Less than 1 month from now, Dallas Stars GM extraordinaire, Jim Nill, will be picking up the phone to entertain offers from 29 other teams. It's widely believed that the Stars will be sellers at the deadline, regardless if they're sitting pretty at 8th, like they are now, or if they hit a skid leading up to March 5th and appear to be up the fecal creek without a paddle (this is DefendingBigD- I'm keeping this clean).
The Olympics may be the talk of the sports world right now, but in a time where there is little talk of Stars hockey, it's easy to forget that a very important date is fast approaching. As Nill has said, the future cannot be mortgaged, so if a move has to be made for the betterment of the future, then they'll have to consider it.
The Cap is said to be increasing to $71.1 M next season, which could open the flood gates on some deals. Seguin-type deals perhaps. The Stars do have some deadline cap space, $13,217,203 to be exact, according to CapGeek.com. As it stands, there has been very little movement in the NHL as far as trades are concerned, with the exception of the rental for rental deal between Buffalo and NY Islanders and the Craig MacTavish Trade Extravaganza in January. The landscape indicates that the bottom-feeding Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres will be hot commodities come March 5th, and the usual suspects of Center-of-the-Universe Toronto Maple Leafs, NY Rangers, Vancouver Canucks, and Ottawa Senators will be burning up the phones. Top trade candidates (for reference, checkout the 4thPeriod.com for their annual comprehensive Top 25 list http://www.thefourthperiod.com/trade_deadline/top25/index.html).
With the assumption that the Dallas Stars won't be in on any/many trade deadline day rentals, here's a list of NHL teams and the likelihood of a trade match either on March 5th, or in the Summer:
Before we begin, The 2013-14 Dallas Stars have 3 primary needs, and the consensus is that these needs are:
1) a 2nd line center, 2) a top pairing defenseman, 3) top 6 scoring winger.
Now- it isn't exactly unanimous in DBD that the 2nd line center is something we need, or something we just need to develop. We may have that guy somewhere in the system (see Shore, Devin; Dickinson, Jason). Some would argue that the same could be said for a defenseman (Oleksiak, Jamie) or even a scoring winger (Ritchie, Brett). But let's assume that Jim Nill and his cohorts are going to keep options open. The great thing about this group of executives is, we have some new artists to look at the canvas. Nill brought with him a scouting staff that he has confidence in. They have a substantial pedigree for finding diamond in the rough players through drafting and scouting various leagues for players that could complement a particular system or team. So there's that advantage, which we didn't have last year. Also- with 3 weeks of Olympic hockey on the horizon, there is ample time to pick up the phones and study tape, and while trades cannot be formalized by the league, discussions can occur during the freeze.
So who do we have as trade pieces?
The Dallas Stars have what I would consider THREE untouchables: Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Valeri Nichushkin. Some would include Dillon on this list, and some would include Kari Lehtonen. As a former goaltender (not at a high level mind you), I can tell you that I have VERY strong opinions on goalies and their importance and worth in an organization. DBD's Josh Lile recently wrote an article on Lehtonen being a good, but not ELITE goalie in today's NHL (http://www.defendingbigd.com/2014/1/14/5303014/dallas-stars-kari-lehtonen-shots-contract-lindy-ruff).
Personally, I liken goaltenders to running backs in football: they're important. A great running game can win games. But you NEVER sign a running back to a long term contract. In the case of goalies, it's usually not injuries that cause their downfall, but rather age and confidence. A case of the yips or a younger, quicker option coming up the ranks can be the proverbial catalyst in pushing them aside. Kari Lehtonen could one day become the Gina Gershon character from the movie Showgirls and get shoved down the stairs by a younger, better looking stripper- or in this case, Jack Campbell.
Then our other major organizational lead, defensemen: There are 3 ways in which teams typically acquire a top pairing, number 1 defenseman: 1) they draft and develop one, 2) they sign one in free agency and pay through the teeth in doing so, 3) or they find a player or prospect in the league that has lost his way, and is potentially in need of a change in scenery and pick him up. Perhaps the most likely situation for the Stars to acquire that coveted player is the former of those 3 options. With some cap space, perhaps a deal where we're acquiring a player who is on the outs with his team, or a player who has an undesirable contract is moved to the Stars in exchange for some added cap space and perhaps a few prospects. Our fanbase seems to be divided when it comes to defense. Some feel we should go after a stay-at-home Dan Girardi type, while others would prefer a puck moving defenseman. I personally feel that we need a bit of both. We could do with a stalwart, shot blocking, checking defenseman who plays a sound defensive game, akin to our very own Brenden Dillon. I would probably lean towards a 2-way type, than a pure defensive defenseman, and then look at adding in an offensive defenseman. Could Klingberg be that guy? Perhaps. Iron forges iron, and competition amongst prospects and NHL ready players can never be a bad thing. If anything, this would open the doors to a future deal, should this team have another need down the road.
