Discover more from Shap Shots
Understanding why the Stars traded away Denis Gurianov for Evgeni Dadonov
This trade wasn't about the return, it was about the departure
This was always going to be a prove-it season for Denis Gurianov in Dallas.
As a pending restricted free agent, with a $2.9 million qualifying offer, Gurianov had to move the needle for new head coach Pete DeBoer. He had to justify a long-term investment for Stars general manager Jim Nill, who’s typical patience was wearing thin with the forward.
Gurianov failed to deliver on either mandate.
Three seasons removed from a 20-goal campaign and an overtime game-winner in the Edmonton bubble, the Stars eventually punted on Gurianov, trading him to the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday for Evgeni Dadonov. Montreal retained 50 percent of the veteran winger’s salary.
From a public perception move, the Stars are selling it as an offensive upgrade in the press release, pointing to Dadonov’s past 20 goal seasons and ignoring the fact he’s only scored four times this season with Montreal.
Which is fine, and maybe it’s a fresh start that works well for Dadonov, maybe (but doubtfully) he goes off for a dozen goals in the final 20 games of the season.
Shap Shots is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
This trade was really about flexibility and trust for the Stars.
Pete DeBoer doesn’t trust Gurianov, but because of his cap hit and directive from management, the winger was always going to be a lineup option.
Nill was able to part ways with Gurianov without effectively “losing him for nothing,” because the Stars were not going to qualify him as an RFA this summer. And with Dadonov on an expiring contract, Nill effectively freed up $2.9 million in cap space that he can use this summer for the 2023-24 season.
It also, most importantly, doesn’t stop the Stars from making any other moves before Friday’s deadline. In fact, Dallas now has slightly more space to make a move before the deadline.
Similar to letting John Klingberg walk (so Miro Heiskanen could have a larger role in all situations), the Stars made a move that they felt was addition by subtraction today.
It also closed the book on another Stars first-round pick that was rather divisive, potentially exciting, but never had the promised long-term impact many, including the Stars, had hoped for.
So why didn’t it work?
It’s easy to use the cliche about consistency. We often go to that when a player gets moved out, it’s an easy broad-stroke definition and a fun hockey buzzword.
But Gurianov was consistent. He was just consistent in the wrong ways.
Gurianov always had flash and dash potential, an all-world shot and all-world speed — he was the ideal player you’d design in a video game — he was also a good teammate, when he was in the AHL, for example, after he left Texas to play in the World Junior Championships, he returned back to Cedar Park with a hat for each of his AHL teammates as a gift.
He would also go and seek out coaching and instruction. Gurianov studied video, he’d ask the coaches for feedback, and he was never averse to the teachings.
But the teachings never took. The prior coaching staff talked to him frequently about cutting to the middle, using it to create more angles, and every time Gurianov would be onboard with the plan, but he never did it frequently in the game.
One prior Stars coach once described Gurianov to me as a genius, likely the smartest overall person on the roster — he’s also an accomplished musician by the way — but his hockey IQ, or “street-smarts on the ice” as the coach said, were severely lacking.
Gurianov could tell you why something didn’t go well, he could break it down, he was just never able to convert it into results.
And at the end of the day, results matter. Maybe he’ll have those results in Montreal, maybe thill will be another Valeri Nichushkin situation, or maybe, at 25, this is what Gurianov is.
Either way, this combination of coaches and management in Dallas needed to move on. And whether Dadonov does anything for Dallas or not, this trade wasn’t about the return but rather the departure.