Matching Minors: Seeking a Trading Partner at the End of the World
David and I ponder the state of the Stars, the strength of the market, and the merits of getting better tomorrow versus getting better right effing now.
So P.K. Subban is moving. Or not. Also, Steven Stamkos isn't. Or is he? I think Roman Polak got dealt. With the Trade Deadline looming, there's a distinct whiff of crazy in the air. Contenders line up the one last piece to put them over the top while also-rans line up for Auston Matthews.
For the first time in forever it feels like the Stars are one of the former. Does that mean a trade is coming? Should a trade be coming? Is it crazy to think GM Jim will pull another magic rabbit out of his mustache? It's a good thing you're a mind-reader, David, because I've got some questions!
First, do the Stars actually want to pull the trigger on a deadline move?
David: Deep down in places they don’t talk about at parties, they do. The nachos and beer part of Nill’s brain wants that Alex Edler on his wall. He needs Edler on his wall. We may weep for Honka, Dickinson, or whatever sexy prospect that may be lost to a big trade but that’s the luxury of not knowing what Nill knows. That’s Cedar Park’s loss, and while tragic, saves the blueline.
Wes: We need to know how far the Stars can really go. Rather, we need to know how far Jim Nil and company think this roster can go. The trade deadline has traditionally been a seller's market. Crap teams offload their one or two valuable players to aspirational squads attempting to address acute needs. It's not about overhauling a roster or addressing systemic issues. So, the question becomes, what can the Stars fix with a big swing?
David: Well, if we’re gonna bore our readers, we gotta tell the truth and the truth is boring; Dallas has enough needs to let their prospects marinate until they can contribute full time. Right now they need a real penalty killer. But not just any PK contributor. I’m talking a mean motor scooter. Someone that kills like a mutant horror movie monster strongly against premarital sex, and drugs.
Wes: This times a thousand, but do you go shopping? Montreal (6th), New Jersey (7th), and Buffalo (8th) make sense as dance partners. They’re all in the league’s top 10 in terms of the PK and likely looking towards next season. Alternatively, the Stars could choose to wait until rosters expand and let Radek Faksa do the job.
David: Montreal’s PK is driven by an all star defensemen, and Buffalo’s is driven by superber scouting of opponent Power Plays and coaching. New Jersey makes sense. Perhaps John Moore?
Then there’s the blueline. I personally believe, and I sometimes think I’m in no man’s land here, that Dallas has two different types of needs on the blueline. First, another Nemeth type; as in, a defensemen who can contribute to the PK. And then a dancer; as in, someone who can make Dallas’ transition game better (this is why I disgust readers with my love for Honka). Few of those on the blueline can actually skate it out to counter a forecheck; it’s always hot potato from the blueline, either up the boards, or stretch passing.
Wes: Variety, yes! By playing time, Dallas’ defense really has four meaningful parts: Jason Demers (6’1" 200 lbs), Alex Goligoski (5’11" 185 lbs), John Klingberg (6’2" 180 lbs), and Johnny Oduya (6’0" 185 lbs). Demers and Goose are more physical than you’d think, but neither is physically imposing. Patrik Nemeth has shown flashes. If the Stars think his 15 minutes per night can turn into 17 or 18 that might do the trick. If they don’t, do you risk flipping an expiring contract (Goose? Demers?) for immediate help?
David: There’s enough potential on the blueline and in Cedar Park that you take some risks with the prospects. After the deadline, Dallas can take advantage of the roster expansion. Nill may be speaking politically when he talks about the place for certain prospects, but I think he’s comfortable with letting Oleksiak and Jokipakka watch from afar in case of injuries given their knowledge of the system, and potential to play serviceable hockey.
Wes: And they might need immediate help. The boys in Victory Green are a bottom 10 squad in goals against (2.78 per game) and sport the league's 25th ranked penalty kill. Though still dynamic, a handful of recent slumps raise serious questions about consistency in the non-Spezza/Seguin/Benn portions of Dallas' offense.
Are there solutions on the market, with 22 games to play, that could add a round or two to the Stars' post-season progression?
David: The problem with the bottom six is that they’re basically angry bird versions of the top six. Eakin, Roussel, and Fiddler are pressure players. That’s fine. They’re actually quite above average offensively in their roles. But Dallas doesn’t need offense. Guys like Antoine Vermette, Boyd Gordon, Cogliano, and Silfverberg...that’s what Dallas needs. Players who aren’t enthusiastic about defense. But players who are scientific about defense.
Wes: Scientific. I like that. What about Paul Gaustad in Nashville? Personally, I’d ask Buffalo about David Legwand or maybe ask Montreal about Tomas Fleischman.
