The deal sending Mark Fistric to Edmonton is both a blessing and a curse. The Stars were able to acquire what should be a high 3rd round pick in return for 50 games of a soon to be free agent they had little interest in keeping. The move also allows the Stars to give more ice time to some younger players they think have more upside.
Unfortunately, the Stars are giving more ice time to some younger players they think have more upside. It's unfortunate because it could backfire. The trade exposes an already defensively questionable unit that much further. If Brenden Dillon isn't ready for the minutes he is presumably about to see then the Stars are in a bind.
This trade puts a lot of pressure on Jordie Benn also. Presumably he is going to be the Stars 7th defenseman for the upcoming season. In his brief call up last year he looked like a solid player. This season in Austin reports about his overall game have been encouraging, and he continues to improve his offensive production. The Stars need Benn to perform well in his role, or else they risk exposing a future core piece like Jamie Oleksiak to ice time for which he might not yet be ready.
The uncertainty expressed in the previous passage is what makes the deal tough to evaluate. A third round pick for Mark Fistric is excellent value. It's a deal they should have made. In the post I wrote about Fistric a few days ago I wondered aloud about what the Stars would do with their upcoming glut of bottom pairing options, and Fistric in particular:
The Stars have been building a stable of young promising defensive prospects the past several years. Brenden Dillon and Jamie Oleksiak are on the horizon. Patrick Nemeth and Ludwig Bystrom aren't too far away. Philip Larsen, Alex Goligoski, and Trevor Daley are all still young. The defense needs to continue improving, but there is going to come a time in the near future when the kids are ready to claim roster spots.
The man without a role is always the first one to go. The departure of Sheldon Souray opens up a prime checking role on the Stars alongside Stephane Robidas. Robidas and Souray took most of the rough minutes last season. As the year went on the Stars largely stopped using Robidas in that role as well. Fistric will have a chance to make his mark. The time for fooling around with Fistric in the offsensive zone has passed.
This season he has a chance to establish himself as a reliable defensive option for the Stars. If he doesn't, then you're probably looking at Fistric's last days in a Stars uniform.
The Stars have decided the time is now for the kids to begin claiming the roster spots. In a 50 game season there is little room for error or growing pains. The Stars need Benn and Dillon to be ready to contribute. They also need Oleksiak to be ready because, when injuries happen, he is going to be up with the big club barring further moves.
No one really saw this move coming, so it isn't out of the question to suspect that the Stars might be looking to do more. The top pairing hole we all know and love so much still exists. By removing a player from the pool of depth they had the Stars have opened themselves to the possibility of adding a top four player without causing further roster issues. Whether or not it happens, or if they are even in the market, is up for debate.
What isn't up for debate right now is the fact that the Stars are turning this team over to the kids. A process that seemed like it would begin in earnest in the upcoming offseason has been accelerated today. The Stars inexperienced depth will be tested early and often. For the Stars to make the playoffs, they need Benn, Dillon, and Oleksiak to be up to the task.