The final days of the NHL’s silly season are ticking off the clock. With Monday’s trade deadline looming, the NHL’s playoff aspirants are all eager to bilk the unfortunate dregs of the league. The Dallas Stars seem firmly fixed in the “buyers” category this year, but will they actually do anything? Should they do anything? There are certainly reasons not to, excuses even, but do they carry water?
They Don’t Have The Space To Make A Move
The Excuse: CapFriendly.com says the Stars currently have $815 against the salary cap. Yikes on bikes.
The Verdict: Wrong. While the Stars are well and truly up against the salary cap, GM Jim Nill still has the untapped potential of Martin Hanzal’s $4.75 million LTIR exemption. Given that any salary the Stars might take on would be pro-rated through the end of the season, $4.75 million is more than enough to cover all but the priciest of additions. Furthermore, a frugal Nill could always trade for retained salary or send pricey assets the other way. Gymnastics would be involved, but the idea that Dallas cannot make a move is incorrect.
Okay, Fine, They Do, But It Will Affect Next Year’s Cap
The Excuse: Recent seasons have seen the Stars shop in the top end of the free agent market. Next year’s high-dollar items include Tyler Seguin ($9.85 million), Jamie Benn ($9.5 million), Joe Pavelski ($7 million), and Alexander Radulov ($6.25 million). Meanwhile, suddenly significant pieces like Roope Hintz ($811,000), Denis Gurianov ($894,000), and Radek Faksa ($2.2 million) are going to need new contracts. Even if they could fit someone into this season’s cap, doing so would affect next season.
The Verdict: Flimsy, at best. For starters, many of the names on the market (Chris Kreider, for example) are pending unrestricted free agents. If Nill is that worried about the future, he can limit his targets to expiring deals.
Even if he doesn’t limit his targets, the idea that Dallas could not manage an addition with term is pure baloney. Yes, Gurianov and Hintz are going to get bumps, and Miro Heiskanen will follow the season after. Tricky, sure, but Mattias Janmark is $2.3 million of expendable as are Roman Polak ($1.75 million) and Andrej Sekera ($1.5 million). Anton Khudobin ($2.5 million) would hurt, but backup goaltenders (even the very best of the 1B types) are a luxury item. In an absolute pinch, the Stars could even spin Radek Faksa and turn duties on the checking line over to Jason Dickinson ($1.5 million). Ideal? No, but if it added a premium scorer, it might be worth it.
It’s Not All About Money — A New Player Could Mess Up The Room
The Excuse: By this point in the season, roles have settled and the Stars are a well-oiled machine. Any significant addition might upset the balance, throw off lines, and push the team into turmoil.
The Verdict: Boo-freaking-hoo. Just look at the roster. The Dallas Stars have added Stephen Johns, Sekera, Polak, Pavelski, Radulov, Blake Comeau, Andrew Cogliano in recent years, and last season, almost the entire Texas Stars blue line played at least a little. This is a mercenary league, and this team — a team already on its second coach of the season, by the way — is already an amalgamation of parts. If sliding one locker down is the last straw, this team lacks the fortitude to win the playoffs anyway.
Plus, It Will Cost Too Much
The Excuse: Blake Coleman, with 31 points (21 goals, 10 assists) and a 47.8% CF, just cost the Tampa Bay Lightning a first-round pick and a good prospect (Nolan Foote). If the Stars want to get better for the Stanley Cup, it’s going to be expensive.
The Verdict: Sort of? On the one hand, prices at the deadline are absurd and steep. Dallas has already sent away its second and third-round picks in this summer’s draft, and might be wary of kinking the proverbial hose by further depleting draft capital. Retaining picks would leave the likes of Jason Robertson, Ty Dellandrea, Thomas Harley, and Jake Oettinger as the major pieces of a deal. Again, yikes. None of the above makes a trade impossible, but it would be a swing-for-the-fences move. Risky.
It’s Not Like There’s Anyone The Stars Could Actually Use
The Excuse: Scoring is difficult to find under the best of circumstances. Even if the Stars are willing to pay, is there anyone worth buying?
The Verdict: Pretty fair. Is Kyle Palmieri really the guy? Or Kreider? What about Tomas Tatar? Not sure? Now you know how Nill must feel, because that’s the market. There are certainly options — maybe Josh Anderson or Andreas Athanasiou become healthy and productive — but when your marquee scorer (Kreider) has topped 50 points twice in an eight-year career, it’s fair to worry about overpayment.
They Don’t Need A Trade Anyway
The Excuse: The Stars are sixth in the NHL, second in the Western Conference, and seventh in points percentage. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The Verdict: Bleh. Yes, the overall results are good, but there are clear holes. Dallas is 23rd in goals per game, 23rd in shots per game, and their leading scorer sits 64th in the league. As good as the defense can be, imagine a world in which Dallas’ 2.70 GF/GP inches up past three. Give Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin a three-goal cushion and they might literally be able to enjoy a nice beer during the second period. Yes, it would be tricky, and sure, Nill would have to make the right offer but, but the idea that this team would not benefit from a trade is simply untrue.
In the end, there are many good reasons for the Stars to stand pat. This team is close enough, and the right kind of good to imagine a lengthy playoff run. With that said, it is equally easy to imagine a four-game, goalless bleh-fest from Dallas’ wayward offense torpedoing an otherwise promising postseason. This team has flaws, and the trade deadline represents one last shot at addressing those flaws. GM Nill owes it to his squad to at least consider a move.