March 5th, 2014: Most mornings, I begrudgingly swivel out of my bed, shuffle blindly around the dog cushion on the floor and slide into my slippers. I open the door- gracefully, so as not to wake the girlfriend and I hit the button on my Keurig so that it's ready to go (because I know that I'm not). A prolonged brainstorming session will occur in the bathroom, followed by a quick shower. Then I dress myself in whatever's clean and get out the door as quickly as I can. In the winter, mornings are definitely a more trying encounter. There's just something so "Soviet" about the whole experience. It's all so grey and depressing. But on March 5th, it's not just the distant promise of spring air to make me excited for the day, but what wonderful news Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger and the rest of the hockey insiders and news breakers will share with us.
Right now, Jim Nill and the Gang are probably not at Paddy's Pub, checking out DBD, or using Snapchat to send scandalous selfies to Kaime and the FSW Girls. They're probably sleeping scouting their prospect pool, reading reports, watching tape and coming up with an action plan of sorts, that they'll have with them in the War Room come Deadline Day. This is a huge year for the Stars, who are set to either make the playoffs for the first time since 2008, or miss the playoffs for the 6th straight year. The good news is that the rebuild isn't just beginning. This is a team that has taken a fall from grace, gracefully, and built itself up again with a rejuvenated prospect pool, a better coaching staff, better management and scouting, and some exciting young players that will be Dallas Stars for a long, long time to come. This will also be the first Deadline Day with Nill at the helm. There are options a plenty. Stars as sellers: moving the expiring contracts out for new prospects or picks; Stars as buyers: assuming there are some rentals or other players (NHL caliber) that they're interested in; or Stars standing pat: making a push for the playoffs? Why ruin the chemistry that they may have?
To continue our in-depth look at potential trade partners and options, let's head East into the NHL's Atlantic and Metrosexual Divisions.
Boston: The Bruins are currently first in their division. This is a balanced team from top to bottom, and despite injuries to Loui Eriksson and Marc Savard (too soon?), the Bruins are proving that they're still a part of the NHL's Upper Echelon of teams. The Bruins will be buyers at the deadline and should be in line to target scoring rental players, and gritty, role playing types (Ryan Smyth perhaps?). This team really has a kink in their pipeline after Camara, Krug (graduated prospect) and former Texas Star Joe Morrow. It's nothing to torch a city over (Vancouver) but perhaps if this isn't their year, they look at making a trade or two at the draft to acquire some additional picks. The Bruins are unlikely trade partners.
Buffalo: Lindy Ruff and assistant coach James Patrick were both Sabres coaches. Stu Barnes was a Sabre... And therein lies the end of the Garrioch/Larry Brooks connections. I do however believe (Captain Obvious) that Buffalo will be sellers at the deadline, and they- along with new GM Tim Murray- will be calling all 29 other teams regarding players they're moving and players they're looking for. Interesting pickups, interesting prospects.. This team could be a great trade partner. We need defensemen and this team has an abundance of them. Let's start with 31 year old Christian Ehrhoff: he has size, he has hockey sense, he has skating ability and he'd easily fit in with the Stars defense. We could gamble on Tyler Myers and his albatross of a contract, but something tells me that we won't. It's also doubtful that Buffalo would give up on recently drafted Rasmus Ristolainen or Mark Pysyk so quickly. I'd love to inquire about mean 6'5" Zadorov or Brayden McNabb. Mikhail Grigorenko is doubtfully on the move. Nice to try, but I am sure that the asking price would be high for Buffalo's top center prospect. As much as Edmonton Oilers fans would like to believe, Linus Omark is NOT a prospect any longer. He'll be jettisoned to the KHL or SEL sooner than later.
Carolina: I'll admit: I thought that the Hurricanes would have fared better this year. Not that I expected them to dominate the Metropolitan Division, but I didn't expect them to do this poorly. They got Rick Rolled by the Leafs into taking JM Liles. They also have 2 Staal's at center for the foreseeable future. Q: Where does that leave Elias Lindholm? A: Not on the trading block. He'll hang tight as a winger, for now. Victor Rask might be worth a look. They also have Michal Jordan, so that could help jersey sales. Give Connauton #45 (Jordan's second number of choice) and voila! I don't think he projects to be much more than a project though, so really- Carolina's not a very good trade partner folks. Maybe they want something we have, so they pay heavily, in which case- thanks for the picks and Rask.