So let's assume for a minute the answer to Question #1 is "yes." In that case, we need to look at what the Stars will need to surrender to get a deal done. Who are the "right now" assets on their current roster? If the Stars are all in on this season, they're not discount shopping. That means pieces off the main roster are heading the other direction, not just futures.
David: This is a tough question because everyone’s first answer is Ales Hemsky. But Hemsky contributes to Dallas’ unique rhythm, and the fact that Roussel-Janmark-Hemsky is a third line at times really emphasizes the team’s depth. The real answer is Cody Eakin. But everybody already knows that. Janmark and Faksa have solidified themselves. And Dickinson is lights out on Cedar Park (though Dallas may bring him along slowly as a potential Spezza replacement). So other than Eakin? Val Nichushkin.
Dallas doesn’t have a ton of depth at RW when you look at Cedar Park. So Nill is mindful of this. But it’s filled with free agents who will be there until guys like Guryanov are ready. Thankfully Ritchie could be ready now. Nichushkin is the type of blue chip talent GM’s consider part of a team’s "future". Do I think it’s the right move? No. He’s kind of incredible in the corners, and has the vision to make plays. Give him another season or two to start lamenting his ceiling. But if they needed to get something done, you have to give to get.
Wes: If the package for defensive help is Valeri Nichushkin + prospects, do you swing a deal? If you have to include Cody Eakin (not in the same deal necessarily), what do you do about a depth chart that suddenly reads Seguin/Spezza/Fiddler down the middle? Jason Demers and Alex Goligoski both have expiring contracts, there's value there, but how on earth does dealing D help the Stars? Ales Hemsky? Colton Sceviour? Need I remind you that Jamie Oleksiak and Patrik Nemeth haven't exactly played their way into Grade A status this season. Do you think the Stars have the bodies in-house to go after a marquee target?
David: I think they do. The Texas Stars have one of the better offenses in the league, and I’d argue that their entire blueline (Honka, Lindell, Johns, Backstrom, Bystrom, and even Blacker) would interest a GM looking for potential. But all of Dallas’ value is tied up in their prospects, where value is kind of mercurial.
Wes: To me, those guys feel like the type that would be involved in off-season moves. Is Montreal going to accept guys that aren’t currently in the NHL as part of a Subban trade? A team like Arizona would take futures, but who do they have, really?
Which leads us back to my simple starting question. Let's say you're Jim Nil and you've decided to deal. Who ya got? Pitch me a win-now deal. Sell me on a swap that puts Dallas past the Blues or the Hawks and into at least the Conference Finals.
David: Petr Mrazek. I mean, Hampus Lindholm. Wait...realistically?
Wes: Two moves come to mind. If the Stars truly believe they’re close, I’d make a run at Subban. Goligoski or Demers check the "Quality NHLer / decent contract" boxes, Valeri Nichushkin brings size and potential to a Canadiens offensive group without much of either, and a you-pick-em from the defensive stable might make the difference. If the Stars are pulling in Subban, Honka is going to be surplus anyways. Duct-tape him to Oleksiak and let ‘er rip!
The other move I’d make is Drouin. Outside of Dickenson and Shore, I’m actually not thrilled at the Stars’ organizational offensive depth. There aren’t a ton of A-listers lingering. Since Drouin isn’t currently playing in the NHL, you could possibly grab him for non-roster assets, and while I had Stevie Y on the phone, I’d ask about Stamkos. Not as a cap-destroying long-term signing, but as a mercenary "this year" ploy.
David: Always on the Honka Trade Truck, you wicked wicked man. But yea, I wouldn’t hesitate to trade him for Subban. If Bergevin wanted a 1st, Ritchie, Honka, Goligoski, Lehtonen, and Nichushkin I’d say "deal". Sportlogiq did a tally on the defensemen who touch the puck the most. Number one on that list? PK Subban. He’d exaggerate the team’s strengths without emphasizing their weaknesses. He’s also the opposite of locker room cancer, and would fit right into the personalities on the Stars team. To say nothing of the how much Dallas hockey would benefit, community wise.
Drouin used to yell back at his coach when he’d overstay his shifts while playing for the Mooseheads. I’d love to have him just to see him do that to Ruff. I agree though. Wing is a wasteland on the farm. Dallas might be more inclined to pick from Chiarelli’s fruit since Edmonton is willing to trade everyone. Eberle perhaps? I’d be more than willing to ship them a bunch of really good Cedar Park defensemen for Draisaitl. It never hurts to ask; a principle that worked like a charm in Boston.