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Dallas Stars face tough decisions ahead

Life as we all know is filled with tough choices.

For people like me it's a choice between having either Corn Flakes or Golden Grahams for breakfast. For people like Alex Ovechkin it's a choice between taking the Mercedes to work or the BMW.

Tough calls in both cases right?

The Dallas Stars also face some tough choices as well over the next month or so as well and where maybe a month ago we fans kinda had an idea of how these things would play out with this team, now with a new GM and new coach things aren't so crystal clear to predict.

After the jump, a look at the two forks in the road the Stars have to face on the road towards next season, the first coming at the draft and then the next coming shortly after on July 1 with free agency and player movement.

Start with the NHL draft

The NHL draft is a crap shoot.  Even some of the most highly touted players that are labeled as blue-chip-can't-miss can not turn out quite as well as they should have. (Isn't that right Brian Lawton?)

This year's crop of draft picks looks to be the deepest it has been in years and even a team in the 8th spot like Dallas can pick up a very talented kid that in other years could be thought of as a top 3 or even number one pick. Therein lies the first choice the Stars have to make: Who do they pick? Of course a lot will depend with the first seven picks that take place before it and that's almost just as much an unknown as what the Stars are looking to get out of the draft.

There seems to be two schools of thought when it comes to drafting. You can either draft the best player available talent wise, or you can draft the best player that fills a team need.  It was something that was debated along with who exactly should be that pick by the Defending Big D crew over the last few days when it became our turn to make our pick in the SBN Mock NHL draft.  (Which you can follow along with each day on James Mirtle's From the Rink blog - our pick for the Stars comes up tomorrow and Brandon will have a more in depth look at that pick here on DBD)

Do you go with a skilled defenseman like Oliver Ekman-Larson or Dmitri Kulikov? They may be two of the more talented players available when the Stars turn comes up, but defense isn't exactly a pressing need, or at least it's not as pressing as the need for a skilled, puck moving forward which is where a Scott Glinnie or Jordan Schroeder would fit in. What about Nazem Kadri or Zach Kassian who could very easily fit the mold of a Brendan Morrow with time?

The good news for the Stars is that no matter who they pick from the consensus top 20 ranked players, it should be a very solid pick that no one can really question if it was a smart pick or not.

The bad news is sadly not every pick made in the top 10 is guaranteed to have a long and productive NHL career and some turn out to be huge busts (isn't that right Jason Bonsignore?) so the Stars still have to pick smartly.

As we all concluded after a healthy debate about who our pick for the Stars 8th pick was, we're all very glad we don't have to make that pick for real.

 Then do they sign a free agent, trade for a player or stand pat?

As we've already gathered, things can change so quickly in the NHL.  Three weeks ago we were wondering how GM Hull/Jack was going to tackle this summer and we wondered if they were going to be part of the race for highly coveted free agent defenseman Jay Bouwmeester.

Now three weeks later we are wondering if GM Nieuwendyk has any interest in Dany Heatley and if so, what do the Stars have to do to get him.

On the one hand you have Bouwmeester who is a bonafide #1 NHL defenseman.  In case you haven't noticed, not every team has one of those so there will be lots of interest in the 25 year old blueliner this summer.  Bouwmeester would be a perfect replacement for Sergei Zubov and continue on the Stars fine tradition of having an all-world quarterback for the powerplay.

Only problem is you'll probably be bidding for his services against 20 to 25 other teams who also could use a young multiple time all-star defenseman, so whoever is able to lock him up will be no doubt overpaying a little bit and could be overpaying for a long time.

Now you have 28 year old Dany Heatley also staring you in the face as someone you can possibly trade for.  A high scoring winger that is a left handed shot but can play both sides of the ice and is just as comfortable on his off -wing than he is on the left side.  A former two-time 50-goal scorer who can easily hit that mark again in the right situation.

Of course you have the whole attitude issue with Heatley.  He's currently a malcontent with the Sens and that's the whole reason they are looking to trade him in the first place?  No doubt Heatley and Crawford are familiar with each other and could possibly get along, but would that be enough to get Dany going in the right direction and start living up to his large salary with five years remaining on it?

Mike Ribeiro was supposed to have attitudinal baggage when he came to Dallas and has been nothing short of a model citizen with the Stars. Why can't the same happen for Heatley? And if they do trade for Heatley, who do they give up? Richards? Turco? They'd have to give up a large contract in return you'd think ,so maybe that makes going after Bouwmeester a better alternative.

Or maybe the Stars don't go after anyone at all and hope that a return to health for most of the team that they have in place will lead to better results in 2009-2010. I think most of us fans can agree that the Stars biggest shortfall last season was the injury bug and while both defense and offense had issues, it always came back to injuries as an underlying cause.

In the end the Stars front office faces some tough decisions coming up in the next few weeks. You could ask ten different Stars fans how the summer should go and you'd probably get ten different answers.  Therin lies how hard these choices will be. The team is at a crossroads of sorts - a tipping point where 09-10 could be one of the best Dallas Stars seasons ever or an outright disaster on the ice and fans will pass judgment on the new duo of Nieuwendyk and Crawford accordingly.

I'll stick with picking between different cereals.