It has been a long time since the Dallas Stars were involved in this much anticipation leading up to the trade deadline, with a new owner in place and the team finally able to start the process of building for the future. Along with a few teams desperate for some extra firepower for a big playoff push, the Stars have suddenly been thrown into the mix of heavy trade deadline speculation -- perhaps even more than last season with Brad Richards.
For many Stars fans today is a day of worry and nervous anticipation. The Stars were likely never going to be true "buyers" and most of the speculation has surrounded the possible trades of the most popular player on the team and a center with magical offensive capability. While fans would certainly want for the Stars to improve -- both short and long term -- many would be angry at the possibility of losing such a well-liked player like Steve Ott.
As we get ready for the deadline to finally arrive and bring with it answers and perhaps some finality to the madness of the past few weeks, the hockey world prepares for the busiest time of the year. For many around the NHL this is the biggest day of the season, when the websites, forums, blogs and broadcasts all blow up with endless talk about what is to come.
We'll be right there with them, bringing you comprehensive coverage of the deadline all day today, but first let's get to some final thoughts on the day ahead....
The Plan has likely not changed much...
With the Dallas Stars making a big surge at just the right time, winning four games in a row and placing themselves squarely in the playoff hunt, there are some thoughts on there that this has "sent a message to Joe Nieuwendyk" and that the plan has now changed from what it could have been before. While I think that if the Stars had absolutely tanked and lost seven in a row heading into the deadline and were suddenly sitting just above Columbus in the standings then the Stars might have become true "sellers", just because the Stars are now in 8th in the conference likely won't change how Nieuwendyk was going to approach the deadline.
The Stars have stated from the beginning that while they are on the lookout for scoring help -- particularly a top six forward -- this is not a team that is willing to overpay in order to do make that trade. Teams that are in the top five in the conference, with inflated payrolls and high expectations, those are the teams that overpay for scoring help at the deadline. Teams that are in freefall mode but with similarly high expectations -- those are the teams that overpay at the deadline.
Instead, the Stars are going to be smart. There's the salary cap floor to consider and the fact that Joe Nieuwendyk has been hesitant to part with high draft picks or top prospects during his time with Dallas, knowing that is one reason the Stars have been struggling throughout the financial issues of the past few years.
The Stars aren't opposed to making a big trade but only at the right price.
A team will have to grossly overpay if they want Steve Ott.
The big rumor out there over the past week has been the supposed availability of Steve Ott and Mike Ribeiro. Ott, with a much more manageable cap hit and without a NTC on his contract, has become perhaps the second-hottest name leading up the deadline behind Rick Nash.
Much of the noise surrounding this speculation has come from the amount of teams supposedly interested in trading for Ott including Philadelphia, Toronto and Vancouver. What has added fuel to the fire is the fact that the Stars did not flatly deny any trade possibilities and instead have been at least willing to listen to offers. This has then morphed the news from "teams are inquiring about Steve Ott" to "the Dallas Stars are willing to trade Steve Ott".
What we do know is that the Stars highly value Ott and any team that wants him will have to overpay. The Stars, especially with this winning streak, hold all the cards in any possible deal. Dallas does not have to trade Ott in order to spark some rebuild and it's highly unlikely that the Stars would be able to get a player in return that actually helps the team's playoff chances more than Ott would. Thus, the asking price for Ott is already absurdly high and there's zero possibility that asking price gets lower as we get closer to the deadline.
The question, of course, is how desperate a team might be for Ott. Would Philadelphia be willing to part with James van Riemsdyk? While JVR would no doubt be a hell of a player for the Stars to acquire, I highly doubt the Stars attempt to "buy" him with Ott and will actually attempt to force Philly to overpay. The rumor from Vancouver is that Mason Raymond is in play, but that trade makes absolutely zero sense for the Stars to make -- especially when you consider that the Canucks don't need scoring help, they need defense.
Remember: Just because the Dallas Stars don't make a big "splashy" trade, doesn't mean the team is content with the status quo.
There's this underlying attitude with Stars fans right now that if the Stars don't make a big trade or significantly alter the roster in some way today that the team is once again happy with being mediocre and will not be willing to improve the team moving forward. I can see where this comes from after three years of little trade movement and almost zero ability to be active in free agency. This year is completely different and fans have to remember that it's a dangerous game to play when you try to rebuild a team at the deadline, especially if the team is a buyer.
We wrote last week that fans want to see some sort of "plan", a definitive path laid before the team that shows where the commitment by the front office lies. While today's deadline could certainly start building that path for fans to see, the idea of "making a trade just to change things" is absurd and can lead a team down a dangerous road.
The Dallas Stars are looking at a bit of a rebuild as they move forward, but that doesn't mean that any big trades must happen today. At the trade deadline, the players that are usually traded are pending free agents or superstars traded by teams in free fall. The Stars have little use for free-agents-to-be and should be wary to consider giving up future assets in order to get one.
Big name players come with a hefty price at this time of year and the good news is that for the first time in four years, the Stars have the ability to add via free agency -- not just in trades. This is a team that is looking to get younger and evolve over the next few seasons and they have a few potentially great prospects on their way. Nieuwendyk has also set up the roster in such a way so that while the team can remain competitive this season, we're likely to see a much, much different roster in two years.
This trade deadline is important in that the Stars should be wary of making a rash decision and overpaying for a player solely for short-term gains. The Stars have proven that they do have the mental fortitude to actually make a push for the postseason and while there's a chance this four-game streak is merely a mirage, at the very least we've seen more from these players in one week than we've seen at this time the past two years.
It's a big day for Stars fans and the Dallas Stars but we have to remember one very important fact: the future of this franchise does not revolve around what happens today.