The mechanics of making the Dallas Stars more potent offensively are complicated. As covered previously, their need is dire and their assets limited. Rival general managers (let us harbor no illusions of helping hands across the league) are unlikely to do GM Jim Nill any favors. Difficult, however, is not the same thing as impossible. If the Stars are serious about addressing their glaring scoring deficiency (not a given!) there are ways to go out and get it done.
To get better, the Stars need at least some measure of certainty in the asset they’re acquiring. This is an acute need, so no dumpster diving. They’re looking for a good player already plying his trade at the NHL level. In situations like this one, one of the most common starting points is a pick, a player, and a prospect. For the sake of word count (and our editor’s sanity), let’s start there.
The prospect piece is probably the easiest. Dallas just doesn’t have a ton of variety. A premium player might require Jason Robertson or Ty Dellandrea, possibly even Denis Gurianov or Roope Hintz if either still qualifies due to age. Did Gavin Bayreuther do enough during the first half of the season to put himself in the shop window? After that, it’s a gra bag. Could Riley Tufte blossom as a scorer? Will Colton Point break the curse of the Dallas goaltending prospect? How about Jake Oettinger? There are options, let’s be very clear about that, but there are few slam dunks.
This makes it a very good thing that Dallas controls the bulk of their draft capital over the next few seasons. The Stars are missing a seventh rounder in 2019 and their second rounder in 2020. Otherwise, they’re fully stocked, plus the Minnesota Wild’s 2019 fourth round selection. This leaves the Stars as an excellent dance partner for any team looking more at the future than the present. For their own part, if the Stars view adding scoring as more of a finishing touch, surrendering picks to support the prime of their existing core is a fine trade.
The final pillar of our theoretical trade — a player — is also a major strength of the Stars. Goals are a problem, sure, but Dallas has demonstrated an unrivaled ability to churn out useful NHL depth. Players like Devin Shore, Mattias Janmark, or Jason Dickinson could step into any team in the league and play useful minutes. Jason Spezza brings reasonable scoring and an expiring contract. Brett Ritchie (or Val Nichushkin if you’re feeling snarky) isn’t going to move the needle by himself, but as the final, speculative piece in a larger deal he might tip someone’s scale. Before you scoff, Alex Chiasson has hit double-digit goals in four of his seven NHL seasons. The Stars would take a double-digit goalscorer these days.
Then there’s Radek Faksa. The Stars’ shutdown pivot is riding a recent hot streak and is an elite defensive forward. The 25-year-old has not yet flashed evidence of an elite scorer or playmaker, but he does have a pair of 33-point seasons and excellent defensive bonafides. Maybe a system that sees him start fewer than 71.6% of his shifts in the defensive zone could nudge those totals higher. And perhaps 30-plus points out of a guy that can handle that kind of workload is enough. Among the NHL’s 10 best teams, the Washington Capitals have the worst penalty kill (77%), food for thought.
If Nill dangled Faksa, Robertson, and draft picks, rival GMs would take the phone call. If Faksa is too much, maybe it’s Delleandra, more picks, Shore, and Janmark. Needs matter, as does the timeline within which their trading partner expects to compete. Could you convince the Edmonton Oilers that something built on Faksa, Bayreuther, and Oettinger make them better than Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? The Stars could always hit the big, red Esa Lindell-shaped panic button.
Assume for one moment that the St. Louis Blues intend to rebuild, and are worried about Vladimir Tarasenko’s impending no-trade clause. Spezza makes the cap numbers work, provides short-term scoring, and comes off the books this offseason. Some combination of Faksa, Janmark, Dickinson, or Shore won’t recreate Tarasenko’s offense, but could get close while making the team more well-rounded. They would compete long enough for the likes of Robertson or Point to make an impact at the NHL level, along with whomever they draft via a pair of high picks.
Can the Stars get better without losing someone important? No, but isn’t that kind of the point? If this roster had come together as the contender everyone expected, there would not be a need to go find scoring via a trade. Once upon a time, Dallas cashed in Mike Smith for a trip to a conference final. They traded Loui Eriksson too, and that worked out alright. For this roster to finally take the long awaited “Next Step,” fans might have to say farewell to a familiar face. That, or get used to scrapping for the eight seed every season.