The Dallas Stars earned lots of attention during the initial free agency frenzy due to the Jason Spezza trade and the Ales Hemsky signing. Then two new goalies were added to the roster to compete for the backup spot and they had their turn in the blogosphere. Yet one signing seems to have evaded media attention – Patrick Eaves.
For those unfamiliar with Eaves, he was a first round (29th overall) selection of the Ottawa Senators in 2003. He played in 157 games for Ottawa over three seasons, scoring 38 goals and 71 points before being traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. While in Carolina, a shoulder injury limited Eaves to only 11 games during the 2007-08 season. A healthy Eaves would play 74 games the following season for the Canes before signing as a free agent in Detroit. Eaves would remain a Red Wing for five seasons, playing in 197 games, recording 29 goals and 56 points in mostly third and fourth line minutes. Eaves was moved to the Nashville Predators in the David Legwand trade near the end of last season.
Now on his fifth team over his 11 year career, where does Eaves fit on the Stars roster? The most logical place for Eaves would seem to be in a fourth line role. The top six on the Stars seems fairly self explanatory. Then there is the Cody Eakin-Antoine Roussel-Ryan Garbutt trio that has the potential to be one of the best third lines in the league. This leaves Eaves, along with Vernon Fiddler, Shawn Horcoff, Colton Sceviour and (if healthy) Rich Peverley fighting for the remaining three spots.
Based on the way Horcoff played in the playoffs, the vital role Fiddler held throughout last season and the emergence of Sceviour, one has to bet that Eaves is purely a depth signing for when the inevitable injury bug bites Dallas. Keep in mind that Eaves was brought on board prior to Fiddler re-signing in Dallas when many thought Fiddler would end up on another team. It seems unlikely that Eaves surpasses any of the names ahead of him on a regular basis. If Peverley is cleared to play, he will certainly ahead of Eaves on the depth chart.
When Eaves does crack the lineup, he could realistically fit in any number of roles, depending on the needs of the club at the time. He can be counted on to be responsible in his own zone, he is a solid penalty killer and possesses a fast tempo style that will fit in with the brand of hockey the Stars like to play. Lately his offense has dried up, but he still possesses the hands to bury his opportunities.
Going off of recent trends, the challenge for Eaves will be to stay healthy and contribute when called upon. Having depth is never a bad thing for any hockey team and while he might not be an every night player for Dallas, Eaves does provide the Stars with options and depth.
As always, I welcome your comments. Thanks for reading and go Stars!