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Dallas Stars, Free Agency & Trades: What's The Realistic Situation?

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It has been an interesting couple of weeks for the Dallas Stars and their fans. As word comes down that the sale of the team is close to being finalized in bankruptcy court in Delaware, the team on the ice continues to shock the NHL by becoming the first team to reach 10 wins on the season.

What's more, news from various corners of the NHL  has intrigued fans as to how the Stars might be impacted -- specifically, how the new owner can swoop and do what fans have been wanting for years now to do and make a big, earth shattering trade or acquisition. Ever since it was confirmed that Tom Gaglardi was confirmed to be in the driver's seat as the new owner of the Dallas Stars, fans have been inquiring as to how quickly the new regime would be making a trade.

We touched on this topic when discussingwhat needed to be done first and foremost when Gaglardi takes over saying how many other aspects of the organization need to be addressed first. Today, we wanted to take the time to discuss that even if Gaglardi were so inclined to do, what are the realistic chances that such a big move could be made?

First and foremost, I'm not expecting Joe Nieuwendyk or the Stars to even contemplate a deal until right at the trade deadline. For now, the Stars are playing exceptionally well and there's no reason to mess with or add to a roster that is truly finding some great chemistry together. 

It could be argued, additionally, that the "trade" for Eric Nystrom was the move that was needed more than anything. With the need to pick up over $1 million in salary arising from the Sean Avery Situation, the Stars acquired Nystrom from the Wild in a move that fully benefitted both teams. What's been incredible is how Nystrom has instantly become a key player for the Stars roster, entrenching himself on the third line and contributing offensively as well as physically with his energetic play.

Unless a meltdown of epic scope occurs sometime between now and February, don't expect the Stars to even contemplate a roster move of the size that the fans are hungry for. 

It seems that fans are hungry for a move just because the feeling of being able to actually make this move would go a long way to securing a "hope" for the future, that the Stars finally have the ability to make a commitment to winning despite the ownership and financial issues of the past few years.

Making a trade or adding salary, just because the ability is there, is not exactly a recipe for success. Take a good look at who is on top, year after year, of the salary cap numbers in the NHL. The Columbus Blue Jackets made a significant commitment to winning in the here and now, as well as the future, and suddenly they've become a team without hope or discipline and no one knows how to fix it.

The situation in Columbus has also directly led to a lot of discussion amongst Stars fans as to whether Rick Nash will suddenly become available for trade. While I doubt the Blue Jackets would be willing to suddenly blow their team up after a disastrous start to the season, it's important to keep in mind that the Stars are attempting to do some building of their own from within and the price to be paid for such a player would be tremendously steep.

Nash is in the second season of an 8-year, $62.4 million contract, with a no-trade clause, he signed last summer in a full commitment to the Blue Jackets and their future as a franchise. That $7.8 million per season cap hit would be one heck of a commitment for the Stars to take on, especially after having to deal with such contracts for so long that prohibited them from making other needed moves.

There's also the fact that even if the new owner would be willing to raise salary this season, I highly doubt that number would be higher than $5-6 million -- and likely not even that much. Gaglardi is going to be losing a significant amount of money this season and possibly even next season as he fights to get this franchise back where it had been in the glory days; deciding to significantly raise the salary is going to be a tough decision to make, especially if this team is still playing at the level they are now.

Let's not also forget that the Stars have a number of decisions to make on the current roster before attempting to bring in or trade for another superstar player.

Jamie Benn, Alex Goligoski, Sheldon Souray, Nicklas Grossman, Adam Burish and Jake Dowell will all be looking for new contracts next summer. With Benn and Goligoski likely looking at very healthy contract extensions sometime this season, the money left over to fill the roster is going to be dwindling. While the ability to further add to this roster will certainly exist financially and the Stars will be well under the salary cap, it's tough to determine just how much of a financial commitment needs to be made for this team to continue to build and be competitive.

That's not to say that a big-time trade of free agent signing is completely out of the question. While the Stars need to be focused on giving Jamie Benn the contract extension he deserves, there's also the fact that the most successful teams in the NHL are able to strike a balance between building through the draft and adding via free agency and trades.

Joe Nieuwendyk has a plan in place to build this Stars team into a big, physical and talented roster full of capable young players. Currently, the Stars are being successful because of a mix of veterans and young offensive talent, but this team is going to look very different in just a short amount of time. 

So what does that mean about the chances of the Stars making a big play for someone like Shea Weber, Zach Parise or even Rick Nash? Honestly, it's tough to determine. The thing to remember is that this team is not just one player away from being a Stanley Cup contender, like it was in the summer of 1998 when Brett Hull was signed.

Instead, the Stars need to find a way to use whatever extra payroll that may be available and sign some capable scoring wingers or young players who can continue to help this franchise grow and improve while also maintaining financial responsibility.

We all want the Stars to have the power to go out and nail down that superstar, just like they did with Brad Richards in 2008. What we don't want is an organization hunting after that big fish just because it can, when there's already a successful and inspiring plan in place.