Columbus: My favorite expansion team -The Columbus Blue Jackets- are starting to come on strong of late. Some heady signings, including the Horton one, have pushed this team into a new frontier. Could this be the year Columbus gets back in? I see Columbus as buyers. Anisimov might be a nice addition. He's versatile and can line up at any forward position. He has size and may be on the verge of breaking out. I don't think they'll move any of their defensemen, whom I'm not really interested in anyways, and I think they're a little thin offensively to be moving anyone. They could be a nice destination for a Fiddler or a Cole, if they're looking at making a push.
Detroit: Signing Stephen Weiss for $100,000.00 less than Valtteri Filppula is turning out to be a huge mistake. Weiss has played just 26 games and accumulated a mere 4 points, while the 1 year younger, Valtteri Filppula is on pace for 59. They kept Cleary and signed 41 year old Alfredsson (which actually turned into a pretty good addition). Detroit’s core is old, but this is a franchise that has a sterling playoff appearance record and it seems that each time a Fedorov goes the way of retirement, a Datsyuk or Zetterberg surfaces. Danny DeKeyser is their biggest defensive prospect, but Ryan Sproul may be the one that fits our team the best. At 6’3", with great mobility and offensive instincts (RH shot too!), Sproul, 2012-13’s CHL Defenseman Of The Year, would fit nicely on a Stars team that has mobile defensemen and defensemen with size- rarely a combination of both at once. Teemu Pulkkinen and Jurco are nice wingers, but it’s doubtful that Detroit, as long-in-the-tooth as they are, would move either. Pulkkinen would be REALLY nice to have though..
Florida: The NHL’s Island Of Misfit Toys, it wasn’t long ago The Panthers were a team depleted of prospects and was a bottom feeder, null and void of depth and in need of a shake-up. Now, the Panthers have a plethora of organizational depth and probably are ready to turn the page on some of those reclamation projects they’ve brought in over the years.
Currently sitting 7th in the Atlantic, there may be few other teams that match as nicely as a trade partner to the Stars as the Florida Panthers. It’s rumored that there are very few untouchables in Florida, and Dale Tallon would love to shake things up. Tomas Fleischmann is only 29 years old and can play center or left wing in a fix. He has a cap hit of 4.5 M, but he could be a good fit in a Rich Peverley-type way. He can move anywhere in the top 9 and probably wouldn’t be that costly. The term is nice with him as well, as he’s a Free Agent after the 2014-15 season. Scotty Upshall could be an excelletnt option as a 3rd liner, and if the Stars move Cole and feel like one of their youngsters isn’t ready for the call-up, Upshall is a serviceable veteran. He is fast, is a great hitter and can score. His contract is affordable as well, with only 1 more year left of term. Bjugstad would be a good pickup for a 2nd line option, but I’m certain the Panthers brass envisions a future with Barkov and Bjugstad as a 1-2 punch, unless of course Drew Shore is there with Barkov instead. Worth asking about nevertheless.
Dmitry Kulikov’s name has been dangled in the media and unless the jerk store called, and they’re all out of you, he’s likely to be moved. Kulikov would be a great pickup. I asked TSN’s Head Scout, Craig Button, who he thought would be the best pickup for the Stars and his answer was resoundingly in favor of Kulikov. Tom Gilbert is playing well, and I really doubt Florida would move him right now. He’s a cheap cap hit and unless they get the sense that his contract demands are going to be insane, they can sign him to the contract that they see fit. He’s also 31, so he wouldn’t be a long term answer to a long time problem. The jury is still out on Alex Petrovic’s future as an NHL defenseman. He could be good and is just shy of his 22nd birthday.
