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Trade Deadline Targets: Dallas a “Stealth” Contender For Artemi Panarin

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If the Stars want to swing big this trade deadline, why not try to catch the biggest fish of all?

NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Dallas Stars
Wouldn’t those two look great together in the same (victory green) jersey?
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Last Friday, I talked about one of the biggest trade deadline names out there, Matt Duchene, and whether or not the Dallas Stars should trade for him. While I felt that Duchene was a great fit in Dallas on paper, I ultimately thought the price would be too high for a rental who was unlikely to re-sign.

Today, I want you to take everything I said in that piece and throw it out the window. We’re locking up that Tyler in a closet and not letting him come out till after the deadline. Let’s forget about being conservative — the Stars should get bold. They should get crazy!

They should get Artemi Panarin.

Panarin isn’t good. He’s not great. He’s elite. Duchene’s best season in his career was 70 points in 71 games back in 2013-14. Panarin’s worst was 74 in 82 games in 2016-17. As of writing this, he currently has 67 points in 56 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and is on pace for a career-high 95 points this season.

As of writing this, that’s “only” good enough for 18th in the league in scoring, but he’s also held back by a lack of strong offensive teammates. Consider that Panarin spends most of his time on a line with Cam Atkinson (55 points, 56 games played) and Pierre-Luc Dubois (51 points, 58 games played). Now take a look at this chart:

Do you see those two players who are in the very bottom left corner, aka the “BAD” zone? That’s Atkinson and Dubois without Panarin. Ignore the fact that, as you can see, Panarin makes all of his teammates better. This isn’t a case of Panarin simply making Atkinson and Dubois “better.” He’s single-handedly dragging them to success. He’s the type of player who you can slot next to pretty much anyone and he will make them look like top NHLers.

Here’s another chart to “ooh” and “ahh” at:

Red is good and blue is bad. The only blue you see is in spots that aren’t high-scoring areas. For those that are, it’s a deep red, and helps illustrate the point that, current point totals aside, Panarin is one of the best players in the NHL right now.

That’s what makes Panarin’s situation with Columbus so fascinating. Playoff contenders should be looking to buy at the deadline to try to make a Cup run. They aren’t supposed to sell (unless you’re the St. Louis Blues), and they certainly aren’t supposed to sell their best player by a mile. Yet Panarin has all but outright announced that he won’t re-sign with Columbus this offseason, and after seeing the New York Islanders “lose” John Tavares this offseason “for nothing,” it makes sense for Columbus to try to trade Panarin unless they feel like they’re Cup contenders (which they’re not).

So Panarin is an elite talent that should never be available at the trade deadline, yet somehow is. Every team with playoff aspirations is playing the “what-if” game when it comes to trading for him, but as far as Dallas is concerned, this isn’t just a pipe dream.

In his latest 31 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman wrote the following:

7. Stealth team for Artemi Panarin: Dallas. The Stars have also checked in on Mats Zuccarello.

Friedman echoed similar sentiments last Saturday, and Stars beat writer Sean Shapiro discussed trading for Panarin in his latest Shap Shots on Monday. Shapiro thinks the cost for Dallas to acquire Panarin would be their 2019 first round draft pick, Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, and Denis Gurianov. My thought was something along the lines of their 2019 first, a conditional 2020 first (contingent on Panarin re-signing), Radek Faksa, and Colton Point.

But instead of debating on the pieces involved in a hypothetical trade, let’s focus on the take-home message: Panarin will be expensive. While Columbus lacks leverage since they arguably need to trade Panarin before the deadline, they’re going to get back a hefty haul no matter what, even from a team acquires him as a pure rental.

That large price tag is why I would be hesitant to — and probably would ultimately choose not to — trade for Panarin without some sort of extension guarantee. However, it’s not a hard pass from me unlike Duchene.

First of all, I didn’t think Duchene was worth the price because this team isn’t a top-six forward away from being a Cup contender. But again, Panarin isn’t just some top-six guy you plug into your second line. He would be the Stars’ best forward alongside Tyler Seguin, if not better. Plus his ability to carry a line would give Dallas a lot of flexibility. They could try him with Seguin or Jamie Benn and pair the other with Alexander Radulov for a one-two punch, or they could have Panarin carry a line all by himself. Unlike Duchene, he might actually be enough to lift Dallas past Nashville or Winnipeg.

Furthermore, there’s actually a decent chance that Panarin could end up re-signing with Dallas. The word is that Panarin prefers to go to a big city market, and Friedman believes the teams with the best chances of signing Panarin long-term are indeed the Los Angeles Kings, the New York Islanders, and the New York Rangers, plus the Florida Panthers even though they don’t fit that particular billing.

However, the Stars have started to build a rather solid Russian contingent, with players like Radulov, Anton Khudobin, Valeri Nichushkin, and Denis Gurianov. That might end up being important for Panarin, who might feel more comfortable with Dallas as opposed to a place like Los Angeles, who have already more-or-less soured relationships with Ilya Kovalchuk after just a couple months. Plus Dallas can dangle the “no state income tax” carrot, as well as the elusive “eighth year” in an extension should they successfully trade for him.

Am I starting to stand against everything I believe in when it comes to the trade deadline? Maybe. Have I bought too much into the hype while writing this and need to take off the victory green-tinted glasses? Possibly. But I’m sure even conservative Tyler would agree: if the Stars are trying to make a big splash this week, they might as well go after the biggest fish in the sea.