2011 NHL Trade Deadline: Dallas Stars, Brad Richards Trade Deadline Primer

Be sure to join us at 9am CST here at Defending Big D for our comprehensive and day-long coverage of the trade deadline, as we discuss all of the day's action with you in our Trade Deadline Open Thread.

The day has finally come. The 2011 NHL Trade Deadline, when Dallas Stars fans will finally know whether they have at least a few more months with which to cheer on Brad Richards. This is also the day we'll find out just what Joe Nieuwendyk's plan for this season might be and whether he really is contemplating another trade that he mysteriously alluded to last week. In this post, we'll document exactly where the Stars stand heading into the deadline and what moves might be made as we gear up for our wall-to-wall coverage of the trade deadline starting at 9am CST.

The past few years the Dallas Stars have been relatively quiet at the trade deadline, choosing to make their significant trades well before the actual day of the deadline. Kari Lehtonen was acquired last year before the Olympic break and well before the trade deadline, and this year James Neal was traded exactly one week before today's 2pm CST trade deadline.

In 2008, Brad Richards was acquired by the Dallas Stars on day of the deadline in exchange for Mike Smith, Jeff Halpern, Jussi Jokinen and a 4th round draft pick. It was the last big trade on deadline day for the Stars and the hockey world is waiting to see if he will be the next big deadline trade for the Stars this year. Richards is by far the most coveted player at the deadline and with the Stars' financial future still unknown, many teams feel that the Stars would be willing to make a trade for the right deal. 

Yesterday, our very own Brad Gardner wrote an excellent article preparing Stars fans for either scenario:

If Brad Richards is traded on Monday to the Los Angeles Kings or the New York Rangers or some dark horse candidate no one sees coming there will be a certain group of Stars fans that sees that as a white flag. They'll group the James Neal and Matt Niskanen trade with it and they'll say "Dallas was a seller at the deadline" and that will be that in their minds. That's simply not true.

Joe Nieuwendyk showed us last February what he was all about when he didn't trade Marty Turco. Granted, the asking prices for Marty Turco and that of Brad Richards are vastly different, but the principle is the same. GM Joe wants to win. He wants to win this season. He wants to get into the playoffs. Last year the Stars went on a little run right before the Olympic break and that sliver of hope was enough for the club to not be sellers at the deadline. It turned out poorly but that's the risk you take when you stick your neck out in the name of achieving a goal. Like making the playoffs.

This is what should be the mantra of every Dallas Stars fan throughout the day today: Joe Nieuwendyk won't make any trade unless he feels it improves the team not only this year but for the future as well. With that in mind, let's take a look at where things stand headed into today...

The Brad Richards Trade Situation

There is the thought that Richards' concussion might create some hesitation on teams to even make an offer on the center, but the most recent news is that Richards has skated at least four times on three different days headed into the weekend. There is no timetable set for his return but many see this as a sign that Richards is certainly improving.

Whether the rumored asking price from last week is true or not, there's no doubting that any offer that forces Joe Nieuwendyk to even consider trading Ricahrds will have to be very, very significant. It's no secret that Nieuwendyk is very hesitant to trade Richards and that if he had the capability Richards would already be signed to a long-term contract. 

The fact is, the Stars and Nieuwendyk find themselves in a very unique situation. While teams at this time of the year always have some tough decisions to make regarding pending UFA's, the Stars find themselves wanting to sign a player who has made it know he'd like to stay in Dallas -- yet unable to move forward with a contract because of a lack of ownership to provide financial backing. While technically the Stars could sign Richards to an extension now, it's unlikely that Richards would even contemplate doing so without ownership in place.

What is likely to happen is that Nieuwendyk decides to keep Richards for the rest of the season and take his chances on the ownership issue being addressed between now and the start of free agency on July 1. The Stars are right in the middle of a very tight playoff race and Nieuwendyk would likely see the risk of losing Richards this summer worth the gain of having him available for a hopeful push into the postseason. 

There is also the fact that Richards has full control over any trade, when you consider his no-trade clause. This means that any potential trade that Nieuwendyk would be willing to make would have to approved by Richards, and there is likely only three or four teams that match both the ability to make a decent offer and be a logical destination for Richards. What is interesting is that of the team's reportedly interested (Toronto, Los Angeles and New York Rangers), Richards would have just as good a chance at making the playoffs this year with the Stars as he would with any of those three teams.

Richards reiterated yesterday that he and Nieuwendyk maintain communication and they are "are on the same page" when it comes to what the goal is moving forward. He also said that he has not been approached by the team to consider any potential trade or any potential team. 

Stars fans should be ready for a potential future without Richards, although right now it appears the chances of him being traded are less than 30%. There are good "matches" out there in Los Angeles and New York, if you listen to the pundits talk about how much those two teams could use a player like Richards heading into the playoffs. Yet we've established that despite the risk of losing Richards via free agency, the Stars won't trade away the center unless the return is well worth losing a top five talent in the NHL.

While all we'll here today from the media is about how certain teams are targeting Richards and how they could desperately use him the simple truth, however, is that the Stars could use him more.

Joe Nieuwendyk's Plan

All eyes have been on the Brad Richards situation, but we also forget that there is a good possibility that the Dallas Stars make a completely different trade today instead. When the Stars acquired Alex Goligoski, many acknowledged that while the Stars certainly filled a need there was still room left for improvement. Nieuwendyk backed that up when on NHL Live the next day, he stated that there could be one more trade coming if everything worked out. Whether he's referring to a forward or another defensemen, there is one thing we should all remember: Joe Nieuwendyk has a plan.

