Tuesday's news that the Dallas Stars had traded Michael Ryder to the Montreal Canadiens was met with a healthy bit of surprise; big-name trades weren't exactly expected to start going down for at least another month.
The NHL's official trade deadline falls on April 3 but it seems as if teams are not willing to sit and wait for the official deadline to approach before making moves to address the needs the of the team. The Flyers acquired Simon Gagne from the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday and almost as soon as word came down that Erik Cole was headed to Dallas, the rumor mills began to seriously heat up.
While the trade deadline coming just weeks before the end of the season, teams likely aren't willing to wait to make significant changes or additions to their team; the push for the postseason is already upon us and the pressure to keep up in the standings increases with each passing day.
The Stars trade for Cole raised some eyebrows, if for no other reason than it feels as if this trade is merely the first in what could be a series of changes for the Stars over the next few weeks. Cole provides stability for the immediate future but he also improves the team in the present; it could be that Nieuwendyk and the Stars are focused on doing what it takes to ensure a successful season (playoffs) while also maintaining the youth development the team is so focused on.
The questions is...what trades could the Stars make? What needs still need to be addressed, whether that's for this season or beyond?
Please Note: Anything beyond this point is pure speculation and absolutely, positively nothing more than Eklund-esque antics and baseless pontificating.
Look for the Carolina Hurricanes to trade for a veteran defenseman over the next few days.— Kevin Allen (@ByKevinAllen) February 27, 2013
There has been talk that the Stars could possibly trade Stephane Robidas, rumors that have swirled for at least that last few seasons. There are going to be a number of teams out there looking for a veteran defenseman as they gear up for a playoff run; Robidas would likely thrive in a more muted role on a deeper team on defense.
Of course, Robidas has a full no-trade clause. Perhaps Trevor Daley could be the type of veteran blueliner teams are willing to hand over some assets for, although even Daley has a limited NTC that could prohibit such a move.
No matter what return the Stars could get by sending away a veteran defenseman, such a trade would leave the Stars even more woefully thin on defense. Perhaps the return would be a younger defenseman with upside on top of a draft pick, although that still doesn't address one simple fact...
The Dallas Stars need help on defense as well.
Rich Chere suggests that the New Jersey Devils could be shopping one of their defensemen, either top prospect Jon Merril or budding veteran blueliner Andy Greene. Chere suggests that the asking price for either player would have to be a top-six caliber forward that would help add some offensive punch to a team suddenly without Zach Parise.
Greene could possibly be exactly what the Stars are looking for, a top pairing veteran defenseman still finding his full potential that would add a bit more balance to the blue line for the Stars. The problem is that the Stars likely don't have the assets available to make such a trade given that asking price and you wonder just what caliber of prospect the Devils would even be willing to consider in such a trade.
Henrik Tallinder is also mentioned as possibly being available and he certainly wouldn't fetch as high a price; the problem is that the Stars seem to already have a number of players like Tallinder in the system, would his upside be worth what the Stars would have to give up?
The Flyers are looking to ship Danny Briere out of Philadelphia and have inquired about Kevin Shattenkirk for the Blues and Dustin Byfgulien from the Jets -- I'm not even close to certain either of those players can be moved but it certainly starts to show just what sort of market could exist out there right now. Danny Briere isn't worth either of those two players (not even close) but we're once again setting up for a very expensive defenseman market.
Perhaps Zach Bogosian would be well worth the price, if rumors about his being unhappy in Winnipeg are indeed true. Such a trade would come only with a steep, steep return from the Stars so once again....just how important is such a trade to the Stars? Not to mention the Jets would be tremendously stupid to even contemplate moving him.
Ryan Whitney is probably available, but no one seems to actually be interested. Nor should they.
So we're basically back around to where we started -- just how much are the Stars willing to pay for any extra defensive help, and can the Stars afford to ship out a veteran even if the price seems to be right?
There's also the tough determination on whether the Stars are going to be "buyers" or "sellers" in the market. Logic says the Cole trade means the Stars are committed to the playoffs this season, but are they willing to give up pieces of the future to do so? The Cole trade makes sense because the Stars still have two third-round picks in the draft and Michael Ryder was going to be a UFA.
There's also the matter of the pending free agents still remaining on the team: Eric Nystrom and Brenden Morrow could certainly be available, although Morrow's NTC (and status with the team) is certainly a hurdle -- including his elevated level of play as of yet.
The problem is that when Whitney returns, the Stars will have a plethora of veteran wingers and someone is going to be pushed out. Perhaps that's what the Stars are looking for, more balance across three lines, but that seems like it could come at the cost of playing time for some younger players that have excelled so far this season.
Nieuwendyk hinted during yesterday's conference call that the Stars are still looking to be active in the trade market and given the curious nature of the Cole trade -- I think it improves the team, certainly, but it feels as if there's more to come -- there's certainly more than a chance something else is coming down the pipeline.
Perhaps the Stars flip a young defenseman.
Perhaps the Stars trade some vets for draft picks or prospects.
Perhaps the Stars go completely all-in on this season and the next 1-3 years and really make a splash.
Perhaps the Stars target a veteran defenseman with a number of the young and promising players (Matt Fraser) that have shown they could be valuable assets. Perhaps those defenseman are too expensive...
What are your thoughts? So many directions for the Stars to head and not much time left to get there.