We have a trade to announce. The Dallas Stars have acquired defensive prospects Oscar Laaksonen For another blueliner from the Buffalo Sabres, Joseph Ceconi. Both teams have officially announced the deal.
Laaksonen, 23, was a third-round pick of the Sabers in the 2017 draft, selected 89th overall. He spent three full seasons as a regular defender for Ilves Tampere in the Finnish League before splitting 2020-21 between the Lahti Pelicans and the Rochester Americans.
Laaksonen got off to a great start in Rochester, scoring 17 points in his first 28 games. In his first full season last year, he had 34 points in 71 games, good for second among Rochester defensemen. He earned those points in a somewhat defensive role, however, and Laaksonen has just two points in ten games this season.
Near the end of last season, it looked like cracks were starting to appear in Laaksonen’s position in Rochester. Times Herald reporter Bill Hope, who has been covering the Blueliner situation since last spring, noted that the Americans were sending a “not-so-subtle” message to Laksonen that he needed to balance his game to stay in their plans.
Despite his good performance, Laaksonen played in the Americans’ first eight games of the Calder Cup playoffs, and after a 6-5 triple overtime loss to the Laval Rocket, Americans coach Seth Appert had the following to say about Laaksonen’s performance. :
His defensive game must continue to improve, his commitment to defending and playing a physical style. He’s never going to be a physical defender, but in North America you have to get physical to defend.
Those comments indicate that Laaksonen has been on thin ice this year in Rochester, and after 23 games (he played just ten of them) it appears the team decided Laaksonen needed a change of scenery.
He will head to the AHL’s Texas Stars in return for Cecconi, a 25-year-old from Youngstown, New York, about 30 miles from Buffalo.
Cecconi was the Stars’ fifth-round pick in the 2015 draft. He had a four-year college career at the University of Michigan before making the leap to the professional game. Cecconi has been a regular contributor to Texas over the past four years, mostly with bottom pairing opportunities.
In his comments about Laaksonen, Appert noted the need to “get physically involved” to survive on the North American blue line. By acquiring Cecconi, the Sabers have given their AHL bench a defenseman who is much better suited to play the kind of violent, physical game that the AHL can be known for. Cecconi stands six-foot-three, 215 pounds and logged 52 penalty minutes last year.
In addition to his physicality, Cecconi plays on one of the AHL’s best penalty kill second units in Texas, going for an 88.2% shooting percentage. By trading for him, Rochester not only got the more physical defenseman they seemed to want, but they also tried to address their weak penalty kill, which is currently killing penalties at just a 70.6% rate.
While this is a deal that is unlikely to have much consequence for either the Stars or the Sabres, it should make a significant difference to both clubs’ AHL affiliates, as well as the players involved.