Yesterday, David Pagnotta from The Fourth Period set Dallas Stars twitter abuzz when he casually dropped that the team has been linked in trade rumors with Montreal Canadiens blueliners Karl Alzner and David Schlemko.
The Stars have also been linked to Montreal’s David Schlemko. Stars AGM Jackson took in last night’s Habs game with one of the Stars pro scouts. https://t.co/eeFPN4W2Iw— David Pagnotta (@TheFourthPeriod) December 3, 2018
It’s no secret that the Canadiens would be open to trading Alzner after waiving him and subsequently assigning him to their AHL affiliated Laval Rocket. They’ve got a logjam of blueliners as some of their younger guys get healthy and ready to return to the lineup, and Elliotte Friedman mentioned on Hockey Night in Canada this past weekend that Schlemko could be another guy they want to move to make room.
That’s all well and good if you’re the Canadiens. But the Dallas Stars, who have a plethora of injuries on their blueline, are not the ideal trade partner to unload either of those contracts on.
Thin Cap Room
The Dallas Stars currently have just $317,594 in cap space per Cap Friendly. With Martin Hanzal returning within the next few games, the Stars will have to make roster moves to accommodate his $4.75 million cap hit coming off long-term injured reserved. Assuming John Klingberg, Stephen Johns, and Connor Carrick remain on injured-reserve and Roope Hintz is the forward that comes out given his waiver-exempt status, Cap Friendly estimates the Stars’ cap space at just around $55,800. No, that number is not missing a zero.
Basically the Stars don’t even have the space to accommodate an AHL recall on a super cheap contract until the defense gets healthy and Joel Hanley and Taylor Fedun return to the AHL, where they’ll be able to pick up their cap space to about $1.3 million.
Whichever way you cut it, there is no room on the roster to take on either Schlemko’s contract ($2.1 million cap hit signed through next season) or Alzner’s contract ($4.625 million signed through the 2021-2022 season) without a significant contract (or multiple smaller contracts) going the other direction to make a move a net-zero (or, ideally, a positive) change to their salary cap situation.
Additionally, taking on either contract would be a further commitment into seasons beyond now. That’s not a trade you pull the trigger on unless they’re part of the future plan, and right now the Stars would need just short-term help (if they do it all, which leads me to the fact that the Dallas Stars have a...)
Lack of Need
Young guys like Gavin Bayreuther, Joel Hanley, and Taylor Fedun have been called up and tasked with helping this team stay afloat with key pieces missing on the blueliner. They’ve been more than up to the task, proving that the Stars need for additional NHL help may not be as pressing as other needs (looking at you, elusive consistent scoring winger).
Before Klingberg went down to injury, the Stars were a top ten team in terms of goals against per game. They’ve not only maintained that position, after last night’s game they now rank 3rd in goals against per game at just 2.57 (the stingiest in the league, the Nashville Predators, are at 2.36 goals against per game while the most porous defense allows 4.04 goals against per game courtesy of the Ottawa Senators.)
When the team’s number one defensemen went out and was reported to expect to miss at least six weeks (over 15 games in total), most would expect that a .500 record in that span would allow Dallas to keep within shouting distance of a playoff spot. Currently, they’ve gone 6-3-1 since Klingberg left the lineup.
If it’s working, why mess with it? Not to mention, Dallas also still has Julius Honka as an option if they need to change things. These injuries aren’t going to last forever, and adding more bodies on defense creates a further logjam to a team that was already carrying eight NHL-caliber blueliners before the rash of injuries occurred. Any move from Dallas’ side would likely necessitate movement of blueliners out while bringing a blueliner in. What problem would that solve?
Doesn’t Fill The Right Hole On The Roster
At the end of the day, the addition of a depth blueliner isn’t going to fix the biggest hole on this roster, which is consistent depth scoring. (Preferably one that can score on the road, where Dallas has been all but driving the struggle bus this season.) If the Stars are going to mix up their locker room now, it should be for a dynamic forward. However, general manager Jim Nill all but indicated to Sean Shapiro at The Athletic just days ago that the team is not really in a position right now to look at making drastic changes.
If I had to put a percentage on the chances of Dallas acquiring either guy mentioned originally, I’d put it around 5%. One thing I’ve learned in following Jim Nill’s tenure here in Dallas is that they aren’t often associated with trades they actually execute until they’re basically done. The front office is notoriously tight-lipped on the trade front, and this just doesn’t fit the needs or modus operandi of this front office.