Jim Nill had every reason to be a happy man Tuesday.
The Dallas Stars general manager started his day by acquiring veteran center Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators in a trade that cost him young forward Alex Chiasson and two prospects. He followed that move by signing veteran right wing Ales Hemsky, who showed late-season chemistry with Spezza after being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers, to a three-year contract reportedly worth $12 million.
Nill then signed backup goaltender Anders Lindback and added another veteran forward, Patrick Eaves, a player he knew well from his time with the Detroit Red Wings.
When Nill's day was done, he looked at the pieces he added and now sees a group of players who not only make the Stars more formidable on the ice but also bring a veteran presence to what he feels is already a great dressing room led by captain Jamie Benn.
"Something that I mentioned to both players [Hemsky and Spezza] that I keep mentioning to people when I talk is how good our dressing room is here in Dallas," said Nill, whose team qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2008, in his first season as GM. "I've been around some great dressing rooms with the Detroit Red Wings. This dressing room we have in Dallas, there's something special about it with our leadership starting with Jamie Benn, with our leadership in our coaching staff, with the young players, their determination, their expectations, their accountability. It's as good a dressing room as I've seen anywhere."
Spezza, 31, comes to Dallas after spending his first 11 NHL seasons with the Senators. He admitted the decision to leave Ottawa was a tough one.
One reason the Stars became a possible destination was because such a move would allow him the chance to skate alongside Benn and Tyler Seguin, regarded as two of the best young talents in the League.
"I think those two guys are phenomenal, phenomenal hockey players, and to think about being on a power play with those guys and to play with them, hopefully we can create some depth where it makes it difficult for teams to have waves of guys coming at you," Spezza said. "It's a great situation for me to be on a team with such talented guys, that's for sure."
Spezza also said as successful and talented as the Stars' young core is, he can help make them even better by passing on some of the knowledge he's picked up from veterans during his time in the NHL.
"I feel like I have a lot of good hockey left in me and I felt really good about my game the second half of the season," Spezza said. "I'm excited. I think I could bring a lot to a team. I've been around for a long time now, learned a lot and think I could pass that on in a different setting as well."
Nill was elated after landing an experienced center of Spezza's caliber in what he called "a good hockey trade" with the Senators. Spezza's leadership skills and the fact he succeeded longtime Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson last season were an attraction for Nill.
"I think that's another big thing. He was a leader in Ottawa," Nill said. "We did our homework. He's a character guy. He's a great guy in our dressing room. I know Jason and Ales and Patrick and Anders Lindback, these guys are all excited coming into that environment."
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