Everything not named Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Kari Lehtonen or Alex Goligoski is for sale in order to get younger and better. At least that's been the indication from the Dallas Stars front office as the Tom Gaglardi era gets underway.
"There were a couple of trades that we got close to making," Gaglardi told The Ticket in May. "If we could get younger and build around our younger guys we would have made those trades. We felt like we had a chance (to make the playoffs) but I was very clear about it: We're not here to finish 8th, 9th, 10th. We've got to get better. If that means we miss this year because we make a trade to get younger, we're going to do it."
They didn't quite get a deal they liked in February, but the next opportunity to make such a decision approaches about a week from now as the league's front offices shuffle up to Pittsburgh for the 2012 NHL Draft and the trade winds start blowing. With the free agent market so thin, is a trade the best way for the Stars to acquire an impact player that can help shape the future of the franchise for years to come?
Only the general managers really know who's in play out there, and speculating is a fruitless exercise - But we can discuss which current Dallas Stars might be used in such deals as trade talks inevitably heat up during draft week.
Who is most likely to be moved if an opportunity presents itself, and who on the current NHL roster possesses the most value in such a scenario...?
The topic dujour every summer is analyzing how the Cup Champions got it done and how to copy them. When you look at the Los Angeles Kings it's clear that they did not build their title with free agency. Willie Mitchelll, Simon Gagne and Rob Scuderi were their only significant acquisitions in the market leading to their victory. They drafted well. They developed good, young players with those picks, and they turned the rest into smart trade acquisitions.
Matt Greene, Brad Richardson, Jarret Stoll, Justin Williams, Dustin Penner, Mike Richards, Colin Fraser and Jeff Carter were all acquired by trades for Los Angeles. Do the Stars have the ammunition necessary to similarly remake themselves over the coming seasons? Let's muse listlessly for a few moments on the options they now possess...
Two years ago in June of 2010 E.J. Hradek of ESPN wrote that he "expects Mike Ribeiro to be traded this weekend." Two years later Mike Ribeiro is still here, but his name gets mentioned in every Dallas Stars related trade rumor so this is a good place to start. Ribeiro has one year left on his deal at $5 million, and he's a critical part of a team with no depth at center. In an off-season full of talk that the Stars could move Jamie Benn back to wing, is trading Mike Ribeiro a viable option? Only in exchange for another center, one would think. This one's been trotted out there so many times it's getting very tired. Ribeiro's price tag, age, and sometimes less than satisfactory defensive prowess make him a tough commodity to move, and they need him so badly given their current makeup that it's unclear whether they could afford to move him anyway - Not unless a true "rebuild and go with really young guys" year lies ahead, and we've seen no indication of that being the case.
Joining Ribeiro in these kinds of discussions was the Captain this past season, and had he been healthy in February those talks would have reached fever pitch. Uncertainty about his back and neck (along with his capabilities and his role) continue to shroud expectations of what Morrow can and will be this next season. His value, therefore, is probably not what Dallas would like it to be in a trade market environment. Like Ribeiro he has an expiring deal, and like Ribeiro his value might be greatest next February when the pro-rated price tag comes down and another team wants to add veteran depth for a Cup run.
"What?? The Stars have identified Trevor Daley as part of their core moving forward!" His contract extension tells us all we need to know on that front, and yet it's the most attractive parts that would bring the most return. Daley must be considered. His contract may be a deterrent to some, and Trevor may not be the center piece to any potential deal, but he could be a powerful deciding factor accompanying other players, prospects or picks if the return is right. It was rumored that Daley was offered up in a potential trade for Jeff Carter in February, but later debunked as it was unlikely the Stars really ever wanted a part of that contract. (Of course with a Cup in their back pocket, it paid off for Los Angeles).
With two years left on his contract at a $3.3 million cap hit each, Robidas may not be as attractive on the market as some Stars fans would like to think these days. Furthermore, can the Stars replace what essentially was their top pairing last season in it's entirety in Sheldon Souray and Robidas? For a team that thinks they're close to a cup Robidas would be a phenomenal addition to an already stable defensive grouping. It would be a depth move for the acquiring team in all likelihood, while it would be the loss of one of their most critical roster players for Dallas. There's a dichotomy in value there that might make such a move an impracticality, and it's due to Dallas' lack of blue line depth at the NHL level. Could the Stars afford to lose those most valuable minutes in exchange for that with which anyone would likely be willing to part?
