Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill has spoken a lot the past few months about the need for balance on the team, and especially on defense. After not making any changes over the summer, Nill has gone to work after the season began to move-by-move rework the defense to getting closer to the final vision has has for the blue line.
The trade of Brenden Dillon to the San Jose Sharks for Jason Demers, along with the emergence of John Klinberg, suddenly allowed the Stars to have the balance between right- and left-handed the team feels so valuable -- and while there have been some struggles at times, the defense as it is now is playing better than it did in October and early November.
With Patrik Nemeth sidelined and with Brenden Dillon now gone, the Stars defense may be improved somewhat but is still lacking in another type of balance -- a more physical, "defensive" defenseman able to provide more robust coverage in front of the net and give more freedom for players like Alex Goligoski and Klingberg to do what they do best.
Having already discussed a few moves that would almost assuredly long-term based, there's an option that could be something for the Stars to explore for the short-term -- but with the future certainly in mind.
Defenseman Marc Methot, traded to the Ottawa Senators in the summer of 2012 in exchange for Nick Foligno, is set to become a free agent this coming summer. Making $3 million a season and coming off the best season of his career in 2013-14 and currently just 29 years old, Methot is looking at a raise that the Senators might not be wanting to give -- and he thus becomes a possibility to be moved at the deadline.
The Stars still sit in attacking distance of a playoff spot and with just a month remaining until the trade deadline, there's a good chance we'll know one way or another whether the Stars will be making another improbable run at the postseason. Would Methot make sense for the Stars for the remainder of the season, with no guarantee he stays past this summer?
Methot is a big (6-3, 230), left-handed defenseman who is physical and can move the puck when needed. He shown that when paired with more skilled partners in a more significant role he can also put up somewhat decent numbers. He's smart, doesn't make many mistakes and doesn't take too many penalties -- surprising for a player of his size and style.
For the Stars, Methot could conceivably slide into the top slot next to John Klingberg and allow the Stars to move a player like Alex Goligoski to a more comfortable role for skill set. Klingberg has shown that he doesn't need to have heavy offensive zone starts to be successful.
Most interestingly, Methot has played in a similar role for the Senators the past two seasons next to Erik Karlsson and would conceivably do the same for the Stars with Klingberg. Methot is a calm, stay-at-home presence that allows Karlsson the freedom to play as aggressively as he likes, and Klingberg would be able to continue to grow and do the same with Methot.
To be clear, Methot has yet to really be the "big, minutes-eating defenseman" that the Stars are in so desperate need. Last season he averaged between 18 and 23 minutes a game and rarely saw over 25 minutes of TOI, unlike his partner Karlsson who plays in all situations. He's also had injury troubles throughout his career, and has played just 11 games so far this season after sitting the first few months with back and hip issues.
Yet Methot is also starting to get into a groove after a bit of a slow start, and showed just what he's capable of with this big hip check over the weekend:
Methot might not be the "unicorn" the Stars might be seeking, but he'd certainly be a great top four upgrade for the Stars and would likely not be anywhere near as expensive in a trade as Cody Franson or Dion Phaneuf. The pending free agency is concerning, but we've seen the Stars able to sell Dallas as a long-term option recently and the same could always happen here.
The Senators defenseman is certainly an interesting option for the Stars to explore, and there is already a great "good for you, good for us" trade between Ottawa in Dallas in the past year. Phaneuf and Franson are intriguing options, but considering all of the circumstances involved Marc Methot could be the option that makes the most sense for Dallas.