If there is one thing we have learned about Nieuwendyk since he became the general manager of the Stars is that he does not make off-the-cuff, emotional decisions regarding personnel. Every move made thus far has been to improve the team that is on the ice and while there have certainly been some rough patches the past month, it's tough to argue that his decisions haven't worked out for the Stars. 

Nieuwendyk's trade for Goligoski was a calculated change in personnel that was over a month in the making, with the Stars specifically targeting the Penguins and then seeing a perfect opportunity to propose the trade as they battled through a number of devastating injuries. It's since become known that the Stars were looking at Goligoski for a number of months and that Nieuwendyk specifically wanted the puck-moving defensemen, and was more than willing to part ways with James Neal in order to get the trade completed.

It's also going to be interesting to see exactly how the Stars approach the deadline. Is Nieuwendyk looking for a long-term solution at defense today or is he looking more towards a short-term solution? The Stars still need a big physical defenseman to complement the acquisition of Goligoski. There's also the question of what, exactly, Nieuwendyk is willing to give up in any potential trade -- is Nieuwendyk willing to part with draft picks and prospects, or are there some everyday players that are available today that he'd be open to trading?

If there is any trade made today involving the Stars, even if it involves Brad Richards, we will know that Nieuwendyk is making this trade with the ultimate goal of improving the team both short and long term and that any trade was likely contemplated well in advance of today's deadline.

Dallas Stars Payroll & Salary Cap Information

Much has been made of the fact that with the James Neal and Matt Niskanen trade, the Stars not only acquired a need in Alex Goligoski but also freed up about $2.5 million in salary for this season. Seeing this number, there were some in the media that stated that this could be used by Joe Nieuwendyk to make another trade this year and use that available payroll space to add another significant player to the roster.

In reality, however, the Stars are still well above what the internal budget for payroll of $45 million. When you factor in the addition of Jamie Langenbrunner and all the call ups and injury replacements this season, the Stars are sitting closer to $50 million than $45 million. While the lenders and the NHL might have approved an expansion of the internal budget, it's tough to contemplate whether the Stars are in fact able to add payroll or whether they'd have to make trade that equals out when you factor in the pay of all assets involved.

In short, would the Stars be able to make an acquisition utilizing draft picks -- or would the Stars need to trade players away in order to add to the roster. It's completely unknown at this point exactly what the Stars are and are not capable of doing financially and there's no sign from the Stars on where the team stands officially.

Just for giggles, have exactly $7.725 million available in cap space with which to work. Not that there's even a chance the Stars spend anywhere near that amount anytime in the near future.

Possible Targets:

While it's possible the Stars could add a forward to replace James Neal or for depth, there's a good chance that if the Stars are looking to make an addition it's going to be on defense. Here's a number of players the Stars could be targeting (and afford) as the deadline approaches:

Carlo Colaiacovo (STL)
Ladislav Smid (EDM)
Mike Commodore (CBJ)
Nathan Oystrick (STL)
Chris Campoli (OTT)
Henrik Tallinder (NJ)
Kris Russell (CBJ)
Jason Strudwick (EDM)

The Untouchables

We were going to make a list of players we thought might be available via trade, but instead figured a list of the untouchables on the team and in the system would be easier to make. Also keep in mind that this is a list of players that Joe Nieuwendyk likely thinks of as untouchable, not who the fans would specifically name. I have a feeling those two lists might be drastically different. Salary listed in the cap hit of the player for this season and number of years left on current contract.

Loui Eriksson ($4.266 million, 6 years)
Brenden Morrow ($4.1 million, 3 years)
Steve Ott ($2.95 million, 4 years)
Jamie Benn ($821K, 2 years)
Tom Wandell ($775K, 2 years

Stephane Robidas ($3.3 million, 4 years)
Trevor Daley ($2.3 million, 7 years)
Alex Goligoski (1.833 million, 2 years)
Nicklas Grossman ($1.625 million, 2 years)

Kari Lehtonen ($3.55 million, 3 years)

Prospects

Scott Glennie
Jack Campbell
Philip Larsen
Richard Bachman
Tomas Vincour

A couple of notes on the players listed (or not listed) above. With the emergence of Richard Bachman as a dominant goaltender in the AHL, as well as the impressive maturation of Tyler Beskorowany as a legitimate goaltending prospect, you wonder of Andrew Raycroft might be available to teams looking for goaltending depth moving towards the playoffs. He's relatively cheap and has had some nice performances this season and a draft pick gained could be used to make an addition in another deal.

While Mike Ribeiro is not on this list (I don't think he's exactly "untouchable"), I don't believe he's going to be able to be traded even if the Stars actively shopped him. He's making too much on his contract and has been too inconsistent this season to really make teams want to take on that salary while giving up something significant via trade. So there's that.

In reality, it's impossible to know who Nieuwendyk wouldn't trade and who he would. As long as it's not Jamie Benn or Loui Eriksson, I'd probably understand either way.

Further Reading

With Or Without Brad Richards, The Stars Have a Chance

2011 NHL Trade Deadline: Brad Richards Trade Not As Likely
2011 NHL Trade Deadline: Brad Richards Asking Price Too High?
2011 NHL Trade Deadline: Stars Exploring Brad Richards Trade Interest
James Neal Traded For Alex Goligoski: The Internet Reacts
Dallas Stars Acquire Alex Goligoski: Was James Neal Worth It?
NHL Trade Deadline 2011: Targeting Defensemen

Don't forget, join us at 9am CST for our live chat and open thread covering all the action for today's trade deadline.

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