Montreal: The Canadiens have been playing well this season so far. They’re almost certain to get in the playoffs this spring, and it’s unlikely that they’ll trade away any of their top prospects, as they’re not in a "win now" situation. Montreal isn’t an "old" team. Lars Eller at 24 is set to become a free agent. It’s possible that if Montreal feels they cannot re-sign him that they’ll listen to offers, but I wouldn’t count on it if Galchenyuk is still out. PK Subban is at an impasse with contract talks. He’s their franchise player, aside from Price, and you would think that they’ll do what they can to come to an agreement. If things fall apart in the worst of ways, Dallas will no doubt come and kick tires. Any trade for Subban is going to be costly though, and it’s doubtful that the Stars would want to surrender the type of assets that Montreal would ask for in return for the talented defenseman. I liked Jacob de la Rose at the draft, but teams rarely trade recently acquired players. It’d be great to get another Tinordi. Montreal probably has high hopes for him however, so he probably won’t go anywhere.
New Jersey: Similar to Detroit, New Jersey is a club that likes their meat to marinate. If we could, I’d really like to see Nill inquire about defenseman Jon Merrill. The 2010 2nd round draft pick has size and potential. Adam Larsson has struggled and is playing in the minors right now, but defensemen take longer to develop and Larsson is the complete package. He would instantly become our top defenseman if the Stars could acquire him. The Devils are in need of some changes. Another player that could help the Stars is veteran shutdown defenseman and shot blocking impresario Anton Volchenkov. His contract isn’t cheap and the Stars would be on the hook for another 4.25M for 2 more seasons. Still, try signing Dan Girardi as a free agent this summer for a similar contract. He’ll likely want 5 years and 5M+ per season. Mark Fayne is 26 and a right hand shot with size and shutdown abilities. He isn’t very physical however, and he isn’t exactly setting the world on fire offensively. At 26, he probably is what he is.
New York Rangers: The Stars aren’t going to bring Brad Richards back unless the Rangers buy him out. So let’s get that out of the way first. If the Rangers are still entertaining the idea of moving Kreider, I’m sure that the Stars would kindly oblige. There’s no way of knowing whether we have the assets to acquire him, as he’s still one of NYR’s most prized prospects. JT Miller is versatile and would be nice to have. I can’t see the Rags moving him however, so perhaps we should consider former 6th round pick Jesper Fast. He could be a project player that the Stars could use, having lost Fraser last summer in the Seguin trade. Rangers Captain Ryan Callahan is available for trade. His contract, age and point production probably won’t endear him to Stars fans if news broke that we acquired him. Could he be better in the West? Perhaps. His leadership qualities would be nice to have as well. Finally healthy and coming at a low cost, the free agent-to-be Benoit Pouliot has a quality skillset and is versatile as well. Is he the top 6 forward that we could really use? No. But he could be a good depth addition to any team looking to make a cup run. If he still had term left on his contract, I’d say sure. Dan Girardi is set to become a free agent, and the 29 year old will certainly get a huge pay day when that happens. For that reason, unless the Stars made a trade with conditions that he signs with them, I wouldn’t think they’d be at the head of the pack for his services. There are teams that will spend more, offer more, and perhaps even be more desirable because they’re in a better position to win sooner.
New York Islanders: Vanek and MacDonald are the Islanders NHL Deadline Day trade fodder. While the Isles would love to retain Vanek, a talented winger, to play alongside offensive virtuoso John Tavares, it seems as though both sides are farther apart than Van Damme’s legs in a Volvo viral video. The Islanders are dead last in their division and other than retaining pieces that they see fit long term, they’re definitely not going to be buyers come March 5th. MacDonald is exactly the type of defenseman that the Stars already have too much of. Vanek will probably go to someone with deep pockets in the summer, although he could be moved at the deadline to a contender, with hopes that they’ll be able to extend him. If speed is on your shopping list, Grabner is perhaps the fastest on the market. He has 2 more years of contract, but if you feel like 3M per is a fair price, he could be a quality pickup for a 2nd line winger option. Brock Lesnar Nelson is huge, but I’m not as enamoured with him as some of the other centers league-wide. And it’s possible that with Nielsen on the shelf, Garth Snow may want to have some insurance for a 2nd line option. Strome isn’t far away though, so perhaps he’d (Nelson) be an option, if New York Islanders saw the right offer come along.
