learn from them. Then you try to forget, start from the clean slate again and focus on the next game.”

Lehtonen’s wins (21) rank 12th in the league; however, among the 42 goaltenders ranked as league-leaders, Lehtonen’s goals-against average (2.96) ranks 32nd and his save percentage (.904) is 34th.

Those numbers are below the 2.41 G.A.A. and .919 save percentage he posted last season.

“I want to be more patient. When things aren’t going great, you try to do too much. That’s not good,” Lehtonen said. “I just need to take a step back, being more patient in situations and read what’s happening out there better and put a solid 60 minutes together.”

Stars general manager Jim Nill believes Lehtonen can get it together.

“If you ask anyone, including Kari, he knows he’s been inconsistent,” said Nill. “He’s shown in the past he can be an elite goalie. Everybody has their ups and downs, and he’s just got to learn how to manage those good times with the bad times.”

On Friday the Stars recalled goaltender Anders Lindback from his conditioning assignment and reassigned Jussi Rynnas to Texas of the American Hockey League.

Lindback made two AHL starts posting a 1-0-1 record. The 26-year-old is expected to get a start this weekend as Dallas visits the Buffalo Sabres and New York Rangers in a back-to-back situation.