Our trade bait then: Ray Whitney, Vernon Fiddler, Erik Cole, Shawn Horcoff, Stephane Robidas, Sergei Gonchar, Alex Goligoski, Trevor Daley, Scott Glennie, Cameron Gaunce, Kevin Connauton, Colton Sceviour, Maxime Fortunas, Aaron Rome, Jordie Benn, prospects (in particular, our AHL defensemen), picks. Sure- not all of these players will be moved, but if the right offer came along, anyone outside of the trio of sub 25 year old forwards that I mentioned as untouchables, could be served up. To get quality, you have to give up quality. We're not going to trick anyone into a Weber for _____ (insert player that you do not like here) deal.
Our partners (aka, 29 other teams that will pick up the phone to call us, or to respond to our calls):
ANAHEIM: has a goaltending factory, which does not make them a trade match for Dallas, but it's their prospect pool that intrigues me. If Anaheim wishes to pick up a veteran or two from the Stars for the annual Western Conference arms race, then perhaps we'll find some value in a prospect from their system. My choice would be Shea Theodore, an offensive defenseman that I REALLY had high hopes for as a Stars draft pick last summer. Shea Theodore has been tearing up the WHL and while I don't think they're shopping him, if the right offer came along, hopefully Anaheim would at least listen. Fowler is their man, so perhaps Theodore could be had for the right price.
CALGARY: nothing to see here folks. Perhaps Huw has some picks from this club. There's the younger Granlund brother, and of course Mike Cammalleri, but I highly doubt the Flames are looking for rentals or vets during a rebuild. They'd want prospects in return and there are very few on this team that interest me.
CHICAGO: currently sitting 2nd in the Central Division, it's doubtful that they're going to be unloading much.
COLORADO: one of the surprises of the Western Conference, the Colorado Avalanche are in the playoffs, as it stands currently, and as long as that's the case, there's no reason that they'll be moving anyone, particularly Paul Stastny, who is on pace for 60 points. PA Parenteau is said to be available, but even as a free agent, I really had no interest in him. I like Siemens, I like O'Reilly... I just can't see the Avs moving anyone right now.
EDMONTON: this team absolutely sucks. I live in Edmonton, and all you ever hear about in this town is how Lowe needs to be fired, MacTavish needs to be fired, their coaches are in over their heads, their team is lacking, etc. Eberle, Yakupov, Gagner, Smyth, Hemsky, and Jones could all be goners by March 5th. Do any of them fit in Dallas? Eberle and Yakupov would be nice additions. Gagner looks like he's going to be a King soon (and the Oilers are said to be overpricing him in the market), Hemsky doesn't seem to be a top 6 player any longer, and Smyth is old. Jones is a player we already have a lot of, so he's probably a firm "no" as well. I'm sure almost anyone not named RNH is available on this club right now, and one player that I think could be worth a 2nd look is 26 year old Jeff Petry. Maybe not a long term solution, but this 26 year old right hand shot defenseman is a smooth skater who can contribute some offense and would fit in nicely in our 5/6 spot.
LOS ANGELES: Toffoli, Voynov and Frattin are some of the names that I've seen kicked around. I personally would love if the Stars PR released a statement saying that they've acquired Toffoli and/or Voynov. Voynov could become a quality offensive defenseman, and I think Dean Lombardi would be beaten and lynched if he foolishly moved him. Perhaps 21 year old, deadline-eve (March 4th) baby Derek Forbort could be acquired. He was sitting on the board in 2010 when Dallas selected Campbell. Maybe he's available? Worth kicking tires on?
MINNESOTA: The Wild are hanging in there. Parise is finally healthy and this team could make some noise in the Western Conference, with a strong March. Minnesota may be looking to add a few complementary pieces, so I'd expect them to be players in this year's deadline. Jonathon Blum has some untapped upside. He's 25 and has not yet established himself within this defensive core. Has father time passed him by, or is this a player worth salvaging?
