The Achilles' heel of the Dallas Stars has been part goaltending and part defense so far this season. With the Stars making the trade for Jhonas Enroth last week, one of those areas has seemingly been addressed for the short term.
Now, the Stars need to look towards their blueline if they want to make the push for the playoffs in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. A name that has been out in the rumor mill and even associated with the Dallas Stars is Carolina Hurricanes 28-year-old defensman Andrej Sekera.
Sekera is slated to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. On a Carolina team that is very much out of the playoff picture in the East, and looking to rebuild around their younger core guys like Jeff Skinner and Justin Faulk, the Hurricanes will be looking towards the future this trade deadline. Moving a guy like Sekera will enable them to get pieces to help their efforts to compliment a potentially really high draft pick this summer.
The left-handed Sekera is very familiar with Lindy Ruff, having played for him for parts of six seasons in Buffalo. He is not much of an offensive dynamo for the most part, though he did have a career year last season with 44 points in 74 games played. He currently has 18 points in the season so far on the 27th ranked offense in the NHL.
One thing appealing about Sekera is that he plays a lot of minutes -- he's averaging 23 minutes a night. That's about what Trevor Daley and Alex Goligoski are averaging for the Stars this season. In those minutes, he has positive possession metrics while getting about a 50/50 split on offensive zone starts. So, he isn't playing sheltered minutes and he's driving play. He plays a complete all-around game.
If Carolina moves Sekera, it's possible they'll be looking for defensive help in return. They don't have a player in their system currently that seems to project to what Sekera brings to the table, so a defensive prospect might help them in the long term. Draft picks will also be something they'll most likely be seeking as well.
That's where Dallas seems to be a good fit as a trading partner. With a ton of defensive prospects in the system, and many of them coming up for new contracts in the summer, it's a position of strength the Stars could deal from to get a defensive-minded blueliner that also helps drive possession.
The package Dallas would be willing to give up will most likely depend on whether Sekera re-signs in Dallas before he hits unrestricted free agency. And with similar players to Sekera getting big deals last summer (think Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen type contracts) he'll be looking for an upgrade in salary from his $2.75 million cap hit this year. Canes Country had a great piece on Sekera getting paid last month.
Would the Stars be able to fit that kind of contract on this team next season? We can assume so, with cap hits of guys like Erik Cole and Shawn Horcoff presumably coming off the books this summer.
His addition would create a bit of a logjam at defense, with guys like David Schlemko and Jordie Benn on the roster, prospects like Jyrki Jokipakka looking like they belong at this level, and Patrik Nemeth seemingly on the verge of return from injury. With Jim Nill's tendency to marinate prospects in the minors until they are almost overly-ripened, it wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing to acquire a blueliner that bumps a young guy like Jokipakka back to Texas for additional seasoning.
Whether Dallas sees Sekera as a long-term fit or not, he would definitely have a calming impact on this team in the short term and provide the stability and veteran play on the back end for a playoff run this year.
But are they close enough to warrant giving up something to make that playoff run on a potential rental player? These next two weeks will go a long way to answering that question.