It was just two days into free agency when Martin St. Louis announced his retirement from professional hockey — and it turns out there were some suitors for his services during that 48-hour window.
“I knew there were teams interested,” St. Louis said on Monday, while meeting the media to formally call it a career. “I can sit here and be proud that my last year I scored 21 goals and the year before I scored 30, so do I think I can still play? Yeah.
“But it’s time to move on and do something else.”
It’s unclear which teams were interested in the 40-year-old Rangers winger, but it’s easy to see why some would be. Despite a “down” campaign offensively, St. Louis still scored more goals than Daniel Sedin, Ryan Kesler, Patrick Marleau and Bobby Ryan; it’s also possible a team would’ve looked to him as a mentor for some of its younger prospects, especially given St. Louis’ renowned physical fitness (I mean come on, look at those trunks.)
Geography, though, probably limited potential suitors, as part of St. Louis’ earlier move from Tampa Bay to New York was so he could be closer to his family. In fact, spending more time with his wife and children was something he referenced in explaining his decision to walk away from the game.
“My whole family has been so supportive of me and it’s been all about me a lot,” St. Louis said. “Now it’s time for it to be about someone other than me. My wife will be happy to have another full-time parent alongside her.
“The focus is on my kids, and I am excited about that.”
Related: Curtains on Broadway: Martin St. Louis calls it a career
With the latest rule changes to the structure of overtime, has it become so different from the rest of the game that those 3-on-3 minutes should be kept separate statistically, just like shootouts? New Jersey Devils goaltender Cory Schneider argued in favor of such a distinction.
“It’s going to be interesting for the goalies,” Schneider said of the decision to adopt the new overtime format, per ESPN. “I was a passenger during that discussion. I suggested a side category where a goalie’s 3-on-3 stats could be hidden away and not put into your main stats, because it’s going to be tough. There’s so much talent in the NHL and sometimes 5-on-5 opens up, but 3-on-3 is going to open up and fans are really going to love it. It’s going to be up and down the ice. It’s going to be hard for us goalies, so we’re going to have to be really sharp and ready to go.”
Of course, the hope is that 3-on-3 overtime has the impact Schneider is suggesting as that would lead to fewer games being decided by a shootout. It also has the potential to hurt the statistics of goalies for the very same reason.
As far as whether or not that’s reason enough to separate those statistics is open to different opinions. As it is there are a lot of different situations that play out over the course of an NHL game that get lumped together if you only look at the base numbers. In 2014-15, Joe Thornton’s five empty-net goals were worth the same as Tyler Toffoli’s five shorthanded markers as far as overall statistics were concerned, just as 3-on-3 play during regulation time would be counted together with 5-on-5 actions.
That being said, with the rise of analytics fans have the luxury of filtering out certain scenarios if they choose to do so. For example, if you want to attempt to evaluate players on a more consistently level field by only looking at 5-on-5 play, you can do that. So in a way, each person will get to decide for themselves if the new overtime play should be counted alongside everything else.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff is already thinking about how he’ll use Dallas’ latest additions and there’s no shortage of possibilities.
Dallas recently acquired Patrick Sharp from the Blackhawks and then inked unrestricted free agent and former Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya to a two-year, $7.5 million deal. Combined with the earlier signing of goalie Antti Niemi and the Stars have added plenty of playoff experience.
“It’s really important for us to take that next step. These guys have been winners and know how to win. They should help us get there,” Ruff told the team’s website. “Ownership has really stepped up and said we can make this team better. I’ve got to give Tom [Gaglardi] and his family a lot of credit for making this team better with the last couple of pieces here. It’s been tremendous.”
Ruff could see Sharp being paired up with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin on the top line, but he’s also considering going with more of a one-two punch with a top line that features Benn and Seguin followed by a second unit that includes Sharp and Jason Spezza.
Whichever route he decides to take, the potential is certainly there for the Stars to have two significantly more balanced lines than they did last season. Spezza meshed well with Benn and Seguin when the trio played together, but whenever Ruff opted to employ that star studded line, it came at the expense of the team’s offensive depth. That trio were the only Dallas players to record more than 40 points last season while just Benn and Seguin surpassed the 20-goal mark. The addition of Sharp could expand both of those lists.
As for Oduya, Ruff would like to see him play alongside Jason Demers, which would keep the John Klingberg and Alex Goligoski pairing from last season intact.
Dallas fell just short of making the playoffs last season, but even before these additions, there were reasons to believe that the Stars could do better in 2015-16. It certainly didn’t hurt that they finished with a 14-5-0 run.
Related: Lehtonen, Niemi see benefit in splitting goalie duties
The Dallas Stars continued to make waves by signing Johnny Oduya, and from the sound of things, GM Jim Nill is convinced that they now have the makings of a winner.
And not just “winners of the offseason.”
Nill goes as far as to call the 33-year-old the “missing piece” of the Stars’ defense: a steady hand, puck-mover and fitness fanatic who could be a good influence for the many young blueliners in Dallas:
Indeed, on paper, the Stars look awfully scary.
They’ve added Patrick Sharp to an offensive mix that includes Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza. Nill didn’t flinch in spending on goaltending, as the Antti Niemi – Kari Lehtonen combo costs a whopping $10.4 million. Now their blueline adds some experience to a group that’s heavier on potential.
Of course, there’s another reason Nill believes that the picture is near-complete: Dallas doesn’t have much money left.
With Oduya’s (quite reasonable) $3.75 million cap hit in mind, the Stars only have about $2.3 million in space remaining, according to General Fanager. For a team that plays in a somewhat erratic hockey market and missed the playoffs entirely in 2014-15, the pressure is on.
At least Oduya is used to big-time pressure though, right?
From Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News:
Everyone knows that Johnny Oduya’s first choice is to remain with the Chicago Blackhawks. But the 33-year-old defenseman can’t wait around forever for GM Stan Bowman to clear the cap space.
If it’s not the ‘Hawks, the Stars — with a young, inexperienced defense that doesn’t have veteran Trevor Daley anymore — may make sense. Dallas has a ton of talent up front, and after GM Jim Nill signed Antti Niemi to address the goaltending, the blue line is the one area that could perhaps be improved.
The Buffalo Sabres are another team that’s interested in signing Oduya. There are undoubtedly a few others.
For those teams that lose out on Oduya, other UFA d-men include Cody Franson and Christian Ehrhoff.
Related: Ehrhoff will take another one-year contract