Stars win trade with Blackhawks by acquiring defenseman Stephen Johns

Stephen Johns against the Texas Stars in the Calder Cup playoffs. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars).

Stephen Johns against the Texas Stars in the Calder Cup playoffs. (Photo by Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars).

Yes, Patrick Sharp was the headliner.

But, Stephen Johns was the long-term prize in the Dallas Stars four-player trade with the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night.

Of the four-players in the deal, three have plateaud or are on the decline in their careers.

Ryan Garbutt, a 29-year-old forward, brings a pesky spark to the Blackhawks. But he also brings a resumé filled with bad penalties, and questionable decisions.

Trevor Daley may thrive in Chicago. Perhaps, with players like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook as defensive anchors, the 31-year-old’s run-and-gun style won’t result in negative #fancystats that hindered Daley in the eye of the advanced analytics community.

But, that wasn’t going to happen in Dallas.

And Sharp, while he’ll provide a spark on the Stars power play, is a depreciating asset. At 33, his point totals and skills are declining, and his $5.9 million contract is a bit high for a 33-year-old.

On the other hand, Johns is an asset on the rise.

While prospects are admittedly hit-or-miss (think Scott Glennie with Dallas), Johns has all indications of being a future NHL defenseman.

After a four-year career at Notre Dame he joined the Rockford IceHogs late in the 2013-14 season, and dazzled as a rookie during the 2014-15 campaign.

In 67 combined regular season and playoff games with Rockford the 23-year-old had 33 points (eight goals, 25 assists) and posted an eye-popping plus-36 (sorry, plus/minus is the closest thing we get to #fancystats in the AHL).

He also refined his game during that 13-month span.

When he finished his collegiate career, discipline had been a concern.

In 162 games at Notre Dame he accumulated 300 penalty minutes. Without the help of fighting majors in the NCAA’s fisticuff-free arenas.

But in his first year in Rockford, he registered 44 penalty minutes. If you take away the 20 minutes on four fighting majors, he averaged one minor penalty every four games.

He also quickly rose up the IceHogs defensive depth, out of necessity, and thrived.

Throughout the season, Chicago unloaded T.J. Brennan, Adam Clendening, and Klas Dahlbech via trade. The Blackhawks also had Kyle Cumiskey watch an inordinate amount of games from the United Center press box, hampering their AHL affiliate.

Johns stepped into that void and became Rockford’s best blue liner.

In the playoffs, when all four of those aforementioned players were gone, Johns was Rockford’s best player.

In eight playoff games — including a three-game sweep against Texas in the first-round — he scored three times, dished out four assists, and was plus-four.

It’s fair to say he had earned a shot and likely would have played for Chicago in the NHL at some point this coming season.

After the trade he adds to a stacked young defensive cupboard, and likely becomes the first call-up from Texas in case of an injury.

Dallas general manager Jim Nill has said that Esa Lindell, Mattias Backman, and Julius Honka are ready to play in the NHL — and I agree with that statement, to a degree.

Lindell and Backman need a little bit of North American seasoning in the AHL, while at 19-years-old it may be best to let Honka age a bit with Texas.

But if Dallas had a freak injury in training camp and needed to call-up a player for opening night (Oct. 8 against the Pittsburgh Penguins), Johns would be making his NHL debut in victory green.

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