What If There Was No Trading or Free Agency in the NHL? aka, How Do We Get Harley into the Lineup for the '19-20 Season?

Never done one of these before, but my penchant for long comments apropos to nothing in the associated article has led me here. Plus, I have no money as all my friends invite me to go out with them, and there's no games on I care about tonight, so here are the ramblings of a broke, bored, 30something hockey nerd on a Friday night!

Folks have been talking a lot about Thomas Harley, recently. He's very good. He transitions well, has excellent vision, is positionally sound in his own end, and creative in the offensive end. These are all true facts about him. Some more true facts are: he's 18, he has a lot of growing left to do, his endurance is unknown, he has very little experience playing against grown men, and regardless of merit or skill, he's pretty far down Monty's depth chart. Don't get mad at me for that. Or do, I can't really control how you choose to react. But I can definitively say that I neither have the power, nor the time, will, or desire to try and change anything about it. As my redneck uncle once said on national television while stranded at the Denver airport during a series of large blizzards sweeping across the nation, "It is what it is."

Or Is it? What if we change the rules, and force Monty and Nill's hand to do something different? What if we took away their ability to block the kids from coming up sooner, and put all our draftees in the best possible situation to get NHL minutes right away?

What if we took away the GM's ability to trade, and sign free agents?

First of all, It'd be a very unfulfilling job. Once a year, you'd gather your scouts and execs, look at a few scouting reports, make 7 decisions, and then sit on your hands until next June. Secondly, these poor teenagers would be sitting there knowing that some weird, old man they've never met is about to determine the next 20 years of their life. This was not supposed to be such a depressing post. Let's get back on topic, and build the 2019-2020 Dallas Stars roster, based on their drafting history alone.

But first, we need some ground rules:

  1. All eligible players must be drafted by the Dallas Stars, and currently have a contract in the NHL.
  2. Players are judged based on recent performance, and how they project for next season. I'd love to have 2008 Morrow on this team, but time machines don't exist in this fictional world.
  3. All previous drafts went exactly as they did in real life. We'll just pretend things frequently got altered, giving the Stars a few extra picks some years, and a few less in other years...hey, it's not like the current NHL rulebook is any less convoluted.
  4. Undrafted FA's don't count. We have to draft the player if we want to use them. Why? Because you know Monty is taking the bigger, older, more experienced Gleason over Harley this season if given the option, and the entire point of this exercise is to get Harley on the roster.
  5. I didn't worry about the cap, because I was confident I wouldn't need to, and after construction, I was right, but I wanted to include that as a non-rule, here, in case you decide to play along :-)
  6. Honka. He doesn't have a contract, so he in no way factors into this conversation, but The Honka Rule states that he be mentioned in every post. I said his name here, so no one is obligated to bring him up in the comments now.

OK, enough rules, disclaimers, and unnecessarily defensive statements. Here's my team and how I'd construct the lines:

Jamie Benn - Roope Hintz - Denis Gurianov
Jason Dickinson - Radek Faksa - Reilly Smith
Mattias Janmark - Ty Dellandrea - James Neal
Nicholas Caamano - Colton Sceviour - Alex Chiasson

Devin Shore, Loui Eriksson

Miro Heiskanen - John Klingberg
Esa Lindell - Matt Niskanen
Thomas Harley - Jamie Oleksiak

Gavin Bayreuther

Jack Campbell
Jake Oettinger

Benn and Hintz are no surprise on the top line. Gury is put next to Hintz, with the hope they capture that AHL chemistry from years past. The second line is really a skilled checking line, which matches against other teams top lines most often. Neal goes to the strong forechecking 3rd line with the expectation of finishing Dell's beautiful set ups. Sceviour centers the 4th line because the team needs more veteran presence. Shore has never been the type of player who sticks on any line, so he gets put as 13th forward, even though he's likely playing 70+ games, while Caamano is the most likely to bounce in and out of the lineup all season long. Eriksson gets paid handsomely to eat nachos.

The Stars have let exactly one good defensemen leave their ranks in the past 10 years, so the only visitor we have from another team is Niskanen, who fits rather nicely into our top 4. I like him next to Lindell, since he can move the puck and transition well, letting us supercharge the top pairing with our 2 super studs, but he'd be great with Miro, too. Definitely want to shelter that bottom pair, as you have a relative unknown and a zone exit nightmare, there.

There are 3 goalies with NHL contracts drafted by the Stars. 1 of them has NHL experience, so the only real choice to make is Otter or Point. Otter looks better, so far.


Not sure if there's anything to be gleaned from this exercise, but it's done, and the consequences are imminent. Our forward corps and goalies are much improved by trades and FA signings. We haven't drafted anyone quite like Seguin, Pavelski, or Rads in the past 15 years, and Bish/Dobby will be vying for best goalie tandem in the league again next season. But that defense is interesting. It all stems from a decision made 9 years ago, and resurrecting dead horses just to beat them back to death would be both cruel and unusual.

Would Niskanen be a better partner for Miro than Sekera? Could Harley outperform all of Polak, Fedun, Hanley, Gleason, Bayreuther, Heatherington, and anyone else Monty has above him on the depth chart, if given the chance next season? The answer to both is...quizas, quizas, quizas.

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