There are a lot of questions about the Dallas Stars right now. And everyone thinks they have the answers. But it's easy to just pick names out of a hat and assume they'll be upgrades. Choosing the best for the least is the key to economic value, but in sports, "least" just isn't as sexy.
Nill and Co. are thinking about the two most important questions. 'What is the value of our available choices and what will each choice cost?' Both questions depend on a lot of different factors. Let's consider them with a mind for Nill's recent 'State of the Victory Green Union' keynote speech.
Trusting the Cedar Park Swashbucklers
Jim Nill has yet to give up a truly prime asset. And if there's a reason to stay quiet, it's because the farm is making some serious noise.
I don't get to watch entire league. But I'd argue Jason Dickinson is the most well-rounded rookie forward in the AHL right now. #txstars— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) February 21, 2016
Jason Dickinson is currently 16th in the AHL with 41 points. That's just one point behind William Nylander, who he has more goals than. And more importantly, three points behind Mikko Rantanen for the rookie lead. What kind of deal would warrant giving up this kind of asset? In a cap conscious world, this is how you mold your bottom six.
Julius Honka is 5th in AHL defensemen scoring (and 3nd on the team in shots on goal). Four points behind him is Esa Lindell, who is second among all rookie defensmen. Devin Shore was on a ridiculous run before losing the season due to a shoulder injury, and wingers like Brett Ritchie and Curtis McKenzie offer the elements of a bruising bottom six.
Dallas' bottom six is an area of concern, but it seems unwise to trade picks away for one when plenty of those from Cedar Park are later round picks themselves. Dallas has grinders, but not PK specialists. Radek Faksa and Jason Dickinson seem primed to play such roles. Dallas' blueline has plenty of puck movers, but no dancers to assist stronger transitions from one blueline to the next (like Honka). And not the kind of size that the PK could use on the backend that players like Stephen Johns project to support.
These are all players who will grow with Dallas' current core. What's the real benefit of trading them when you factor in cap, cost, and contribution relative to each?
Gauging the Veterans
Jason Demers and Alex Goligoski are in interesting spots. Some fans feel like Dallas should get value out of them. Which makes sense in a vacuum. But just because a player isn't part of the long term plan doesn't mean they aren't short term solutions. If somebody told the average Dallas fan that they could trade both for Drew Doughty and Alex Pietrangelo, fans would do cartwheels.
And yet...here's Goligoski compared to Pietrangelo:
And here's Demers compared to Doughty:
Does this mean that Dallas secretly has an enviable blueline because it ices Pietrangelo and Doughty facsimiles? Of course not. There are a lot of ways to determine the value of a defensemen, but equally many ways to misunderstand them. However, the mere fact that they can be compared should be pause for concern for the "just play the prospects" crowd.
The likelier solution is a small trade that potentially helps out the current team in subtle ways.
Every time I've seen scout listings in the past two weeks, Dallas has always had two guys at the game.— Stephen Burtch (@SteveBurtch) February 21, 2016
Mike Heika has mentioned Roman Polak, so it'll be interesting to see if Nill feels like Polak's contributions to the PK (for example) is worth a pick and a prospect. Maybe they replace one of their prospects (like Jokipakka?) for a veteran with size and snarl that can complete the left shot right shot symmetry on the blueline.
Windows are for Transparency Not Transcendence
Every choice, and every cost to that choice requires context. When Nill talks about Dallas' "window", he probably isn't talking about going "all in".
Since we're borrowing poker phrases, it's useful to use poker analogies. When Nill took over, Dallas was a mediocre franchise. An overachieving first year with the new management made the second year look worse than it was, but here they are in their third year, primed to make the playoffs with conviction.
However, Dallas is holding three of a kind. A few forwards to help the PK would push them towards a flush. A few forwards and prospects blooming to help the defense would give them four of a kind. When you've reached that point, that's when you wait for the river (giving up assets for that missing piece) to bluff your opponent into thinking you weren't holding that royal flush the whole time.