On the blueline, Martinek is in the final year of his contract. He’s not exactly blowing the doors off of the Nassau Coliseum (they fall off on their own, thank you very much), and Visnovsky has 1 more year left. Sooner than later, New York will have to replace these vets- which means that the Islanders won’t be quick to move defensemen, without taking some back in return.
Party on Wang! Party on Garth!
Ottawa: Ottawa sits 2 spots back from the final seed in the East. They’ve been the San Jose Sharks of the East for so many years now: great on paper, earmarked for contention, and yet- they always seem to fall short. Former Medicine Hat Tiger Clarke MacArthur has 2 years remaining at 3.25 M and he’s on pace this season to score 59 points. Unfortunately, there isn’t much else there that could be seen as tradable or desirable- within reason.
Philadelphia: A little undersized, Matt Read is a RH shot left winger who placed 2nd to our Jamie Benn in the All Star Skills competition for shot accuracy 2 years ago. Read is having a mediocre year and is signed for another 4 years at 3.625M per year. In free agency, finding a comparable winger could prove a lot more costly. Still- there could be some cheaper finds out there, for a shorter term, like Florida’s Upshall or Fleischmann, the Isles Grabner and Ottawa’s MacArthur. Brayden Schenn is only 22 and set to become an RFA in 2014-15. He’d need an extension, but he’s the type of heart and soul player who never backs down and he’s clutch when it counts. Brayden Coburn, Luke Schenn and Andrej Meszaros could probably be had for the right price. Luke Schenn has been 50 Shades of Dismay for Flyers GM Paul Holmgren and his staff, but could be dealt as a throw-in to a team looking at adding blueline depth (Edmonton could be a good fit for Luke Schenn). Coburn and Meszaros are both in their late 20’s, and Coburn (like Schenn) has 3 more years left on his contract (he’s more expensive by 900K).
Pittsburgh: Ray Shero struck gold by trading for Jussi Jokinen in 2013. Jussi is on pace for 60 points and his versatility and his polished 2 way play won’t go unnoticed in getting him a re-up in the summer. Pascal Dupuis may be out for the duration of the season and with 3 more seasons, the 34 year old Dupuis could be facing some competition upon his return. Beau Bennett should be getting more ice time. Josh Archibald could graduate from prospect status soon as well. With Dupuis’ status up in the air, the Pens may be inclined to pick up a rental player, or even trade for a prospect. Kris Letang’s catastrophic heart condition could spell the end to Despres trade rumors, but with so many good, young defensemen in the system, the Penguins could fence one of them in favor of some scoring help and even a potential replacement for Dupuis. Maatta is having a great rookie season, and is most probably a Penguin for the long and foreseeable future. Simon Despres is young (22), has great size (6’4", 214lbs) and a considerable skillset to garner him consideration as a potential top pairing defenseman on the Stars or any other team he’s traded to- assuming Pittsburgh trades him (however, as mentioned earlier, Letang’s status may Shanghai that idea). Another similarly sized 22 year old defenseman, Brian Dumoulin, could be a good alternative. He has offensive ability, great mobility and can play a shutdown role. Scott Harrington and Derrick Pouliot are other options, but would be a few years away.
Tampa Bay: Last summer, when The Tampa Bay Lighting announced the signing of free agent Valtteri Filppula, a lot of people thought 2 things: 1) how many T’s, P’s or L’s in that name, and 2) is he really worth 5M per season? The Lighting currently sit 3rd in the Eastern Conference and Filppula is on pace for 59 points. The recent buyout of Vincent Lecavalier has made this St. Louis and Stamkos’ team, and the acquisition of goaltender Ben Bishop has proved to be a huge positive as well. Tampa has a lot of depth at the goaltending position, with Lindback (25), Helenius (25), Desjardins (28), Janus (24) and Vasilevskiy (19) all in the system. Of course, some will be no more than quality backups, and some may never crack an NHL lineup, but if you keep fishing, you’re eventually going to get a big fish.
