The Dallas Stars are thisclose to becoming a dream team. And sometimes those last few troubling pieces seem so far away. A big, physical franchise 1D.
We might as well dream big until the trade deadline passes, so let's dream about what would happen if, somehow, the Boston Bruins front office hasn't blocked even Jim Nill's burner phones. And imagine what might happen if Jim Nill made the trade that everyone says is impossible, impractical, or nuts: Zdeno Chara in Victory Green.
Rumors surfaced back in October that the cap-strapped and postseason-frustrated Bruins were "exploring" the trade value of some well-regarded veterans, including Big Z. This, plus a recent deadline-related mini-trend of "Chara should be moved" versus "Chara is unmovable" commentary, prompted this bit of
speculative fiction serious-business hockey commentary.
Play along for about five minutes and consider the possibilities of Zdeno Chara on Dallas' top defensive pair.
+ Plays all the D
You want that minute-munching No. 1-capital-D defensive defender? Chara is practically the archetype. He remains in the NHL's top 20 in TOI at 24:10 (compare to Dustin Byfuglien at 24:36, Oliver Ekman-Larsson at 24:48, Jay Bouwmeester at 23:23, and Dallas' own Alex Goligoski at 23:44).
At 6-foot-9 and 250 pounds, Chara is also a well-established wall of humanity who can put the fear of a higher power into anyone who looks at his squad the wrong way. Offensively, he shares the same number of points (32) in the same number of games (60) as his teammate, well-regarded forward Matt Beleskey. And his 122 shots on goal so far this season are comparable to so-hot-right-now Loui Eriksson 's 132.
+ In on the kill taker
Chara has been and still is a certimafied monster on the penalty kill, which may be the Stars' most critical area of need. Currently he ranks in the Top 5 in the NHL in minutes spent on the PK; only Francois Beauchemin spends significantly more time in shorthanded situations.
He also compares well with younger dream targets, who are usually considered equally unattainable, in shots blocked. His current numbers compare favorably with those of Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo, frequent go-to fantasies for Stars fans who imagine beefing up the blueline.
+ Lefty-loosy, righty-tighty
Chara also fits into the Stars' preferred complementary-handedness scheme like a (left) hand in glove. You're among friends, so just admit it: You've dreamed of Big Z riding dirty with John Klingberg, keeping the riffraff at bay. Let yourself dream that dream, at least for the next 24 hours or so.
+ Cup winner, Norris winner, 6-9 chicken dinner
When you're planning a deep Stanley Cup run, or two, or seven or eight, you want the right people in the room. It's not just the amount of experience, but the quality of it. The Stars have a deep and promising string of defenders in their system, but the team needs a bridge between a competitive now and the future that looks so bright. How many have wished a young blueliner like Jamie Oleksiak could learn how to play to his towering frame from the biggest man in hockey? Consider it.
+ Actual salary: lower than you think
In 2016-17, Chara will make $5 million ($4 million on the final year of his contract). And, importantly, this is another contract that will expire before Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are due to roll up with an armored car.
Respectfully submitted: Zdeno Chara is a guy the Stars could really use. Throw in the Loui Eriksson rescue fantasy of your choice...PROFIT. And wins, but mostly PROFIT.
Yet like any plan concocted by irresponsible amateurs, this entire scenario also brings to mind that lesser-known corollary of Murphy's Law: Every complex problem has a simple, easy-to-understand wrong answer. So in the interest of balance, let's take a look at the reasons why Zdeno Chara is the wrong answer for the Stars:
– 38 is 38 (and then it's 39)
Not everyone can be Jaromir Jagr. Chara has had something of a bounce-back season after a knee injury cramped his style last year. But with his 39th birthday coming up on March 18, and his 41st arriving before the end of his contract, the Stars would have to think very deeply about taking him on for the term – or at least have a backup plan in case he does fall off a cliff.
– There's a no-movement clause (there's always a no-movement clause)
Yeah, players waive those all the time, but not necessarily for you.
– Dat cap hit, do'
The real reason Z is considered impossible to budge isn't his age or his NTC. It's the $7 million cap hit that his massive, franchise-player contract carries with it. That's the sort of wedge that could hold shut the door on future, better moves.
So there's an outline. Now comes the tough part: What kind of package would you put together to pluck Chara out of Boston...if you chose to do so at all?