Sunday's game against the Phoenix Coyotes was frustrating in many ways, and not just because it was the third time Dave Tippett has beaten the Stars this season. The game showcased and highlighted the two extremes of the Dallas Stars team all in one game: their relentless offensive power and growing potential among the young forwards, negated by shaky defensemen and mediocre goaltending.
The loss and the Stars' position in the standings also left the team in a very precarious position in the standings and makes some of the future decisions by Joe Nieuwendyk all the more tough. On one hand, you have a Stars team that is standing on the precipice of breaking out and making a spirited run at the playoffs, while on the other the team is two losses away from falling out of contention entirely.
So should the team decide to make trades and moves in a concerted effort to beef up the team now? With only six forwards under contract through next season, and both goaltenders headed into potential free agency as well, there's a good chance that the Stars team we see next season will look drastically different than the one that is on the ice now. So does Joe Nieuwendyk broker his acquisitions and trades based on the potential of making the playoffs this season, or does the team entire sell mode and look for value with players that have a long-term future with the team?
The short answer is to try and do both at once, which is certainly not a simple task.
The key to any move could be Mike Ribeiro.
A lot of the trade focus so far this season has been on Marty Turco. With the Dallas Stars not hiding the fact they are not seeking a new contract with with the veteran goaltender, the fact remains that any trade involving Turco will be complicated and likely not to bring the value most would hope. True, a package deal to Chicago would be nice (especially if the return were Kris Versteeg) but it's unlikely.
No, the big name on the Stars team that could have the most value in a trade would be Mike Ribeiro. While his numbers are still high, it's tough to argue that Ribeiro has had trouble adjusting to Marc Crawford's system. Brenden Morrow is playing the best hockey of the season far; is it coincidence that the speedy and high-energy Jamie Benn is his center has jumpstarted the Stars captain?
The big issue at hand with any trade that may be made has to do with the team's finances. Right now it's highly doubtful that the Stars will be able to actually add salary with any trade that is made. So if a move does go down, it will be laterally salary-wise. So the Stars trade away $2 million and gain $1.8 million.
Right now the Stars' biggest need is on defense; both short and long term. Being able to trade for a big, puck moving defenseman that can help solidify the young defensive corps already in place while regulating minutes should be high on the Stars priority list. Of course, there aren't many 24-28 year old defensemen out there that fit this bill, nor would they be worth the trade that could be made. Plus, you have to consider that salary that will be involved.
With Dion Phaneuf traded (and he was never a player the Stars should have coveted anyways), then the list of eligible defenseman has shrunk a bit. Sheldon Souray will always be at the top but with the Toronto Maple Leafs makes the trades they did lately, the next name to pop up will once again by Tomas Kaberle. Toronto currently has just twelve forwards under contract in the NHL, with nine defenseman on board with over $24 million locked up on the blueline next season.
The Leafs will be looking to find a buyer for one of their defensemen, who has scorers to give. Toronto gave away their top scoring threats in order to bag Phaneuf, and now are in desperate need for someone to score goals, not just this season but in the future as well. When looking at viable partners, the Stars and the Leafs make sense. Mike Ribeiro will add the scoring they need (imagine Ribeiro paired with Nazem Kadri), while Tomas Kaberle would instantly boost the Stars defense. There would be other players involved and perhaps draft picks, but the salary makes sense for both sides.
This goes for any other teams looking to make a deal with the Dallas Stars. Based on the system the Stars are trying to build, their payroll and salary cap situation and the needs of the team, Mike Ribeiro's name is going to be mentioned again and again. Now there are other complications involved, specifically whether Ribeiro's reputation would allow the Stars to openly make him available, especially in Canada. It's also a matter of whether the Stars are willing to part with a player of Ribeiro's talents.
Trading Mike Ribeiro would have nothing to do with his ability or his standing with the team; he's become a fan favorite and he's been the top scorer on the Stars ever since he joined the team. Yet Joe Nieuwendyk must make some tough decisions in order to make any positive trades for the Stars, and weighing current talent versus future potential would be the toughest. Does he trade a top scoring threat now, or does he trade some of the younger prospects who have the potential to be great in just a short amount of time.
The Stars will also be on the lookout for young goaltenders, a future franchise netminder who can be had for good value via trade. I doubt we'll see both a big defenseman and a new goaltender acquired at the same time, and the value of the players involved say trade now for the blueliner and nab a goaltender over the summer.
With the players on the roster and the salaries involved, Mike Ribeiro's value for a trade makes the most sense. If he can help the Stars acquire a top defensemen on March 3, the Joe Nieuwendyk will have to pull the trigger.
First of all, this is nothing but speculation. Also, I'm a big Mike Ribeiro fan and I would rather he not be traded. Also, I'm pretty certain this post will not be popular. The end.