An interesting rumor surfaced in Twitter world yesterday afternoon, from a Florida Panthers writer of all places.
#Stars Val Nichushkin reportedly on trading block. Would be hard for some GMs to straight up say nyet on acquiring him.— Bill Whitehead (@BillWhiteheadFL) February 23, 2016
Now, "on the trading block" is probably overly optimistic phrasing. The "is Valeri Nichushkin available" rumor potentially started from a speculative article by Larry Brooks discussing what it would take to pry Keith Yandle from the New York Rangers, and Jim Nill has said repeatedly that he's not interested in breaking up the young core that has his team at the top of the Western Conference.
That said, the idea that Nichushkin isn't untouchable in trade isn't entirely out of left field, especially when you consider the Stars asset situation and the type of player they would like to acquire in trade.
As Mike Heika wrote earlier today, the Stars have put together a nice stockpile of middle-to-high end young players, and it's highly unlikely all eventually share the ice together at the NHL level.
While it's possible that Nichushkin and Brett Ritchie, Jason Dickinson, Devin Shore, Radek Faksa and Denis Gurianov all share the ice at one time, it's unlikely in the world of pro sports. While it's possible that John Klingberg leads a group that includes Honka, Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, Jyrki Jokipakka, Esa Lindell and Stephen Johns, that's also unlikely.
Heika lists off a number of reasons the Stars would like to keep Nichushkin. But he also points out the numbers game just doesn't add up on either side of the skater front. And that means some of these players, including possibly Nichushkin, will almost certainly fall into the category of trade bait eventually.
It is the nature of things. Sometimes you give up solid NHL pieces in the future as part of larger deals for very good players (think Reilly Smith as part of the Tyler Seguin deal in this case, or Nick Paul in the trade for Jason Spezza) because there's just not the room on your roster for those players at a given time. The development of skill players mean other skill players become expendable to some extent. Losing that piece doesn't really hurt the team in the present and they feel the future production is replaceable from within.
Which brings us back to Nichushkin, a highly-skilled player who had a gangbusters rookie season, missed essentially all of 2014-15 with hip surgery and has been very up and down, particularly in terms of production, this time around. He's got all the tools a GM could dream of, a controllable contract situation as a pending RFA, and, by the way, is still only 20 years old, if only for another week or so.
Why, then, would the Stars ever even think of making him available? The logical answer is he's not unless the return is something equally and immediately valuable. And given the Stars holes, particularly on defense, Nichushkin being a part of those conversations makes sense.
We've talked over and over again about how the type of defenseman the Stars (or at least their fans) covet doesn't grow on trees. That's why the P.K. Subban talk, though entirely speculative and a little silly, was so intriguing. But to get an asset like that or on the tier below, the carrot has to be pretty darn good.
Nichushkin is, as discussed above, a very good carrot, particularly for the type of rebuilding (or at least shooting for future seasons) teams that are willing to move the type of assets the Stars want most. So are players like Brett Ritchie, Esa Lindell and Mattias Janmark. They are the types of players who would not be offered up simply because the Stars want to get rid of them for maximum value, but because they would bring a strong value in return and may be internally replaceable at the NHL level.
Which leads us to the topic question, dear readers. What would it take for you to part with a player like Nichushkin? And are there any members of the young core, besides the obvious trio of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg, that you wouldn't part with under any circumstance?