Jim Nill said it often, in some form or another, on Saturday. The Dallas Stars have a plan, and that plan includes trying to emulate a certain franchise/trading partner as much as possible.
“I want to say how much respect I have for Chicago,” Nill said. “That’s where we want to get to.”
The Blackhawks have set the bar when it comes to success in the NHL these last few seasons. So in an attempt to beat them, you acquire some of them. That’s what the Stars were looking to do on Friday night, when they traded for Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns and sent Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt to the Blackhawks.
In Johns they get a young, up-and-coming defenseman. But even at 33 years old Sharp is a tremendous gain for the Stars. Dallas is still a young team, still trying to find its way back to the winning years when guys like Mike Modano, Brett Hull, Jere Lehtinen and Sergei Zubov reigned. Sharp brings that winning pedigree and leadership developed during the Blackhawks’ return to greatness.
“You can never have enough guys like that in the organization,” Nill said. “He’s done it at every level, Stanley Cup, world championships. The experience he can bring to a dressing room, he’ll be there to help [Jamie] Benn and [Tyler] Seguin. We want to get to Chicago’s level.”
Nill knows it takes the right mix to achieve championships. He spent 15 seasons as assistant general manager of the Detroit Red Wings, who set the standard before the Blackhawks picked up the title-winning torch in recent years. He said he started talking with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman about 4-6 weeks ago and the right fit was finally made on Friday.
“The more we talked, the more we were looking at a hockey trade. He needed something, I needed something, and we both got what we were looking for,” Nill said. “He needed to replace a top-four defenseman. We wanted leadership for a young room.”
As far as the Blackhawks go, in looking for that top-four defenseman replacement, it sounds like Johnny Oduya won’t be back in Chicago. Bowman left the option open when he talked on Friday night but other things – probably another trade – would have to happen. Re-signing Marcus Kruger remains a top priority.
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The Blackhawks wanted to add to what’s already an established group. The Stars wanted to add veteran leadership to a group that’s still finding its way. The Blackhawks have set the standard for what other teams want to be thanks to drafting, developing and getting the right player or two from free agency/trades. Count the Stars among those striving to hit that mark.
“I came from Detroit, and that’s how we were built also,” Nill said. “That’s where we’re trying to get in Dallas.”