Wild West – General Manager Ratings – Dallas
In part six of our look at the Western Conference GMs, we will look at Jim Nill in Dallas. Before being hired in Dallas as GM in 2013, Nill was with Detroit for over 24 years in player development and as Assistant GM for almost 15 of those years. The Red Wings won four Stanley Cups while he was part of the organization in management. I'm old enough to remember Nill as a player and being part of the run to the Stanley Cup final with Vancouver in 1981-82. He was a fourth line player that was an energy player and was a very good fighter for his size. He ended up playing 583 games in the NHL (both regular season and playoffs).
5: below average
7: above average
8: top ten
Bob Murray – Anaheim: 7.85
John Chayka – Arizona: 6.62
Brad Treliving – Calgary: 7.5
Stan Bowman – Chicago: 7.6
Joe Sakic – Colorado: 7.55
GM – Jim Nill, hired April 29th, 2013
First category, winning:
Regular season record: 287 W 210 L 44 OTL 20 SOL: 0.569 Win %
Playoffs: The Stars are on pace to make the playoffs this season and have missed the playoffs in three of the prior six season under Nill.
Best result: In 2015-16, the team post 50 wins and 109 points, but were bounced in the 2nd round of the playoffs. They also lost in the 2nd round in 2018-19.
Nill was named GM after the truncated 2012-13 season (labor dispute) and inherited a team that had missed the playoffs and finished at 0.500. Young players already on the roster were Jamie Benn (23), Cody Eakin (21), Reilly Smith (21), Brendan Dillon (21) and Alex Chiasson (21). Looking back now, other than Benn the cupboard was pretty bare, as the other core were Loui Eriksson (27), Alex Goligoski (27), Kari Lehtonen (28) and Ray Whitney (40). I forgot completely that Jaromir Jagr even played in Dallas at 40.
During Nill's tenure as GM, the Stars have disappointed with inconsistencies from year to year, to the point that the Owner and CEO had to call out the top players in 2018-2019. The team should have been able to build on their 2015-16 season but for the most part have been just above average. Dallas is now on their fourth coach in seven seasons. Not a recipe for long-term success or job stability for Nill.
Winning rating: 7.2
Jim Nill has drafted 48 players in his seven draft years and has had nine picks in the first round during that time. The highest pick they have had was 3rd overall in 2017 and they picked Miro Heiskanen.
Overall drafting has been relatively sub-par in terms of average amount of NHL games that Dallas picks have played in comparison to the rest of the NHL from 2013 through 2016 but the 2017 draft is looking good with Heiskanen, Jake Oettinger and Jason Robertson.
The misses include Valeri Nichushkin at 10th overall in 2013, Julius Honka at 14th overall and Brett Pollock at 45th overall in 2014 and it appears Riley Tufte at 25th overall in 2016. The hits have been Roope Hintz at 49th overall in 2015 and Heiskanen at 3rd overall in 2017. The jury is still out on Jason Dickinson at 29th overall in 2013, Denis Gurianov at 12th overall in 2015 (his 20 goals this season brought him back from being a bust).
The best prospects in the system are Jake Oettinger, Jason Robertson, Ty Dellandrea and Thomas Harley who all have pretty high ceilings.
Drafting score: 6.4
Trades made: 36
July 4th, 2013 – sent Matt Fraser, Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow and Reilly Smith for Rich Peverley, Tyler Seguin and Ryan Button. The keys to the deal were Eriksson and Seguin with Seguin becoming the best player by far in this deal to this day, not to mention six seasons in a row of 70 points or more. Great trade.
July 1st, 2014 – sent Alex Chiasson, Alexander Guptill, Nicholas Paul and a 2nd round pick 42nd overall (Mackenzie Blackwood) for Jason Spezza and Ludwig Karlsson. When acquired, Spezza was just starting to decline from his point per game days and at 31 years of age he did exactly what the Stars wanted. He had back to back seasons of 60 points had 13 points in 13 playoff games in 2015-16. He made the Stars better immediately. They didn't give up much then or now in hindsight. A good trade.
March 1st, 2015 – sent Erik Cole and a 3rd round 73rd overall pick in 2015 for Mattias Backman, Mattias Janmark and a 2nd round pick 49th overall in 2015 (Roope Hintz). Even if the pick didn't turn into Roope Hintz this is still very good value for Erik Cole who played 11 more games in the NHL with Detroit then was forced to retire. Janmark has had a full-time third line role in Dallas since.
