Dallas Stars: Breaking Down the Ben Lovejoy and Mats Zuccarello Trades

NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 16: Ben Lovejoy #12 of the New Jersey Devils in action against Jamie Benn #14 of the Dallas Stars at Prudential Center on October 16, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Stars 3-0. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEWARK, NJ - OCTOBER 16: Ben Lovejoy #12 of the New Jersey Devils in action against Jamie Benn #14 of the Dallas Stars at Prudential Center on October 16, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Stars 3-0. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Stars acquired defenseman Ben Lovejoy from the New Jersey Devils and forward Mats Zuccarello from the New York Rangers on Saturday.

The Dallas Stars’ defense gained a valuable asset on Saturday morning when the team announced that they had acquired veteran Ben Lovejoy from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for defenseman Connor Carrick and a third-round pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.

Lovejoy, who is 35, spent the past three seasons with the New Jersey Devils, registering 22 points across a span of 190 games. He has two goals and five assists this season with a +1 rating. He also has 77 shot blocks and 59 hits.

Lovejoy adds to a defensive unit in Dallas that has clamored for a permanent bottom defensive pair, having seen Taylor Fedun, Julius Honka, Jamie Oleksiak split time on Dallas’ third defensive group. However, by trading for Lovejoy, Dallas’ bottom two pairs look more stable with the veteran defenseman in them.

Lovejoy also is joining a group of defensemen that has seen sporadic change throughout the season; a total of 14 (if my counting is correct) players have played on the Stars’ blueline this season—an astonishingly high amount. Bringing Lovejoy to Dallas will hopefully add some equilibrium to the defense and assist on special teams.

Most importantly, though, Lovejoy adds playoff experience—and a Stanley Cup Championship—to the Stars’ dressing room. Lovejoy won the Stanley Cup in the 2015-16 season while with the Pittsburgh Penguins, where he had two goals and four assists in 24 games. In his career, he has logged 15 points (5 G, 10 A) and has a +6 rating in 63 Stanley Cup playoff appearances with the Penguins, Ducks, and Devils.

Lovejoy is in the final year of his contract and will become an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.

Dallas has struggled by keeping a strong blue line this season—it has bent, but not broken. Hopefully, Lovejoy’s arrival will help keep the glue together if Dallas is heading into a game against high-scoring teams.

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Stars strike deal with Rangers for Zuccarello

Following Dallas’ 3-0 loss at home against the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night, Jim Nill made another move—he traded for veteran forward Mats Zuccarello in exchange for conditional draft picks in the 2019 and 2020 NHL Drafts.

The 2019 second-round pick becomes a first-round selection should the Stars win two playoff series in the postseason, and the 2020 third-round pick becomes a 2020 first-round pick if Zuccarello re-signs with the Stars.

Zuccarello’s addition to the Stars roster addresses a much-needed playmaking gap on the wings. Although he’s only appeared in 46 games this season with the Rangers, he has 11 goals and a total of 37 points—landing him in fourth place on the Stars’ roster behind Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, and Jamie Benn.

Despite the fact that trading for Zuccarello will help with depth scoring issues, it adds an uncertain risk similar to that of Lovejoy. Zuccarello is due to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. Even though the immediate satisfaction of the trade looks as if it will work out in the Stars’ favor, his future on the team is not certain, and he was specifically traded as a rental piece by the Rangers.

Like Lovejoy, Zuccarello also adds a significant amount of Stanley Cup Playoff experience to Dallas’ roster. Since joining the Rangers in 2010, he has seen postseason hockey in six seasons, including 25 playoff games in 2014, where the Rangers lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Los Angeles Kings in five games.

By adding Lovejoy and Zuccarello on Saturday, Jim Nill has made his commitment to try and keep Dallas afloat in the Western Conference playoff race.

"“Mats [Zuccarello] is a legitimate top-six forward in this League who possesses a high level of speed, skill, compete and grit,” Nill said according to the Stars’ Twitter feed. “He will enhance our team in a number of ways.”"

And, according to Sean Shapiro of The Athletic and Stars’ Inside Edge Mark Stepneski, Nill is done as far as deadline moves go; which begs the question as to whether or not Zuccarello’s offensive skill and Lovejoy’s penalty killing are enough to revamp Dallas’ scoring troubles; especially considering that Dallas has been shutout in three of their last five games.

Interestingly enough, though, Dallas only traded away one roster player (Carrick) to use as a piece in either of the two trades that went down on Saturday; instead, he gave up several draft selections.

Dallas, according to CapFriendly, only has eight draft picks in the next two NHL drafts—four in 2019 and four in 2020—meaning that either Nill has confidence in the team’s ability to be successful in the playoffs in the near future, or Dallas gave up many important draft choices to limit their future prospect pool in return for what became short-spurt playoff runs or an early offseason. Or a mixture of both.

Regardless of Dallas’ past trades, the remaining six weeks of the regular season are vital to the Stars’ playoff hopes. But, will Ben Lovejoy and Mats Zuccarello be enough to help put the Stars over the top?

Next. How the Stars proved they can compete. dark

What do you think of the trades, Stars fans? Will the addition of Ben Lovejoy help improve the Dallas Stars’  defense? Will Zuccarello’s play-making help cure the offense’s woes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

  • Published on 02/24/2019 at 09:36 AM
  • Last updated at 02/24/2019 at 09:36 AM