As we inch closer to the NHL Trade Deadline on Monday, the rumors that swirl around the NHL will increase in noise and magnitude. It's the way the business works and many websites and hockey news sources put a lot of focus on harnessing the power of the trade rumor and the viewership and traffic those can bring. Entire businesses have been built around trade rumors, so it's no surprise that at this time of the year -- anything and everything is fodder for discussion.
With only a handful of trades taking place so far and, outside of Columbus not much in the way of actual impending trades being known, the articles and airwaves need to be filled with something. So we turn to conjecture and speculation, where experts attempt to use educated guesses on who they feel might be traded in the coming days. With the Dallas Stars possessing several valuable assets and obviously heading towards a bit of "reset" or rebuild, it's expected that the Stars and their players would be the subject of trade discussions.
Earlier this week ESPN's Pierre LeBrun mentioned that there are a few teams interested in Steve Ott and Mike Ribeiro, and last night on TSN Darren Dreger -- perhaps the best "inside man" in hockey -- specifically mentioned Ott. When asked which player would be the most sought-after at the deadline, Dreger had this to say:
"I like Steve Ott from the Dallas Stars for a number of reasons. He's a good faceoff guy, he's a penalty-killer, he's a fierce competitor all year long. When it comes to the playoffs, you need that kind of energy presence in your lineup. Toronto, Vancouver and Philadelphia are all teams that will be looking at adding him."
Let's break this down, after the jump.
Like I stated yesterday, none of this implies that the Dallas Stars are actively seeking to trade Steve Ott and Mike Ribeiro. The Stars are not a team that needs to go into full rebuild mode and while they are certainly not just "one player away" they are still a competitive team with a decent core that just needs some significant additions.
The path to being a contender will likely take a few years and there is going to be a transition phase for this franchise, as the team looks to get younger with the addition of prospects to the NHL team and through improve via free agency or trades. I highly doubt that the Stars will be a team willing to break it all down to build it back up again, in the process becoming a team that struggles to win at all.
I believe the Stars see Steve Ott as a vital part of that process. In an ideal world, Ott would be a third line center on a checking line where he's freed up to be physical and agitating without the offensive pressures of playing on the first or second line. We witnessed last season just how good he is in that role. While Ribeiro could likely just be a way to help transition to the future if he isn't traded, Ott could certainly be a major part of the success of this team moving forward.
That being said, there's no reason for the Stars to at least not listen to what other teams would be willing to pay for Steve Ott in a trade. While Ribeiro's limited no-trade clause and his hefty salary may make a trade unlikely, Ott has no such restrictions and his salary is more than affordable for teams in contention. So it would certainly make sense that teams like Vancouver and Philadelphia would be looking to see what his availability and his cost would be, since he's a player they need for the playoffs and they could afford him.
Would trading Steve Ott be worth it, though? Of course it all depends on the return but what would make the trade worthwhile? Steve Downie essentially netted the Tampa Bay Lightning a first round pick (a late one, however) and there are some thoughts that Ott could bring the Stars a first and a prospect. For those fans wary of gambling on unproven assets and draft picks, it's likely that the price would not justify such a trade. Could Ott be used in a package for an NHL-ready player, a younger forward who could be a big part of the team down the road? Would that player be more effective for the Stars than Ott would be? So many questions to consider.
There's also the intangibles to consider, perhaps the only player on the team we'd have to analyze in this manner. Steve Ott is easily the fan's favorite player in Dallas. He receives the biggest ovation at home, he's the most recognizable personality on the team for the casual fan and as a player who was drafted and has played his entire career in Dallas -- the fans have a very close attachment to the agitation guru.
Judging by the initial reaction to these trade "rumors", it's easy to say that it doesn't matter what the price would be the fans would be incredibly upset if Ott is traded. He's one of the few players that the fans connect with on an emotional level and he's easily the most marketable guy on the team right now. He's been instrumental in helping the Stars raise awareness about the team this season and the fans are as loyal to him as they are the jersey that he wears.
Should the Stars consider these intangibles when weighing trade offers? Would they make the price even higher? For a team that is working so hard on winning back the fans that left after the departures of Mike Modano and Marty Turco -- it's obvious the fans in Dallas are emotionally connected to the players -- I wonder just how costly it would be for the Stars to trade such a beloved player like Ott.
I don't believe that the Stars are actively looking to trade him. I think it would be foolish of the Stars to at least not listen to offers and weigh the pros and cons of such a trade, especially if it allows the team to gather more assets and the ability to continue to grow in the future.
The question, of course, becomes this: Would the inevitable fan backlash be worth the risk of making such a trade?