The NHL's silly season is almost over, but like the last few years, the Dallas Stars seem to be sniffing around a few trade options.
Instead of continuing to load up the forward corps, no matter how fun it would be to score six goals every game, the Stars seem to be instead looking at the net, with general manager Jim Nill's team being linked to names like Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Trying to target a return may be the easy part. The harder one is trying to design the package of Stars players, prospects and picks it might take to get a player of his caliber in return.
The easy rule-outs are the players with clauses in their contracts. Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp have no movement clauses, while Jamie Benn has a no-trade. Tyler Seguin will have a no-trade in 2017-18 and 2018-19, but the chances of the Stars offering up Benn or Seguin in such a deal is roughly the same as Brett Hull coming out of retirement to torment Buffalo again.
On the defensive side of things, Johnny Oduya and the newly-signed Dan Hamhuis have no-trades, as does goalie Kari Lehtonen. And much like the Benn and Seguin caveat, there's essentially zero chance that John Klingberg would be in play, particularly because his contract is looking like one of Nill's masterstrokes.
It's also unlikely that players signed off the UFA (or potential UFA) market would be in the deal, as any team could have had those players asset-free if they were that interested. That pulls away Jordie Benn, Patrick Eaves and Adam Cracknell.
That leaves about 12 NHL-experienced players on the board to start with - Ales Hemsky, Cody Eakin, Antoine Roussel, Valeri Nichushkin (or at least his RFA rights), Brett Ritchie, Radek Faksa, Mattias Janmark, Curtis McKenzie, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak's rights, Stephen Johns, and Antti Niemi. The cap hit for those players ranges from $675,000 (McKenzie) to $4.5 million (Niemi), and all the contracts except Eakin's are 1-2 years in range.
For what it's worth, even without sending huge money back, cap space isn't really an issue. With 22 likely NHL players under contract, including defenseman Esa Lindell, the Stars have $7.5 million of cap space and only one potentially large RFA contract left to be negotiated.
Of course, players penciled into the NHL lineup aren't the only ones in potentially play. A core of minor-league p layers is also in the mix, from more experienced ones like Mattias Backman to highly-touted prospects like Jason Dickinson and Julius Honka, among others.
The Stars are in a very interesting position. While goalie issues certainly played a huge role in the reason they went out in Game 7 to the St. Louis Blues, the fact is the goalie combination of Lehtonen and Niemi also won the team a Western Conference regular season title. Put another way, they would probably like to improve there but have reason to think they shouldn't sell the farm to do so.
That said, it's clearly a win-now sort of moment for the Stars, with the contract extensions of Benn and Seguin starting to enter the team's periphery. Goalie, after all, is a disproportionately important position, especially in the playoffs. It's impossible to predict the rise of someone like Matt Murray, but it's also important to have someone you can trust in something like a Game 7.
The type of players in play would tell us a lot about how the Stars view their current opportunity, but Nill isn't the type to let anything slip. Still, the fact that there was a little smoke last week regarding a goalie trade is eerily similar to how the Patrick Sharp trade developed last season - some rumors, then silence, then the wham moment.
So if the Stars are out there trying to make a deal for a goalie, who would you add to the untouchable list and who might you be willing to give up for a better sense of security in net?