This week has been a rollercoaster ride for Dallas Stars fans, and the insane ride still isn't over.
On Monday, Joe Nieuwendyk traded fan-favorite and 20-goal scorer James Neal to the Pittsburgh Penguins and while the acquisition of Alex Goligoski appears to have been worth the trade, many were still very sad to see the charismatic forward depart. Tuesday the Stars lost a close game at home to New Jersey and suddenly the Stars were sitting in 11th in the West, making the possibility of missing the playoffs a very real thing.
Then came news that Joe Nieuwendyk was listening to offers for Brad Richards, all the while saying it was going to take a hefty deal to pry him from the grip of the Dallas Stars. We learned that the supposed asking price was indeed astronomically high, hours before the Stars played their most complete game of hockey in nearly six weeks. At Joe Louis Arena, of all places.
Now, the next three days are going to be very long for Stars fans as we start the waiting game to see exactly what the Stars decide to do about the Brad Richards situation. The win last night against the Red Wings held off some of the "season is over" talk and a win against the Predators on Saturday would get things moving in the right direction and make losing Richards even harder to swallow.
Then there is all the other issues surrounding the possibility of a trade, making it even less likely that one occurs as we draw near the trade deadline.
Brad Richards skated yesterday, but is still suffering from a concussion and his return to an actual game is still a ways off. Nieuwendyk is on the record as saying Richards will not play before the trade deadline and while skating is a good sign, he's still likely at least a week away from returning. Even then, a return to actually playing games with full contact in that timeframe is far from a guarantee.
Teams around the NHL are treating concussions very seriously right now and you have to think that teams will be very wary of trading for a player that has no exact certainty of actually being able to play again anytime soon. Considering what is happening right now with Sidney Crosby, who has now been out for seven weeks, then you know that teams will be very hesitant to make any sort of big trade for Richards unless he's completely and fully healthy.
You also wonder if the NHL would even approve a trade that involves a player suffering from a concussion.
Trading Richards is going to take the stars aligning at the perfect time in order for any deal to go through.
It's apparent that Nieuwendyk wants to keep Richards with the top priority of signing him long term. While the possibility of losing him through free agency for nothing is a big risk to take, the Stars general manager appears ready to take that risk and gamble on stable ownership being in place between now and July 1. Nieuwendyk appears confident that this will happen and while he understands the risks involved, he also knows just how important a player like Richards is for the future of this franchise.
He also knows how important first round draft picks and top prospects can be as well, and if the right deal comes along he's going to be hard pressed to pass it up. This week, Nieuwendyk was very likely willing to at least listen to what teams would offer in a trade and see if the value he could get for Richards would even be worth considering. If the rumored asking price from the New York Rangers is any sign, then it's obvious that Nieuwendyk either wants teams to break the bank for the forward; otherwise, the Stars will just hold onto him for the time being.
Lost in all this talk is the fact that Richards has a full no-trade clause and if he is traded, then he completely controls the team he is traded to. It's likely that he wouldn't want to be traded to a team he doesn't want to sign with long-term, so that list is going to be very short. This makes a trade all the more impossible to make, as it means the team Richards would want to go to would also have to be willing to give the Stars the trade value they'd want in return.
There are probably only two or three teams in the NHL where this would be possible, and you wonder just how probable it would be for the Stars to get the value they want and Richards still being willing to be traded to that one specific team. That is a lot to demand of any trade scenario.
Right now, the asking price for Richards is ridiculously high -- and rightly so. The Stars don't want to trade Richards. This isn't a situation where the team must trade a free-agent to be in order to get anything they can while offloading a star forward in order to save the franchise. The Stars want to keep him and that's the focus at this very moment, and it has been all season long. If ownership were in place this wouldn't be an issue and Richards would likely already have an extension in place; instead, the Stars are forced to take a gamble that the team is sold and Richards decides to stay.
It's very unlikely that any team in the NHL would want to trade for a rental forward with a concussion anyway. Why take that risk now, when he could come available in free agency this summer and that team could sign him then? They'd know the status of his concussion then, rather than taking a big risk now on a player that is still injured.
When you add this scenario to what the Stars would want in return for trading him, then the possibilities of a trade even happening begin to plummet.