June 27th, 2015 – sent a 7th round pick 193rd overall in 2015 (John Kupsky) for Antti Niemi. Any time you can send a late round pick for a roster player, let alone a goalie that would play 47 regular season games the next season with your team is a good trade. There could be an argument to be made that if the Stars had better goaltending during this time that they might have a Stanley Cup. That is a whole other issue along with buying Niemi out in the last year of his contract.
July 10th, 2015 – sent Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt for Stephen Johns and Patrick Sharp. Dallas was hoping to upgrade their playoff roster with the addition of Sharp who had performed well with Chicago in playing 129 playoff games in the seven seasons before. Sharp had 20 goals and 55 points in the regular season but only six points in the 13 playoff games with Dallas that season. Having Stephen Johns emerge as a regular is a bonus. Nill was trying to add playoff pedigree without mortgaging the future, so the attempt was worth it.
February 29th, 2016 – sent Jyrki Jokipaaka, Brett Pollock and a 2nd round pick 56th overall in 2016 (Dillon Dube) for Kris Russell. This deal ties in with the prior deal, as Nill added Russell to replace Daley for the playoffs, but the price tag ended up being rather large for an 11 game regular season and 12 game playoff rental.
June 25th, 2016 – sent Jack Campbell for Nick Ebert. This deal is why I'm always wary of teams giving up on highly drafted players and giving them away when they are only 23 years old, especially when that player is a goalie. Admittedly, Campbell was at the bottom of his game after the 2015-16 season ending up in the ECHL, but we can see he has become a regular in the NHL now at 28 years of age. Never give up on a Campbell.
February 24th, 2017 – sent Patrick Eaves for a 1st round pick 29th overall in 2017 (Henri Jokiharju). Anaheim couldn't have foreseen the health issues for Eaves after this season, but still very good value for Dallas as they were missing the playoffs this season anyway.
May 9th, 2017 – sent a 4th round pick 118th overall (Markus Phillips) for Ben Bishop. What a low acquisition cost for one of the better goalies in the league when healthy. One of Nill's best deals.
June 23rd, 2017 – sent a 1st round pick 29th overall in 2017 (Henri Jokiharju) and a 3rd round pick 70th overall in 2017 (Andrei Altybarmakyan) for a 1st round pick 26th overall in 2017 (Jake Oettinger). To move up three spots and secure Oettinger, they gave up a 3rd round pick which is expensive and rarely works. Time will tell on this one.
February 23rd, 2019 – sent a 2nd round pick 49th overall in 2019 (Matthew Robertson) and a 3rd round pick 84th overall in 2020 for Mats Zuccarello. Any time you give up draft picks or prospects for a rental, it is always a risk and I don't think you can deem it successful if your team doesn't make it past the second round. Having said that, the price paid by Nill wasn't exorbitant for Zuccarello who did post 11 points in 13 playoff games.
Nill has rarely made a gaffe on a trade that hurt the team greatly at the time or after the fact. For a GM that doesn't make a large number of trades he makes them count.
Trade score: 8.4
Nill has made 148 signings, valued at just over $682 million.
This is a team that is right up against the cap this season, but should have some space for next season. They will probably use whatever space they have on unrestricted free agency and spend to the cap.
Currently they have just over $46 million in cap space allocated to players 30 years of age or older. Not ideal.
Some very concerning contracts are:
Tyler Seguin (28) with six years remaining at $9.85 million AAV.
Jamie Benn (30) with five years remaining at $9.5 million AAV.
Joe Pavelski (35) with two years remaining at $7 million AAV.
Alexander Radulov with two years remaining at $6.25 million AAV.
This is not a young team, so it will be difficult to transition some of these older players from the roster unless they are bought out or waive their no movement clauses.
Nill has been the victim of July 1st excess a few times over the years and has signed Pavelski, Radulov, Martin Hanzal, Ales Hemsky, Dan Hamhuis, Anton Khudobin and Blake Comeau to contracts with varying degrees of success, but none very good. Unless you are signing Artemi Panarin on July 1st, GMs should not sign unrestricted free agents on that day.
I was watching a presentation at #ISOLHAC from @hayyyshayyy and she spoke about some of the work being done on contract valuations and how this could be used to evaluate GMs on signings based on GAR and WAR and other factors. A more objective measure is coming.
Signings score: 6.9
Overall score 7.225
When a GM paints themselves into a corner and is faced with a roster that is stagnant or in decline, then I'm of a mind, that their time might be done with that particular team. I'm not sure Jim Nill is there yet, but I'm pretty sure that Dallas is not on the upswing, other than Miro Heiskanen and some of the other prospects are years away.
As always, thanks very much for reading and if you have any comments or suggestion please let me know below or follow me on Twitter @gampbler15.
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