Pieces fit together well after busy summer

The Sports Xchange

General manager Joe Nieuwendyk has done an excellent job this summer of upgrading a roster that failed to make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season.

Nieuwendyk's first move came on draft night, when he traded No. 1 center Mike Ribeiro to the Capitals for Cody Eakin and a second-round pick in the 2012 draft.

And when free agency began on July 1, the Stars made a big splash immediately, adding 40-year-old winger Ray Whitney, who figures to help bolster a power play that was the NHL's worst last season, and former Canucks defenseman Aaron Rome later in the day to bolster the club's rearguard.

Dallas then traded fan favorite Steve Ott to the Sabres for Derek Roy and also signed veteran Jaromir Jagr to a one-year deal to round out a busy few weeks for Nieuwendyk.

But while Stars fans await the start of preseason to get their first glimpse of Jagr, Rome, Roy and Whitney on the ice, it's important to note that this is a team that also returns two solid young players in Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, a fact that has not escaped the club's GM.

Eriksson, a 27-year-old winger, was one of three Stars to play in all 82 games last season. The talented Swede, an NHL All-Star for the first time in 2011, had his third straight 70-point season, finishing with 71 points (26-45-71).

"I thought Loui Eriksson made tremendous strides this year," Nieuwendyk said. "I felt in the past couple seasons that maybe he got a little tired at the end of seasons. But this year, he maintained his weight and, for me, took a real leadership role, too, and really wanted to make a difference."

Benn is a 23-year-old fellow forward who set a career high with 63 points (26-37-63) in 71 games and was a first-time NHL All-Star.

"Jamie Benn is getting better," Nieuwendyk said. "He's 22 years old. Sometimes we forget that and sometimes we want to push him to do things that 22-year-olds shouldn't. I'm really pleased with him, too."

Benn and Eriksson figure to headline the Stars' first line, a group that could have Jagr as the center.

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