Last year, the Vegas Golden Knights brought in Tomas Tatar from the Detroit Red Wings in a trade deadline deal that is still working its way out. Fans already know that it cost them Joe Veleno, with a second and a third still to come. Tatar was flipped to the Montreal Canadiens for Max Pacioretty, so you might say that there is value to the deal. At a minimum, it shows that GM George McPhee isn’t afraid to roll the dice.
This year, in the blockbuster of deadline day, Vegas brought in Mark Stone and appear to have locked him in for eight years at just under $10 million AAV. On Tuesday night, the Dallas Stars are first in line to feel the effects of a deal that turns a playoff contender into a legitimate threat to return to the Stanley Cup Final.
It’s not that the Stars didn’t make moves of their own. Mats Zuccarello didn’t miss a beat in moving onto the first line and showed some instant chemistry with Tyler Seguin. There was certainly enough there to get fans going starry-eyed, even if it might be playoff time before Zuccarello is back from his broken arm.
In addition, the Stars brought in Ben Lovejoy from the New Jersey Devils in return for Connor Carrick. Against the Chicago Blackhawks, Lovejoy blocked shots, delivered hits, and found his way to the penalty box while clearly demonstrating himself to be not Taylor Fedun in the offensive zone.
For those wanting Dallas to make a big splash at the deadline, the Zuccarello deal at least demonstrated that GM Jim Nill recognized a need to fix secondary scoring. Lovejoy is a puzzle, but Carrick obviously wasn’t part of future plans, so the deal brings in some defense-first insurance for a team that has settled on a defense-first identity.
The Stars also recalled Denis Gurianov, which adds options other than a coin toss between Brett Ritchie and Valeri Nichushkin to see who moves up off the fourth line.
The Mark Stone pickup may be just what Vegas needs to turn around what has been a disappointing season for the defending Western Conference champions. Basic stats show the Golden Knights as middle of the pack in scoring, defending, penalty kill, and power play.
Marc-Andre Fleury gets media notice, but he really stands out for leading the league in games started as a goaltender. His .907 save percentage and 2.64 goals against average are pretty ordinary. Fleury’s value comes not from his consistency (where he boasts just a .528 quality start percentage), but in his sporadic brilliance. Six shutouts for the year ties him for the league lead, and hot goaltenders make Dallas Stars fans nervous. #Starsing as the kids say on the internet.
Jamie Benn was not on the ice for morning skate, so the projected lineup is updated based on lines from this morning.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Roope Hintz - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Denis Gurianov
Valeri Nichushkin - Jason Dickinson - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Jamie Oleksiak - Ben Lovejoy
Vegas Golden Knights Lineup
Jonathan Marchessault - William Karlsson - Mark Stone
Max Pacioretty - Paul Stastny - Reilly Smith
Brandon Pirri - Cody Eakin - Alex Tuch
Tomas Nosek - Pierre-Édouard Bellemare - Ryan Reaves
Nate Schmidt - Deryk Engelland
Brayden McNabb - Shea Theodore
Jon Merrill - Nick Holden
Keys to the Game
- Scoring has been a problem for the Stars. Fleury can get hot if they don’t get to him early. The Stars need to get to Fleury before he hits his comfort zone.
- Bringing in Zuccarello brought some hope, but with his broken arm and Jamie Benn’s upper body injury, Dallas is once again facing daunting adversity. Low event hockey put them in a playoff spot and it’s the team defense that will keep them there.
- Hockey games in Las Vegas generate a buzz. Don’t get too worked up, especially early. The team needs to control their emotions and stay out of the box.
- Dallas kept Mark Stone off of the score sheet in both games against the Ottawa Senators this year. There is no reason to not continue that trend. Let Vegas’ investment start to pay off against a different team.
Did you know?
There was a lot of head-scratching when Vegas signed fourth line strongman Ryan Reaves to a two-year, $5.5 million deal last June. Reaves has rewarded the Golden Knights with career highs in goals and points while maintaining his dominating physical game.