When Nieuwendyk took over there were some players on the roster that he had played with during his days in Dallas, including the face of the franchise, Mike Modano.
From the beginning, Nieuwendyk’s hands were tied by Tom Hicks, who only had the interest of making the organization profitable instead of winning. Nieuwendyk had to work with a minimal budget and had to build the team through the draft and trades.
One of the biggest moves made by Nieuwendyk in his first year as GM was trading Ivan Vishnevskiy and a second round pick for Kari Lehtonen. Vishnevskiy played five NHL games in his career, all for the Stars, and Lehtonen just received a five-year contract extension as the franchise goalie.
For turning a first-round bust and a second round draft pick into a franchise player this trade deserves an A+.
The following season, Nieuwendyk had to make a few more moves through trades. The biggest one would be the move that sent James Neal and Matt Niskanen to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Alex Goligoski.
To this point, it seems like a nightmare of a trade since James Neal finished fourth in goals for that season. The salt in the wound is that 18 of those goals were scored with the man advantage, where the Stars struggled mightily.
Goligoski has been a solid blue-liner for the Stars, but he had his worst season offensively since being in the league full time. In international competition this year, Goligoski did look like he was getting back into the form he was in with the Penguins.
While that trade is still a sore spot with many Stars fans, it still has a chance to turn out decently for Dallas. The trade gets a D but is subject to change, especially if Goligoski can get back to putting up nearly 40 points per season.
Entering year three of Nieuwendyk’s reign as general manager, the Stars were league-owned, and his budget was still around the cap floor.
The most notable trade was when Nieuwendyk traded Nicklas Grossmann to the Philadelphia Flyers for a second and third-round draft pick. The third-round draft pick is for the 2013 draft, so the trade is currently getting a grade of incomplete.
Nieuwendyk’s biggest moves came in free agency instead of by trade this season. The lack of ownership meant the Stars couldn’t afford to keep Brad Richards.
Two of the biggest signings were stealing Michael Ryder from the Boston Bruins and bringing in veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray.
Ryder was a steal for a two-year contract. In his first season with the Stars, Ryder led the team in goals with 33 and seemed to be one of the only weapons on the power-play unit. He also led the team with a +/- 21. He made up for a lot of the offense that was lost when Richards departed to the New York Rangers.
While Souray was only on the team for one year, he did add a level of toughness the Stars seemed to be lacking. Zdeno Chara even opted out of fighting Souray during the New Year’s Eve game.
Though the Stars missed the playoffs again, it was still a positive showing from Nieuwendyk in the free agency period. Overall, Nieuwendyk deserves a B for getting the team close but not quite there.
Near the end of the 2011-12 season, the Stars were officially purchased by Tom Gaglardi. That meant leading into the offseason flurry or signings, the Stars were able to open up their wallet for the first time in Nieuwendyk’s tenure.
The trades started on draft day when the Stars sent Mike Ribeiro to the Washington Capitals for Cody Eakin and a second-round pick. This was a great move for the future of the franchise. Nieuwendyk turned a top-line center that was awful in the faceoff circle for a big physical forward and a pick.
The Stars then had a gap for their top-line center and traded fan favorite Steve Ott and Adam Pardy for Derek Roy. Roy played through a shoulder injury last season, which could be part of the reason he put up his lowest point total in a full season since 2005-06.
Roy received shoulder surgery shortly after joining the Stars. If he can return to his 65+ point form, it will be a great deal for the Stars.
While no games have been played, the trades on paper seem to have improved the team a great deal. Nieuwendyk gets a B here.
In the free-agent rush during the summer, the Stars missed out on landing big names like Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Nieuwendyk did bring in veteran presences in Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr. Those two may have more NHL experience than the rest of the roster combined.
The biggest benefit of signing those two is having on-ice coaches to help shape the budding superstars like Jamie Benn. Age might be a factor, but they are both signed to short-term deals. For the past free agency, Nieuwendyk deserves a solid B.
Overall, Niuewendyk has done a lot to improve the team with the huge restrictions placed on him financially. Most big name general managers would have avoided taking a job with such little wiggle room.
Now with Gaglardi’s backing and the help of his former general manager Bob Gainey, Nieuwendyk looks ready to move this team back to the prominence it had a little over a decade ago when he was a player.
To date, it would be fair to say that Nieuwendyk deserves a solid B as general manager. All he needs is a playoff series win or two in order to bump that to an A.