On the wing, Ondrej Palat is quietly having a very good year. Tampa should have no problems re-signing the pending RFA this summer. I don’t know if Tampa Bay would use a compliance buyout on the final year of Ryan Malone’s 4.5 million dollar contract, but he sure hasn’t played very well. Not a likely deadline candidate, but then again- I’ve seen worse contracts moved before (Horcoff). Wingers Nikita Kucherov (20) and 2010 1st round pick Brett Connolly could be wingers of interest for teams sniffing around Tampa Bay.
Toronto: The Maple Leafs have used both of their compliance buyouts on Mike Komisarek and Mikhail Grabovski. Do you want the punch line? Grabovski signed a 1 year deal with the Capitals for 3 million dollars, and is on pace for 49 points this season. He’s a plus player and one could argue that he has filled a 2nd line center role formidably on that team. Then the Maple Leafs went out and signed 29 year old grinder, David Clarkson to a 7 year 36.75M contract. Through 39 games, the Toronto, ON native has 10 points and a minus 5 rating. Last June, the Leafs Nation blog had an article where they pondered whether or not the Leafs should go after Clarkson. Their conclusion? Probably not ( http://theleafsnation.com/2013/6/18/forecasting-david-clarkson-is-he-worth-a-big-ufa-contract ).
Nikolai Kulemin could potentially become a free agent, and defensemen Jake Gardiner, Paul Ranger and Cody Franson could probably be had for the right price from the 5th ranked Leafs. The youngest of those 3 defensemen, Gardiner, is often linked to Edmonton in rumor mills, along with polarizing Leafs center Nazem Kadri (whom I would like, but he’s playing very well and the Leafs would be foolish to trade him at this point). Franson is 26 years old and has some good size (6’5"). He’s inconsistent though, and probably is close to his ceiling.
Washington: The 11th seeded Capitals may be out of a playoff spot at this point of the season, but they’re within 1 point of 8th place Detroit. Still, a shakeup may be the order of the day for McPhee’s Caps. Martin Erat has been asking to be traded, and the way he’s playing- I’m sure McPhee would personally drive him to the airport if another team obliged. Forward Evgeny Kuznetsov is highly regarded as being one of the best players outside of the NHL. The Washington Capitals would love for him to join them. He has reportedly said that he’d come to Washington, perhaps next season, but would like to return to Russia by the age of 30. Grabovski will likely negotiate an extension with the Caps, who should have no problems qualifying him. Unless of course he’s tempted by free agency and the big pay day he may receive there. Dmitry Orlov could be shopped as well. He’s not having a good season, but he’s still only 22 years of age, and plays a well-rounded game. Oft-injured defenseman Mike Green finally seemed to have beaten the injury bug, and then suddenly he has been put on the shelf again. There’s no telling how long of a career Green will have, and whether or not he’ll decline rapidly as a result of his injury history. But when healthy, Green is an offense-generating force. Karl Alzner may not be as flashy as Green or have as much upside as defenseman John Carlson, but the 25 year old shutdown defenseman could fit in nicely on a team, starving for defensive stability. He has 3 more years left of contract, and at 2.8M per season, it’s far more affordable than anyone available in free agency. Riley Barber, a 6th round pick in 2012, could be one of the diamonds in the rough for the Caps. He had 6 points in 5 games for Team USA in the World Junior Hockey Championships this year. There’s not much that I can find on this kid online, but from statistics- all he ever does is score.
That sums it up. The 29 potential trade partners for the Dallas Stars at the March 5th trade deadline. Be sure to tune in that morning for all of the breaking news. TSN is broadcasting their annual Tradecentre show Wednesday, March 5th at 8am ET/5am PT.
Also check out this Trade Deadline Q and A that TSN posted in conjunction with the NHL: http://www.tsn.ca/tradecentre/feature/?id=37711
Be sure to check out Part 1 of my post on the West here