The same thing that may make Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas trade-able puts Larsen rather naturally on the list as well - A wealth of undersized d-men that may not be creating the best overall mix on the blue line. He performed beyond expectations last season, proved himself useful in multiple situations, and is the youngest of all of these small, puck moving type d-men Dallas now possesses. His stock is high, and as such a trade would be met with considerable resistance, but it's Nieuwendyk's job to weigh assets and gain maximum value from them. Sometimes that means selling high. Is Larsen's value as high as it will be right now, or has he just started to scratch the surface of what he's capable?
Josh already identified Michael Ryder as a "sell high" candidate due to his unexpectedly productive performance with the Stars last year. His shooting percentages are sure to come back down, as they are wont to do with goal scorers experiencing a better than average year. He is an older player and is under control just this next season, so it's not likely the return would be anything outrageously exciting in terms of youth and skill, but he scored more goals than any free agent on the market (by far) and that's a premium, premium skill-set this summer. The problem, of course, is that the Stars lack scoring from the wing, even with him, and so they find themselves needing that which they'd be shopping here. Again, unless it's going to be a true "play the kids" rebuild year (and many of you believe it should be), it seems unlikely Ryder would be moved as he offers what they need (goals!) at a reasonable price.
Ott's name and face spent all day plastered on TSN when the trade deadline came and went this past February. He has significant trade value, we know, but the question is what the difference in that value is between the hectic desperation of deadline day and the lazy days of summer. The Stars possibly tried to get Cody Hodgson away from Vancouver for Ott and various other accouterments, but the Canucks later indicated that Hodgson was "not available" to the Stars, for whatever reason. Tom Gaglardi indicated that a move that would have the club younger and more skilled is something they would have done had the right deal come along. Is Steve Ott out of the woods, or is his a name that will resurface in rumors as the draft nears?
He's an unproven scorer and he's played inconsistent minutes at various positions in this league, but his size and possession skills impress many (particularly around here). If they're willing to end their own experiments on what he can be, he could be, at the least, an interesting pot-sweetener for a deal teetering on the edge.
When the Stars drafted Campbell in 2010 it was unclear what kind of an option Kari Lehtonen would be for Dallas long term. As Campbell prepares for his first full-pro season and Kari Lehtonen gets set to negotiate what we assume will be a fairly long term contract extension, the future in net is one worth contemplating. That Joe Nieuwendyk and his staff interviewed Campbell so thoroughly before taking him as high as they did tells us what they think of him and highly they value his potential - So much so that this might be a ludicrous discussion. Everyone not named Jamie Benn or Loui Eriksson is probably for sale, however, under the right circumstances, and Jack could be a very motivating factor for a team that needs to move an impact player.
Jack Campbell is just one example of many assets that can be moved in the category of...
Picks and Prospects
These are what really drive this market and it's these that Joe Nieuwendyk has been loathe to part with. Dallas is starting to see some names come to the AHL level that could be attractive in deals (Campbell, Oleksiak, Smith, Smith, Chiasson, etc) but they lack true "blue chip" prospects that give them an edge over other teams in negotiations. If Jordan Staal (for example) is in play and the Stars are in, what assets can they offer that other teams do not have? The Stars' farm system is improving, but it's not there in terms of that kind of leverage yet.
When you look at the deals the Kings made (with roster players, prospects, first and second round picks, etc...) you see they had a variety of resources at their disposal and a willingness to take a risk, but also that they were further down the road than Dallas. Those sorts of deals are made by teams looking to take the final steps. The Stars, incrementally speaking, are many steps further back at the present and are likely to prefer watching their current prospects grow and the draft picks they hold (8 of them this year) get made rather than firing the bullets they have just to make the leap from 10th place to 7th or 8th. As Gaglardi has said on many occasions, the Stars are not looking to take significant action in exchange for an insignificant long term gain.
What say you? Who is the most attractive? Will the Stars be willing to part with something dear (or at least a quantity of assets that is very dear) in order to better themselves if the right offer comes along? Do they have the ammunition?