The Dallas Stars dropped their 14th game to an Eastern Conference opponent Tuesday night in Columbus. They accompany the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers as the only three Western Conference teams with losing records against the league's weaker half.
Yet they remain in that second wildcard spot. If only by a hair. And so the NHL's trade deadline remains interesting for a locker room that would like to make as much of a push as it can, and a front office that knows that a significant window to seriously compete is not yet open.
Jim Nill may be the new man in charge but the refrain has been the same thus far- Hockey trades that help the team in the long term will be considered. Rental players, he's told many media outlets, will not.
Joe Nieuwendyk famously held on to his assets year after year, giving his players the chance they wanted to prove they could make the post-season, but they never did. Last season the dam broke and the deals were made, though it was unclear who wanted to make them.
Nill must make the same calls now, and in an eerily similar situation as the team sits on the cusp of competing for a playoff spot with little hopes of real contention on the line. His ability to successfully navigate these waters could knock them out of this "almost-there" holding pattern, but their realistic options are limited at best.
The Financial Picture
Capgeek says that the Stars have about three million in cap space on the season, and pro-rated that makes for a "deadline space" number of about $16 million.
So, quite simply, they can take on all the salary they want. If they find something worth dealing for.
The Big Fish
Alright, admittedly the "big fish" part of the list grows pretty thin pretty quickly. There are strict rentals here and there are more attractive long-term options. Ehrhoff and Kesler are names Stars fans like to kick around, but the prices are outrageous.
Lee Stempniak and Jordan Caron are names Twitter, in its infinitely ignorant wisdom, connected to Dallas yesterday. One's a project. The other is the very definition of a rental, which Jim Nill has said repeatedly he does not want.
The Stars won't part with anything significant unless it offers mult-year benefit in this rebuild.
Dmitri Kulikov would have been fun for a good, long kick in the tires, but the Panthers opted to keep him, so he can defense Roberto Luongo. For some reason.
All signs thus far point nothing much of any significance happening today, save the possibility of the obvious UFA selling, and even that is no sure thing.
The Biggest Move May Have Been Made Already
Deadline-eve was active. Very. So much so that many wondered what was left to do today. Plenty, to be sure, but little the Dallas Stars themselves can do will rival the departure yesterday.
Stephane Robidas is unable to play NHL hockey right now. He's an older player. His contract is expiring. That's a hard player trade. Nill managed a fourth-round pick that can turn into a third, but it wasn't really about the return.
"The move was designed to give Stephane a chance to get on a good team," Nill told the Dallas Morning News, "and this was the best option."
It sounds like this was a respect thing. Another two weeks down the line the Stars fate may be clearer, or still in the critical stages. Working someone who broke two bones in his leg back slowly was not going to be an attractive option. So it's another awkward dismount for a beloved Star. That's just the way it goes sometimes.
"He's a great player," Brenden Dillon told dallasstars.com. "His résumé speaks for itself. He's a guy I credit a lot for helping me get to this level and do what I do at this level. He's a great guy and he is definitely going to be missed. At the same time, I wish him all the best in Anaheim."
And so do we. Unless it's against the Stars in the first round.
So Who's Left?
*Vern Fiddler- The rumor-volume on Tuesday was huge. Huge. Nary a one was about Vern Fiddler, who the Stars have been rumored to have interest in dealing. His salary is not prohibitive pro-rated. He'd be a good fit between a couple of competent checking-line players. But it's quiet on that front. Real quiet. If you think a fourth-rounder for Robidas is disagreeable, what would Fids fetch?
*Ray Whitney- Whitney has had two of his better games of the season this week, at least to the old eyeball test. What teams are willing to offer is another matter entirely. Either Whitney has been a product of a system that does not flatter him (young, speed) this season, or he's just been a victim of age. The philosophical bent of GMs around the league in the face of such questions determines his value.
The Phoenix Coyotes have been mentioned in connection with Whitney, but not by anyone particularly reputable. Whitney has a limited NTC and would have some manner of control over where he went.
Either could be moved, and it should surprise no one if neither is.
A defensemen has been moved out. So that settles that. Erik Cole is another candidate, though he still has time left on his deal to go along with a pretty mediocre stretch of hockey after a hot December. So it doesn't appear likely either.
The 13 trades thus far:
- Phoenix trades Flower Mound's own Chris Brown, a 4th round pick and Rusty Klesla to Washington forMartin Erat and John Mitchell
- Chicago trades a 2nd round pick for D David Rundblad and some dude names Mathieu Brisebois
- Florida acquires, sorry, re-acquires Bobby Lu and...err... Steven Anthony... for Goaltender Jacob Markstrom and forward Shawn Matthias.
- The Flyers and the Islanders made some trade no one cares about.
- Ottawa acquires Patrick Mullen from the Canucks for Jeff Costello. I can only assume those are video scouts or web guys.
- Anaheim acquires... too soon.
- Edmonton sends a 3rd and a 5th to Anaheim so the Ducks can salary dump Viktor Fasth
- Same thing with Dustin Penner, and the Ducks get another 4th rounder from the Capitals.
- Ilya Bryzgalov is in the Stars' division again after getting dealt from Edmonton to Minnesota for a 4th rounder. So that's great.
- Some other things involving the Panthers. Who really cares?
- And of course, Ryan Miller, Steve Ott, Jaro Halak and Christ Stewart. You know about that one. Ryan Miller has faced something like 12 total shots in his first two starts for the Blues, who really didn't need to part with assets for goaltending.
Stick with us throughout the day as news breaks and rumors whither and die on the vine. The Dallas Stars may not do much of any real significance today, but like July 1st, it's an entertaining day nonetheless.
We heard Derek Roy might even get moved again! Happy deadline day...
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- NHL Trade Deadline: Dallas Stars Trade Stephane Robidas To Anaheim Ducks For 4th Round Draft Pick
- NHL Trade Rumors: Anaheim Ducks Interested In Dallas Stars Defenseman Stephane Robidas
- NHL Trade Rumors: Ryan Callahan Contract Talks, Penguins Pursuing Ryan Kesler?
- 2014 NHL Trade Deadline: Trading Trevor Daley