Bob Gainey used to joke about Guy Carbonneau, ``Y'know, he's not as good a skater as he used to be, but he sure knows where to stand.''
That's an observation that can also apply pretty well to Karlis Skrastins. The 36-year-old defenseman is not quite as spry as he used to be, but he can use his experience and his ability to read the game to help the Stars be a better team.
Skrastins did that for a large part of last season. He played 79 games, averaged 19:51 of time on ice, and helped solidify a young bluleine for the Stars. He appeared to wear down after playing with Latvia in the Olympics, but Skrastins still showed the Stars that he can be a reliable part of the team concept.
Signed as a free agent last season, Skrastins has a very nice resume. He was a member of a very steady defense in Nashville from 1998-2003, was a nice part of a Colorado team that defeated the Stars twice in the playoffs after that, and was part of a Florida team for a couple of seasons where Joe Nieuwendyk saw his strong work.
So he is a good fit for the Stars. They have four younger defensemen in Trevor Daley, Nicklas Grossman, Mark Fistric and Matt Niskanen, and probably lean far too hard on 33-year-old Stephane Robidas. Skrastins brings a quiet experience and a good sized presence at 6-1, 208.
He also knows where to stand.
Skrastins has been one of the best shot blockers in the NHL for the better part of a decade. He slipped to 19th in the league last season with 156 blocks, but he still was second on the Stars behind Robidas.
Skrastins game is not that fancy. He generally stays in front of the net and he has had success being a good partner to a top-level player like Jay Bouwmeester in Florida. He fits in on the second or third pair with the Stars. He's a left-handed shot, so his veteran presence is something that could be used with a right-handed skater like Matt Niskanen. If the Stars return the same group of defensemen (and it appears they will), it will be interesting to see how the coaches juggle pairs. Skrastins played a lot with Trevor Daley last season, but he might be used better in a different pairing. We'll see.
Skrastins will get a significant raise in the second year of a two-year deal from $1.1 million to $1.65 million, but he's still a pretty affordable player for what he does. Could the Stars try to move him if they get strong play from Philip Larsen or Severin Blindenbacher in training camp? Could they consider trading him if they get new ownership and make a trade for a top pairing defenseman? It's possible, but I think the Stars like what they see from Skrastins and believe they can get a great year out of him.
He doesn't have to do too much. He just needs to be where he's supposed to be and not make many mistakes. Veterans like Carbonneau have shown in the past that's a very valued commodity in the NHL.