2012 NHL Trade Deadline: Rumors, Speculation & Playoff Hopes

We're just a few days away from the trade deadline and while a few major trades have gone down, it's been a fairly quiet week. It was thought that the Stars would have been more involved than they have been and while they did trade Nicklas Grossman, it seems the Stars -- like so many other teams -- are waiting for the dam to break to really get the action going.

Of course, there's also the possibility that the Stars aren't going to be as active as some would wish. The Stars find themselves in a very precarious position the weekend before the deadline, with a few big wins pushing the team into a playoff spot. While we've been extremely frustrated with the Stars over the past month or so, the fact remains that there is still a very distinct possibility that the Stars make the postseason with the roster they currently have.

There's also a number of trade rumors, speculation and all sorts of insanity being thrown about this week. With the Stars supposedly able to be more active than before and possessing a few assets that could be valuable to other teams, the Stars are being mentioned more than ever before in speculation circles. This has created a frenzy of sorts and the lack of action by the Stars is becoming frustrating for some.

After the jump, we take a look at a few items of interest on a Friday afternoon. The Jeff Carter trade, fan's expectations and how the Stars jumping right back into the playoff race might change everything.

The fans are restless, but don't expect panic by the Stars.

What we're seeing with fans this time of the year is a restlessness, a hunger for change and for improvement. Some sort of sign that the Stars have a direction and a plan in place and they are headed in a specific direction -- this is what the fans want. With each trade that is made and doesn't involve the Stars, there's a growing impatience about the lack of action by the Stars and it's seen as a sign the Stars are content and don't want to improve.

What fans can't expect is for the Stars to make a trade just to do something. I've seen a few frustrated comments here and there that the lack of involvement by the Stars at the trade deadline would mean a loss in faith in Nieuwendyk and the team, that somehow making a trade this season in imperative to the future success of the Stars.

While the Stars certainly need to improve the roster, the team can hardly afford to overpay or make a panic move. The trade deadline is rarely about acquiring long-term, franchise-level talent and is generally for teams either a) looking to sell off assets in advance of a rebuild or b) teams needing reinforcements for a short-term playoff run. Sometimes teams can take advantage of a certain situation and make a Brad Richards type trade, but it's also incredibly costly to do.

What we're seeing is that the Stars are stuck somewhere between A and B and it's difficult to make a commitment in either direction without sacrificing something significant. The fans want a sign that the Stars are committed to winning and building a successful team. Like always, we need to show patience and not put all of our hopes on the trade deadline. Making a trade just to do anything is always a dangerous game and is usually extremely costly -- not something the Stars can afford.

Jeff Carter, Trevor Daley and trade speculation...

Yesterday, Columbus traded Jeff Carter to the Los Angeles Kings. Immediately fans saw the price -- Jack Johnson and a conditional first round pick -- and were frustrated that the Stars weren't involved in the trade talks. It was mentioned in several places that a comparative trade for the Stars would have included Trevor Daley and it was discussed whether that would have been worth it for the Stars -- for many, it was a resounding "yes".

Then, Puck Daddy decided to throw this gem into their breakdown of the trade:

Personnel wise, Blue Jackets fans can be understandably pleased about this Carter deal. He had to go, and Howson got a first-round pick and a significant roster player for him - a better one than, say, Trevor Daley, whom the Dallas Stars were rumored to have anted up. Taken as a whole, the Voracek/Johnson trade described above is a win for Howson.

That led to all sorts of speculation as to whether the Stars were actually in on the trade and that the Blue Jackets straight up shot down that proposal by the Stars. After all, we've discussed the possibilities of Carter coming to Dallas for a few weeks now. Being mentioned on Puck Daddy further added to that speculation and suddenly frustration levels rose that the Stars couldn't pull it off.

Turns out, the Stars were never interested.

In what was likely a fun game of internet telephone, the Trevor Daley discussions turned into actual speculation that it was a proposed trade. That's how rumors spread this time of year and it's why people who write for Sports Illustrated can just make the off-hand remark that the Stars would "happily" trade Mike Ribeiro. Anything that is discussed as speculative eventually becomes fact.

In reality, the Stars were never interested in Jeff Carter and his incredible contract. It's likely they Stars aren't interested in Rick Nash for the exact same reasons. So in the end all of the discussion and speculation was fun with reality telling us that it was nothing but fiction from the very start. Which leads us to another rumor...

With speculation rising in regards to the availability of Steve Ott and Mike Ribeiro, all sorts of trade rumors are flying about. I won't mention any of them specifically but I do find it interesting that none of these rumors existed until it was mentioned on TSN that some teams would be interested in Ott. That mention, by Darren Dreger, has turned into fact in the minds of many and suddenly we're discussing what trading Ott would mean to the fans and to the Stars.

What we have to remember here is that there is almost zero sign that the Stars are actively looking to trade either player. All we've been told is that teams have inquired about both players and that -- supposedly -- the Stars would be interested in trading them "for the right price". Let's not open that discussion again but remember that when we hear these rumors -- like Ott to Boston, for example -- that all of these rumors generated from open speculation from the start.

Sometimes there's truth involved, like when it was known a few weeks back the Stars might trade Grossman to Philadelphia. This time of year, however, we must take every single statement with a grain of salt and remember that nothing is set in stone until paperwork is filed and accepted.

What about the postseason...

Suddenly, the Dallas Stars are right back in the playoff hunt. For the past month, we've become resigned to the possibility that the Stars wouldn't be able to make the push for the postseason and we all needed to talk about the future. With two big road wins, the Stars are in position to surprise everyone and actually make a legitimate run to the playoffs. It's just two wins, however, and there is still a lot of hockey left. If the Stars are able to win tonight and somehow get a point from Vancouver on Sunday, it will be very interesting to see just how much the plan for the Stars changes.

I doubt it changes at all.

All along I've felt the Stars were somewhere in the middle of being a buyer and a seller. Veterans with expiring contracts are more than available and the Stars have a few players that could be valuable to teams in a better playoff position. Even if the Stars had completely tanked, I never thought we'd see the sort of fire sale that was being speculated.

At the same time, I doubt being this close to the playoffs turns the Stars into buyers. Everyone points to the Antoine Vermette trade for Phoenix and how another fringe team was able to improve but the fact is that Vermette is nowhere near the player he was in Ottawa and likely won't be as effective in Phoenix as some expect. Vermette would certainly have been valuable for the Stars, but not in a trade that valued him as a legitimate top-six forward.

That doesn't mean the Stars can't look to improve; I just think they'll be wary of the price of improvement with the postseason still in doubt and more changes on the way this summer.

It is interesting how expectations change....

Finally, I had to sit back and chuckle today as I thought about how quickly expectations for the Stars have changed in just a week. This has been such a roller coaster of a season; the Stars are currently just six points out of the division lead -- but are also just four points ahead of being a top-six pick in the upcoming draft. We've gone, as fans, to talking about a rebuild to the future to legitimately discussing the possibility of the playoffs in just a few short days.

Each game has incredible amount of pressure involved and each loss means a bigger hill to climb. The Stars are just five points behind Phoenix yet it seems as if the Coyotes command so much more respect than the Stars, when both teams have the same amount of wins.

The Stars have a chance to turn things around but it's going to be a very tough road to get there. The month of March is brutal in terms of difficulty and as we've seen this season, the Stars struggle mightily against superior teams in the West. What we do know is that once again the race will be tight and if nothing else, we've seen a team this season that is at least willing to fight for it -- that rolling over and giving up isn't good enough.

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