With just under a month remaining until the March 6th trade deadline teams across the NHL start to evaluate and determine what their strategy will be in the market. Are they buyers, looking to find that one major missing ingredient to complete a contending team? Will they be sellers, putting up established veterans as trade bait to build up young prospects and talent? Or will they be idle, content with their plan and unwilling to give up what would be required to make a splash in a trade?
As things stand now the Dallas Stars should fall into the final category. The Stars are 17-8-3 since suspending Sean Avery and have steadily moved up the standings in the Western conference. A season that was once considered a disaster as the team sat in last place now has become one filled with promise with the Stars holding onto the 6th seed. The team is playing as well as it has at any point in the season and is still improving. That's not to say everything is perfect but that doesn't necessitate a big trade at the deadline.
When contemplating making a big move, a team must decide exactly what it is willing to give up in order to make a splash and propel themselves into the playoffs.
In the past, the Stars have not been hesitant to make a move it feels would immediately impact the team as well as have long lasting positive effects. Mike Ribeiro was acquired from Montreal for Janne Niinimaa in an early season trade. The Stars traded popular forward Jussi Jokinen, gritty veteran Jeff Halpern and goalie Mike Smith to Tampa bay for Brad Richards. Both of these trades have had a long lasting impact on the team and have established players who will the key contributors for years to come.
This season the Stars have seen the emergence of James Neal, Fabian Brunnstrom and Loui Eriksson as talented playmakers that are key to the team's success. Waiting in the wings are several young prospects the team is excited about and would be hesitant to part with. When the Stars stumbled to start the season a big part of the struggle was trying to compensate for the loss of key veterans such as Stu Barnes, Mattias Norstrom as well as the injuries to Zubov and Jere Lehtinen. The need for talented young players ready to step in and immediately contribute became immediately apparent.
The Stars must ask themselves if they are willing to give up any of these young players in order to make a big move in a trade. Ideally Les Jackson and Brett Hull would love to build a system similar to Detroit's, where the team's depth and success stems from a successful and prosperous farm system. It's tough to do that if you are trading away young players whenever a trade deadline approaches.
While the Stars definitely have room for improvement, the Stars have already addressed several issues this season via trade. Brian Sutherby, established on a line with Brad Richards, was acquired earlier this season in a trade with Anaheim. Most importantly, the Stars sought to improve internal veteran leadership by trading for respected defenseman and long time Star Darryl Sydor. These moves seemed subtle and minor at the time, yet have had vast positive effects over the course of the season. Sydor has helped to mentor and calm down an inconsistent and young defense that was near terrible to start the season. This turnaround has been the key ingredient in the Stars' improvement of late.
There are some tantalizing names skipping around the rumor mill and the Stars could certainly make a move for a few of the them. Dallas needs another puck moving defenseman to help ease the loss of Zubov and a scoring right winger is always desired. But should the Stars bet their future for a short term solution or focus on the big picture and look to continue to build from within? Unless a colossal meltdown occurs between now and March 6th, then the Stars should be in pergect position to continue on the path they've established this season. There's no reason to bet away the future for an uncertain short team solution.
Of course, you never know when that perfect deal could present itself.