Editor’s note: Vegas finally has a roster. It’s time to get excited. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be introducing you to these new Golden Knights players.
Cody Eakin was the best the Dallas Stars offered.
He wasn’t the best or attractive pick in the expansion draft (and I’m not talking about the red hair), but in the nicest way possible, the Vegas Golden Knights were not getting a franchise-caliber player from Dallas.
In a protected list that offered two really bad goaltenders and defensemen who anchored a historically bad Dallas defense, the Stars were losing Eakin by default, and it wasn’t going to ding their bottom six the slightest.
Eakin was decent in five years at Dallas. He scored a career-high 16 goals in 2014 and was a key player during Dallas’ short playoff run against Anaheim. He followed that with a career-high 40 points (19 goals), and then another 16-goal campaign the following year when Dallas was the best team in the Western Conference.
The red rocket crashed and burned for 60 games, tallying only 12 points and a plus/minus of -7 last year. In a myriad of disappointments for Dallas in 2017, Eakin’s inability to improve was one of them.
As the lone Dallas Stars fan in Las Vegas, Eakin needs to succeed for my sanity. Vegas drafted him needing an experienced center, but not even the Golden Knights have an idea of what player they’re getting.
Fit with the Golden Knights
General manager George McPhee is familiar with Eakin’s work. He drafted the Winnipeg, Manitoba native in the third round when stationed in Washington. McPhee knows what Eakin brings to the table, and Eakin may get some considerable playing time right away.
Eakin will make $3.85 million a year until 2020. He’s being paid like someone who will be a first- or second-line center, not a fourth-line guy like he would’ve been in Dallas. The Golden Knights are not taking on that kind of contract without immediate plans for Eakin to play meaningful minutes in the top six.
What Eakin lacks in scoring ability he’s proven to make up for in toughness. On a Dallas squad that lacked physical intensity, Eakin played the role of enforcer a time or two. Who else would go full speed at Henrik Lundqvist like this with no shame?
Now, albeit, he was suspended four games for this hit (which still made no sense at the time), but he’s not afraid to get under the opponent’s skin. Eakin is like the irritating kid at a children’s birthday party that is asking to get clocked in the face. You hate to see him, but you’d enjoy having someone like that on your team.
Just think about it.
But Eakin had to find a way to stay on the ice last year, and this was it. He averaged only 0.7 points per 60 minutes in 2017 after averaging 1.6 and 1.7 the two seasons prior. That’s ... uh ... not good.
Eakin performed at his best when the playoff lights were bright. He scored five points in the six-game series loss to Anaheim in 2014 and had a plus/minus of +2. The goals were limited two years later, but Eakin recorded seven assists in 13 games. He can be a difference maker in big-time games. It’s just a matter of getting there. But that’s the guy Vegas wants.
How will it result?
Eakin is going to play this year, but the ongoing season will dictate just how big a role he will have in Vegas.
It’ll be a fresh start and a much-needed change of scenery for the 26-year-old center. Staying in Dallas any longer would’ve made him miserable playing behind Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza.
The chains have been broken and Eakin is a free spirit. Hopefully, he can do more of this down the road.