NASHVILLE: Rich Clune is EXACTLY the type of player that the Dallas Stars need, you guys. Actually- we moved him with very little fanfare a few years back to the LA Kings. Until his twitter page blew up, I really didn't know if he was still an active player. Anyhow- onto more relevant matters, the Perds have some players of interest. If Mike Keanan were the Stars GM, I know that he'd be interested in Garrett Noonan. He's not though. The trio of Jones, Weber and Josi are one of the NHL's best. Could Weber or Josi be had? Well- I'm sure, since even The Great One was moved in his prime, that either could be. It'd be a kings' ransom and I really don't think that Dallas is willing to part with what McPoile (for all fellow Always Sunny In Philadelphia fans) would be asking in return.
PHOENIX: Ray Whitney played in Phoenix. He liked it there. So naturally, Bruce Garrioch and some other hack sports journalists will link him to the Yotes. Hey- even Fiddler played for them, so maybe he'd go there as well? Keith Yandle's name has been dangled ever since the 2013 trade deadline, but how about 23 year old David Rundblad? He needs a change in scenery, and I highly doubt that his pricetag would penetrate the pockets of our beloved owner. He's also a RH shot. Another 2010 defenseman who, like LA's Forbort, was on the board with the Campbell pick, Brandon Gormley, is another guy we could have a look at. But Phoenix's Don Maloney and his minions would politely have to tell Nill, "you can look, but you can't touch."
SAN JOSE: Fun fact: The Sharks are the favorite team of one of my classmates in High School. He dressed like Eminem, with the earrings and the bleached hair, and he even signed my yearbook as "Shady". For this reason, and Marchment, Ragnarsson, and many other reasons, I have a strong dislike for the SJ Sharks. Tangents aside, they do have a pretty exquisite roster right now. If Doug Wilson were my waiter, and I was dining at the Sharktank, I'd have the beastly Nick Petrecki or the diminutive Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau- who could be bargain pickups with a relatively low return asking price.
ST. LOUIS: St. Louis wants to win it all this year. They probably will make a play for Ryan Miller, as their goaltending has been shaky at times. And they will probably also want to add to their depth scoring at the NHL level. Their defensive corps is outstanding and they bolster a fine group of prospects as well. Doug Armstrong may be willing to move a player or two for some RIGHT NOW players. Ty Rattie, Jordan Schmaltz and Jani Hakanpaa would be nice acquisitions. Also- could you imagine a potential Jokipakka-Hakanpaa pairing?
VANCOUVER: Vancouver currently sits in the 10th spot in the Western Conference. Their top trade pieces from yesteryear, Cody Hodgson and Corey Schneider, were used to acquire Zack Kassian (on pace for 24 pts and a -11 rating), and 9th overall pick Bo Horvat respectively. To salt those wounds, 10th overall pick, Dallas Stars prodigy Valeri Nichushkin is having a pretty impressive season, while Bo Horvat is back in the OHL and has been called by several hockey analysts, "a quality 3rd line center". To make matters worse, the Sedins are aging, and we all know how quickly fellow Swede and former Canuck, Markus Naslund declined. The Sedins are a part of an aging core, with
overpriced and overrated Roberto Luongo, and 29 year old oft-injured Ryan Kesler. Soon-to-be 33 year old Alexandre Burrows is on pace for a paltry 9 point season, Kevin Bieksa is pretty banged-up and will be out for a while, and Jason Garrison is still expensive (licks finger, sticks it out window... yep- still expensive). The good news, is that Raphael Diaz could be a move in the right direction. Vancouver does not have a lot of great pieces to offer up in a trade and for some strange reason, Canucks management doesn't want to do a mini-rebuild. They'll look to add this deadline, in a win-now strategy. Players I'm interested in? Maybe a few, but I really can't see the Canucks peddling away any of their prospects right now with an aging core.
Which brings us to....
WINNIPEG: In the words of SNL's Stefon, "this team has it all... Ladd, Kane, Setoguchi, Little, Wheeler, Byfuglien, John Klingberg's big brother Carl, Bogosian..clowns who don't juggle, midgets eating cotton candy with angry faces, a 1 legged ballerina..." I can't see Winnipeg parting with one of their recently drafted players, but maybe one of the aforementioned players could be had? The question is, how much? With so much demand, and better trade partners (Edmonton), this team's asking price for a name player could be very high. I like Carl Klingberg and I think it'd be cool to have another set of brothers in Victory Green. I also think it'd be nice to have Byfuglien because he's so versatile.