The NHL's silly season is still in full effect as free agency nears on Sunday, and Steve Ott's name continues to make the rounds as one of the more noteworthy items of trade bait in the league.
Mike Ribeiro being traded shook this fan-base like a bit of an earthquake. Intellectually it made people wonder how the Stars can possibly replace his production next year, and how the lines would shake out. The loss of Steve Ott would shake something more emotional. His 39 points and face-off prowess aside, people believe that he is "the heart" of this franchise right now, and that his loss would be unendurable.
Nevertheless, rumors of his removal persist, mainly from ESPN's Pierre LeBrun, who blogged about it this weekend...
Mike Ribeiro was shipped out Friday by the Dallas Stars, and now we wait and see if the same will happen to Steve Ott as the club tries to reshape its core a little and get younger.
A source told ESPN.com that Ott is getting plenty of interest, just as he did before the trade deadline.
Steve Ott remains in play ... My own personal belief is that he'd be a great fit in Montreal. He's got size and skill, defend some teammates.
In the end, Stars could just hold onto to him if they don't get the offer they're looking for.
Having survived one round of "Uh oh, Steve Ott is going to get moved" in late February Stars fans don't seem overly concerned just yet, which is surprising considering the credentials the perpetrator of this particular speculation possesses, but the anxiety could grow as Sunday approaches.
Is Steve Ott really all that available? The hockey reasons to move Mike Ribeiro were many. The age, contract and role of Steve Ott are a different story altogether...
Ott's chance to seize control of a top-six roster spot may have gone awry last year, partly due to what kind of player he ultimately is and partly due to the mix with which Glen Gulutzan had to work, but he's 29 years old, he's under control, and he possesses the hard-to-play against defensive attributes this team is starting to embrace as they redefine who they are and what they do.
39 points is nothing to sneeze at either, nor is the fact that he's twice been a 20 goal scorer or that he was #14 in the league in face-off percentage last season. Those are useful skill-sets that made him a covet-able asset as the trade deadline came and went. He's the kind of guy a team adds to be one of the missing pieces on the way to a Cup.
That's a tough kind of guy to part with. That he's been here for nearly ten years, has worn the "A" quite a bit, and is one of the most popular players (if not the most popular) makes it even worse.
Yet he's clearly in play as one of the Stars most attractive bargaining chips. Whether it will ever be labeled as such or not, the Stars are in fact in some form of a rebuild right now, and their stated goal is to continue getting younger and more skilled - Seeking a core of talent around which to build in the coming two or three seasons. Ott is a very talented, useful piece in the NHL, but is he part of "the future"?
It cannot be ignored that he plays a brand of hockey not completely dissimilar to what Brenden Morrow did for years and years. Morrow's situation is unique to him, yes, but it's also a reminder that 10 or 12 years given to that kind of abrasive style can take a significant toll. Will Steve Ott still be Steve Ott in 2015? This Stars fan would certainly like to think so, but it's not a crazy question to ask by any stretch of the imagination.
There are currently, and there always will be, somewhere around 20-23 NHL GM's thinking that their team, according to their long term plan, will be a competitive cup contender in 4-6 years, and the remainder who think they are now, or that they're close. The Stars are firmly in the first category, and if they ever want to move back into the others then parting ways with a franchise cornerstone who turns 30 this summer might be a necessary step.
If the return is right.
I am not advocating trading Steve Ott. I love Steve Ott. I'd love to see him and Cody Eakin and/or Vern Fiddler patrolling the third line next season with another FA acquisition as part of what will hopefully be an honest-to-hockey-gods shutdown checking line - But everyone not named Benn or Eriksson is for sale, and even they'd be up for grabs if the return was right.
Steve Ott would only be moved for a top quality, young roster player or prospect in this guy's opinion. Offensive skill of the high end variety is what it will likely take. Cody Hodgson, for instance, was a deal many believe the Stars would have made for Steve Ott, though it seems that particular deal was never on the table for Dallas in February. These kinds of deals are hard to put together due to the scarcity of players who fit the bill and an even greater scarcity of general managers willing to roll the dice on such a transaction.
Like LeBrun says, the Stars could just hold onto him if they don't get the offer they're looking for.
That's a tough thing for Steve Ott - To have his name out there every time the rumor mill gets going, and it will be again next February if the Stars find themselves in a similar position. Mike Ribeiro endured it without a peep for several seasons and Ott may have to do the same, but the Stars must feel, if you believe the chatter, that it's worth it to put their line in the water and see if anything is biting.
He's for sale in the same way that Bobby Ryan is for sale. The price is high, and it's one that may just be a fantasy at this point. If it doesn't happen then these teams keep these good hockey players and move on. It doesn't hurt to try - Until it does. Bobby Ryan's dissatisfaction with the trade rumors is starting to become apparent, so there's an end to the good will of these guys somewhere down the line. That's the downside to having this stuff, if it's true and we don't know that it is, out in public.
Either way it seems safe to say that if, IF Steve Ott were moved, the return would probably be one that fans could get behind - Or at least one fans looking at the big picture could get behind.
It would be painful, though. Very, very painful.