Eric Nystrom was never a prolific scorer at any stage of his hockey career. The University of Michigan alumni reached his own personal NCAA best in his final year (2004-2005) with the team, scoring 13 goals and 32 points. He was drafted tenth overall by the Calgary Flames in the 2002 Entry Draft, a remarkably high pick for a player who was not necessarily known for his scoring touch. He spent the 2005-2006 season with Omaha of the AHL, scoring 15 goals and 33 points and made the jump to the NHL with the Calgary Flames two years later, slowly transitioning into a full time NHLer. Nystrom showed improvement year after year, culminating in an 11 goal, 19 point season in 2009-2010, his best season thus far in the NHL, but what would turn out to be his last with the Calgary Flames. The then 27 year old’s contract had expired and he decided to sign with the Minnesota Wild. But in Minnesota, Nystrom’s game took a leap backwards. Despite playing all 82 games in the 2010-2011 season, his shooting percentage reached a career low of 4.8%, and he managed just 4 goals and 12 points. Last summer, the former first round draft pick found himself fighting for a job in Minnesota’s training camp.
Things didn’t go well for Eric Nystrom, and he was placed on waivers after failing to make the squad, available to be claimed by any team in the NHL at half his salary, including the Dallas Stars. But as we all know, Dallas’ unique cap situation forced to team to wait for him to pass through waivers and trade for him at his full, $1.4 million salary cap hit to get above the cap floor. The trade, where Nystrom was sent to Dallas in return for “future considerations” (essentially nothing), turned out to be one of the best moves of the year for Joe Nieuwendyk.
Nystrom took everyone in Dallas, from the fans to management and probably even his teammates, by surprise. Nystrom scored at an electric pace, potting 10 goals in his first 21 games with the team. His linemates, Radek Dvorak and Vernon Fiddler, formed a unit that was widely regarded as the peskiest the Stars had on the ice. It was, unsurprisingly, the best stretch of the year for the Dallas Stars, but as incredible as that run was, all good things come to the end. In the remaining 53 games Nystrom played, he scored just 6 more goals, a much more reasonable pace for a player of his caliber but one that reflected the struggles of his linemates and the team as a whole. We all know how the rest of the season played out, but now all sights are set on the 2012-2013 season.
Nystrom, now in the final year of his three year, $4.2 million contract, will be playing for his job, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying the Dallas Stars would love to have him back. He won’t be expected to reach 16 goals again, especially since recreating a 15.7% shooting percentage is unlikely, but he’s not on this team to score. He brings grit, speed, and that particular brand of peskiness the team built their image around and he could be an instrumental part of the team moving forward. He’s a leader on and off the ice and if you’ve ever had the fortune of meeting him (or just talking to him on Twitter for that matter) it’s easy to understand why. The trade turned out to be a brilliant decision, and an unquestionable HIT for the Dallas Stars.
Enjoy some Eric Nystrom highlights:
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