Can Johnny Oduya help bring Dallas Stars to Blackhawks’ level?

Chicago Blackhawks’ Johnny Oduya, of Sweden, celebrates after defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final series on Monday, June 15, 2015, in Chicago. The Blackhawks defeated the Lightning 2-0 to win the series 4-2. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Johnny Oduya signed a two-year deal with the Dallas Stars on Wednesday, joining a blueline that doesn’t have a Stanley Cup winner on it.

But he also joins a Stars team that has Patrick Sharp and Antti Niemi on the roster, both of whom won a Stanley Cup while together with the Chicago Blackhawks.

“That’s a big part of it,” said Dallas GM Jim Nill, after the team announced the signing of the 33-year-old defenseman. “I grew up in the Detroit organization. Anytime you have guys that have won. To win you gotta know how to win. It’s a process. Our core is young. They’re going to be like sponges. They’re going to feed off this."

This isn’t just a conference rival trying to graft the Blackhawks’ skin onto them. This isn’t just about “rings in the room.” All three moves filled needs for the Stars: Niemi adds stability to a questionable goaltending situation with Kari Lehtonen’s wonky groin; Sharp brings a sniper’s aim and two-way versatility to their top six; and Oduya brings a veteran presence to the blue line, ostensibly replacing Trevor Daley, who went to Chicago in the Sharp deal last week.

“Johnny was one of the top free agents that we looked at,” said Nill, adding that they were in talks well before the Daley trade.

There was some speculation that Oduya had more cash-rich offers on the table, like from the Buffalo Sabres, and he wouldn’t comment on whether he took a slightly less valuable deal to play in Dallas.

But getting him to play in Dallas wasn’t too difficult, even if Sharp sent a recruiting letter.

“I got a text the other day talking about the situation a little bit,” said Oduya, who indicated that Sharp had rave reviews in his initial interactions with the team. “I don’t know if that was the breaking point in making that decision, but it’s always nice to have somebody in the same situation as you.”

By that he means two players that really didn’t want to leave Chicago, where they hoisted that third Cup in a Final win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, but had to because of cap concerns.

Oduya waited out the Blackhawks to see if a deal could materialize.

“From the start, that was something I was trying to do. They were trying to make something work too at some point,” he said.

It’s no coincidence that as Daley came over in the Sharp trade, Oduya sought work elsewhere.

“You want to wait when there’s somebody in a situation like that, like there’s an option to stay. With time, as it progresses, other things become a little more interesting and you see yourself in a different spot,” he said.

Oduya praised Dallas as a difficult team to play against, one of the ultimate tributes in the NHL.

“They’re a fast team. A team that wants to play hockey. Their speed stands out the most,” he said.

It’s also young on the back end: Oduya is currently the only defenseman over 30 on the Stars. Alex Goligoski (29 now, 30 next season) and John Klingberg (23 next season) were a dynamic pairing last season. Oduya could see time with Jason Demers (27) or Patrik Nemeth (23) too. Like Oduya, Klingberg and Nemeth are from Sweden.

“I’m comfortable with the role that I play and the experience that I bring. That’s not going to change a lot,” said Oduya, on being a mentor. “Any time you’re coming into a situation like this, your approach is a little bit different.”

Nill liked what Oduya meant for his young players. “You know what I like about Johnny Oduya? The way he lives his life,” he said. “He’s a fitness fanatic.”

He also likes that Oduya rounds out what Nill considers a top four, rather than having a top pairing and a second paring – much like how he sees goaltending as a two-man job as well.

“I don’t think the game is like that anymore,” he said.

But more than anything, he sees Niemi, Sharp and now Oduya as steady veteran winners that could inch the Stars into the playoffs and then into Stanley Cup contention.

“Johnny was kind of the last piece of the puzzle,” he said.

Oduya feels the same way about his new team. Are the Stars on the cusp of Cup contention?

"The potential is there. I guarantee,” he said.

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