It’s not often Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill has made a trade for a player under the age of 23 since he took the helm in 2013. Since acquiring Tyler Seguin on July 4th that year, Nill has traded for only two players under that age threshold – Mattias Janmark, whom he acquired from the Detroit Red Wings in 2015; and Dillon Heatherington, whom he acquired in 2017.
Janmark went on to play four full seasons with the Stars, and suffer a near-career ending genetic knee injury which he fought to return to action from. Heatherington appeared in just 11 games with Dallas and served primarily as a depth AHL piece for the big club. So….mixed results in limited sample sizes for players this age that Nill has acquired.
Late last night, the team announced that they had acquired 22-year-old Swedish defenseman Nils Lundkvist from the New York Rangers in exchange for a conditional 2023 first round pick and a conditional 2024 fourth round pick. The first round pick in next year’s draft is top-10 protected, so if Dallas were to draft in the top 10 spots next year, the first round pick becomes an unprotected 2024 first round pick. If Lundkvist scores 55 total points between this season and next, the 2024 fourth round pick becomes a 2025 third rounder.
This is the first trade Jim Nill has ever made with a first round pick since he got to Dallas. He had only one trade, for Mats Zuccarello, that could have turned into first round picks. However, those conditions (that Zuccarello re-sign in Dallas) were never met, and Dallas kept their first round picks in that trade.
Lundkvist is a right-handed defenseman, a notable position in which Dallas lacks depth after the departure of John Klingberg in free agency. Lundkvist is also cost-controlled; he’s in the second year of his entry-level deal with a $925,000 cap hit. He’s known as an offensive defenseman, something that Dallas is now lacking behind Miro Heiskanen and Thomas Harley.
He appeared in 25 games with the Rangers last season, recording one goal and three assists. Lundkvist admitted to the experience getting away from his game a bit. “It was my first year in North America and it didn’t go as planned,” Lundkvist said. “But I also learned a lot from it. It’s a tough team to break into New York. For me, I think I learned a lot from that year, and I had some good years back home in Sweden before I went over. I feel like I missed a little bit from my game back home in Sweden. I think my strength with my play back home in Sweden was the play with the puck. When I played my 25 games in the NHL, I feel like I lost it a little bit and played a little bit too careful. I think last year it was tough but it was also a lot to learn from. [I want to] getting back a little bit more to my Swedish style of play and trying to play with a little bit more courage and a little bit more edge.”
Lundkvist is expected to land in Austin on Wednesday night and could be on the ice for the team’s first sessions on Thursday morning.
He’ll have some competition to make the NHL roster. There are some set-in-stone places taken by Miro Heiskanen, Ryan Suter, Esa Lindell, and Jani Hakanpaa. Thomas Harley has been penciled into that sixth available spot for some time. But if he struggles in camp, he could open the door to Lunkvist making the team out of the gate this season.
It’s just one of the training camp battles we’ll be watching unfold this week when on-ice sessions begin at HEB Center at Cedar Park.