The hockey world was flipped upside down earlier today when the Ottawa Senators traded Matt Duchene (and Julius Bergman) to the Columbus Blue Jackets. That deal signifies two very important things: Artemi Panarin is most likely staying in Columbus and the market for Mark Stone — as well as the other top trade deadline names — has been set.
While some of us might have dreamed of seeing Panarin in victory green, it’s that second point that’s more important for the Dallas Stars. If Dallas wants to make a run at Stone, it’ll probably be for the same price — their 2019 1st, a conditional 2020 1st, and two prospects. If they want a Tier 2 forward, like Mats Zuccarello or Gustav Nyquist, it won’t cost nearly as much, but it still might be a pretty penny.
The question is would the price be worth it for the Dallas? Maybe not for Stone, but when it comes to the Zuccarellos and Nyquists of the trade deadline world, I would say yes.
First, let’s take a peak at the current Wild Card standings:
I think it’s fair to say we can write off Anaheim, Edmonton, and Los Angeles as being serious Wild Card contenders. But that still leaves six teams who are very close in the standings fighting for just two spots, plus Vegas and St. Louis who are both up four points on the Stars.
Granted, the Stars have a small cushion between then and the other five bubble teams. Do you know what that means? Absolutely nothing. Two weeks ago, Dallas sat in third in the Central with a four point cushion over Minnesota. All it takes is a cold streak — or in the case of the Blues, a red hot streak — and the entire playoff picture changes. For a borderline playoff team like the Stars, staying put and hoping things remain the same isn’t exactly a good strategy. Especially after seeing what happened last year.
So if Dallas wants to get back to being a “playoff lock,” they’re actually in the same situation as two weeks ago: they need to bolster their secondary scoring. I’m sure there are plenty of conservatives in the Stars’ front office who will point at the team’s 7 goals (technically 8) in the past two games and take it as a sign that Dallas is scoring again. But all you have to do is point to the two scoreless games that preceded those in order to shut down that argument.
Of course, the risk that Dallas takes by moving picks and/or prospects for a rental is that they’ll make the playoffs only to lose in the first round. Many people believe that unless Dallas has a realistic chance of making a deep playoff run, it’s not worth trading futures for some player that is just going to leave come July 1st.
I get that. In fact most years, I would be one of those fans. What I do not understand, however, is when people start to argue that because Dallas is not a Stanley Cup contender, they should actually be selling.
That take is ridiculous for two reasons. First and foremost, Dallas doesn’t have anyone to sell. The only (healthy) players on the roster who are pending UFAs are Jason Spezza, Roman Polak, and Taylor Fedun. Polak and Fedun wouldn’t net anything more than a late round pick at best, and a Spezza trade is just not happening, especially since Spezza has no intention of waiving his NMC:
“For me it’s non-negotiable; I wouldn’t have played for a team that wouldn’t give me a no-move because of the family situation,” Spezza said... “You prioritize things differently when you get older and I count myself lucky that I’ve played my entire career on just two teams and never had to get traded in season.”
But let’s pretend for a moment that Dallas did have their own rentals that they could shop around. It would still make no sense for the Stars be sellers at the deadline, mostly because the whole, ‘any season that ends without a Stanley Cup is a failure” mentality is just silly.
Look, making the playoffs is good for franchises. It brings in more revenue for the owners, makes the players and fans happy, and makes the team more attractive to perspective free agents. Almost every free agent wants to play on a team that they believe can win a Stanley Cup, not one who might make the playoffs if things go right.
Not to mention that Dallas in particular is in sore need of some postseason action. I challenge you to find a single fan that isn’t upset about how this franchise has made the playoffs only twice in the last two years, and only a single series win to show for it. And now some of those same fans are saying they don’t care if Dallas misses the playoffs so long as they pick up some late round picks and almost-zero draft lottery chance odds in return? I just can’t comprehend it.
Ultimately, there’s a case to be made for standing pat at the deadline this year, especially if the cost of acquiring someone like Zuccarello or Nyquist would be a young player like Roope Hintz or Denis Gurianov. But if the price is right, the Stars should absolutely pull the trigger on a trade that helps them make the postseason, even if they proceed to get bounced by Nashville or Winnipeg in Round 1. This team needs some playoff action, and it’s up to Jim Nill to help get them there.