Will Stephane Robidas be the next fearless leader to leave Dallas?
Every NHL team experiences the dilemma of timing the parting of ways with popular (fan-favorite) players during the twilight of their careers. The most obvious example was the signing of Mike Modano by the Detroit Red Wings. The most successful teams master these judgments enabling the hungry minor league players to step up to the big league at the right time. However, such a judgment or decision is not based solely on the player; the consequences for the team are also a factor. Without inside knowledge, I proffer that the Dallas Stars are wrestling with such a decision with regard to Stephane Robidas who is in the last year of his contract becoming a UFA for the 2013/2014 season. Teams losing unrestricted free agents do not receive compensatory draft picks so there is an incentive to trade if a team does not seek to sign a player the next season. Stephane Robidas carries a $3.3M salary. With this in mind, let’s profile Stephane as an assistant captain, as a defenseman and as a trading chip.
As an assistant captain, Robidas epitomizes what teams seek as team leaders and role models for younger players. Since 2005 when the Stars re-acquired Robidas, he has been an ironman. He played in 75+ games every season except when the shortened season last year limited him to 48 games. Throughout that period, he offered his body for the team, unwilling to be sidelined for recovery. At times, he looked like a modern day Frankenstein patched up by the doctors. This sacrificial commitment to the team is a behavior that the Stars try to instill in the new and young defensemen.
As a defenseman, Robidas has achieved longevity through the use of determination and brute force. As a defenseman, he is an average passer and has average speed which tends to cause him to take his fair share of hooking penalties. He has averaged 75 PIM between 2005 and 2011. Historically, he has not been a top-line defenseman until the Stars were forced to make him one when first line defensemen were lost and could not be backfilled when the Hicks Sports finances imploded. Statistically, Robidas has never had strong offensive numbers. In the 2009-2010 season, he had 10 goals and 31 assists, both career highs.
Finally as a trading chip, he is 36 years old with a body that may be older than that. Nonetheless, his “A” advertises his value as a team leader and an experienced NHL player, both qualities that might be sorely needed by another team. His skill and experience as an NHL defenseman would not seriously hurt any team.
The question we are left with is how close are the Stars to being ready to backfill Robidas if he can be traded. The maturation of Jordie Benn, Brendon Dillon, Jamie Oleksiak, Jyrki Jokipakka and Patrik Nemeth is the key. It is just a matter of time. The player potential is there.