Dallas Stars General Manager Jim Nill announced today that the club has claimed forward Dustin Jeffrey off waivers. The team also announced that it has reassigned defenseman Aaron Rome to the Texas Stars, Dallas' development affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL).
Jeffrey, 25, has skated in 10 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins this season, earning one assist and nine shots. The Sarnia, Ont. native has played six seasons in the Penguins' system, including 100 career NHL games where he has earned 28 points (15-13=28). The 6-foot-1, 205-pound forward was Pittsburgh's sixth-round selection (171st overall) in the 2007 NHL Draft.
It's a bittersweet ending for the Pens and Jeffrey. After being drafted by the Pens in the sixth round of the 2007 draft, Jeffrey saw spot time in 2008-09 with the Penguins, appearing in 14 games in the regular season and was a part of the "black aces" practice squad of players during the Pens Stanley Cup run in 2009. In 2009-10, Jeffrey scored 71 points in 77 games in the AHL and was one of the top forward prospects in the system.
Jeffrey's big break could have came in the following months, when Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal all missed significant time with injuries, opening up space on the depth chart for center. But Jeffrey too would suffer a significant injury in April of 2011 when he tore his ACL and would miss significant time. That year would prove to be his best in Pittsburgh, when 12 points (7 goals, 5 assists) in 25 games and saw playing time on a line with players like James Neal and Alexei Kovalev.
From there, Jeffrey could never find his niche in Pittsburgh. Once the Penguins centers returned from injury there was virtually no space on the depth chart for Jeffrey, especially after Joe Vitale claimed the 4th line center role when he showed more speed, faceoff ability and penalty killing potential than Jeffrey. As a winger, Jeffrey couldn't stay in the lineup- he isn't a physical player or particularly good forechecker, and while he has decent skating ability and foot-speed, he definitely isn't a stand-out in that regard, especially after the knee injury.
As seen from his minor league point totals (152 points in 184 career games in Wilkes-Barre), Jeffrey did have decent hands and offensive instincts. But at the highest of the levels where the defensemen are bigger/faster/meaner and goalies are better, Jeffrey just couldn't prove to be a consistent point producer.
A man without a role or niche, it was only a matter of time before the Pens and Jeffrey parted was. That Pittsburgh had to waive him, and couldn't find a trade shows that there really was no market for Jeffrey. It's tough to lose an asset for nothing, but this asset didn't have much valuation league-wide.
That said, Jeffrey could definitely benefit from the classic "change of scenery". With a new organization and a new team, coach and teammates, it's definitely possible he could finally carve out that niche. Dallas seems like a team that could use an extra forward and is obviously interested in giving Jeffrey a chance. Will he be a center or a wing? Is he physical enough or defensively responsible for a third line role? Or can he find enough production to be an option to stay in the top 6?
We don't really know the answers to that. Sometimes these things can work out- Mark Letestu has carved out a nice career with the Columbus Blue Jackets, and that could be a good career path arc for Jeffrey to shoot for. Unfortauntely though, he won't be doing it in Pittsburgh.