NHL free agency continues this Fourth of July under the auspices of a new rule that allows UFA's and teams to discuss terms of potential deals, though teams are forbidden to speak of the conversations officially.
For the Dallas Stars that includes a number of conversations with free agent centers that may help them realize their goals where Jamie Benn is concerned, but as Mike Heika opines, the trade market may be where they find their optimum solutions...
While we all mull over the possible free agent centers out there and even ponder a return of Mike Ribeiro or Derek Roy, maybe the answer to the Stars' center hole is in a trade and not free agency.
Now, the cost of a trade is prospects and top players, but it might be a cost that's worth it when you consider the Stars really need a No. 1 center, and those are hard to come by.
On the positive side, Cody Hodgson, Brayden Schenn and Kyle Turris have all been traded recently. Hodgson was pretty much dealt for Zack Kassian in a four-player deal between Buffalo and Vancouver. Turris went from Phoenix to Ottawa for David Rundblad and a second round pick. And Schenn was at the center of the Mike Richards deal between the Kings and Flyers. The Stars have that kind of currency and can make those kinds of trades. [Dallas Morning News]
More than that, a trade route to upgrade is important for Dallas as it takes the most restrictive element in their path out of the proceedings: The ability for the incoming player to choose (elsewhere).
Recent dealings with Vincent Lecavalier and Alain Vigneault paired with a relative lack of ability to attract any desirable free agents not in the 40(ish) age-group for years show clearly that until Dallas props itself up on the strength of its own drafting and development and qualifies for the playoffs consistently, luring free agents to the area will be... unlikely.
So Mike's point is well taken. The trade route, taking the decision out of a player's hands, might be the best (or only) option. Finding a dance partner or two while possessing such a glaring need, however, and thus little leverage, will be a challenge.
LeBrun and others are intimating that Nathan Horton, formerly of the Boston Bruins, would prefer to play in a warmer, non-traditional hockey market. Columbus is thought to be a strong contender for his services. It's a smart match - A smaller hockey market while staying in the easier East travel. Could Dallas enter the mix as well? [Twitter]
Tom Gilbert, anyone? The Minnesota Wild appear set to let-go of another defenseman on the periphery. He's 30. [TwinCities.com]
Speaking of defensemen... The Stars don't APPEAR to need any as they continue to stockpile bodies in the form of Jordie Benn. The elder brother signed a three-year deal, and only the first year is rumored to be two-way. [FWST]
The Hockey Writers take a look at Valeri Nichushkin. [The Hockey Writers]
Glen Gulutzan is expected to officially join the Vancouver Canucks coaching staff soon as an assistant with John Tortorella. His education will continue, and quite effectively, one would think. [Van Sun Blogs]
Jarret Stoll was still in the process of racking up faceoff wins against the Dallas Stars in early-July, curiously, when he suffered a seizure and was hospitalized. Puck Daddy says "Stoll, who was also concussed back in 2006-07 with the Oilers, has two more years left on his deal with the Kings." [Puck Daddy]
Luke Gazdic: Quick hits, figure skating and the declining role of the enforcer. [Hundred Degree Hockey]
Filip Kuba's buyout at 36 years of age does not count as a compliance buyout from the Florida Panthers. His age, given the Stars' tendencies thus far under both GM Joe NIeuwendyk and Jim Nill make him at the very least someone to watch on Friday. [TSN]