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Matching Minors: Proposing Six Trades Dallas Could Make, Ranked From Boring to Pipe Dream

Hockey insiders have called the 2023 trade deadline the deadline. There’s the usual cast of role players—the Barclay Goodrow and Ben Chiarot types—available from failing teams. But there are also big names with serious pedigree, like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. This season is adding the twist of the flat cap (or just plain bad decision-making from the top, like in Vancouver) squeezing out premier talents like Bo Horvat and Timo Meier. Teams considered contenders, like St. Louis, are suddenly not, further adding potential chips to the pot like Ryan O’Reilly or Vlad Tarasenko.

It’s safe to say we’ll see many selling teams due to the upcoming stacked draft class of 2023. Many potential trades may also materialize very close to the actual trade deadline due to accruing team cap space and the actual players’ contracts AAV value going down as the season progresses. The question remains: can the teams be creative enough with the flat salary cap and 19 teams operating with long-term injury reserve cap space?

So far we’ve heard mostly just vague rumors. Whatever player you think will help Dallas the most, it’s fair to say that the ideal world involves the Stars grabbing a middle six winger, and a defensemen. In fact, Puck Luck Analytics guru has a helpful chart highlighting what Dallas needs and lacks.

We’ve been hounding the idea of trading for an impact defenseman long enough this season to know one thing: Finding one at the reasonable price might be a challenge. Is their current group of seven rotating defensemen enough for making a Cup push? Probably not. Does it need a jolt of new energy, ideally in the form of an impact player? Absolutely.

The other factor to consider is whether this is the year for Jim Nill to push his chips in. There are two schools of thought. The first is that Dallas has worked diligently at the draft to ensure the Stars have a bright future: Logan Stankoven (a shameless plug for JK), Lian Bichsel (and a shameless plug for DC), Mavrik Bourque, Thomas Harley, etc. Whatever Nill has up his sleeve, the future will be brighter with them on the roster. The second is that nobody remembers promises and prospects. They remember history. Dallas has this year and next to capitalize on Joe Pavelski’s unlikely prime. Why not do whatever it takes to maximize that window to win hockey’s ultimate prize?

Among the untouchables should obviously be Logan Stankoven and Mavrik Bourque, no matter the realistic acquisition. We’d be willing to listen to offers for Thomas Harley or Christian Kyrou at maximum but it comes with a fair warning, that the window is opening for the Stars. You will need that cheap young talent in Bichsels, Harleys, Kyrous and others although there is an obvious need to be creative when proposing deals in the current NHL fiscal climate.

And while the need for creativity is vital, so is our appetite to hit on at least one of our proposals. That’s why we will try to be as realistic as possible, taking into the consideration the true value of Dallas Stars assets and not facilitating dreamland scenarios, such as offloading Anton Khudobin or Radek Faksa’s contracts without paying a significant price to do so.

However, we wanted to make these proposals fun, too. That’s why we’ve decided to rank them into three main categories:

  • The first one is realistic trade and feel free to name this category boring as well. You know, those types of deals that Jim Nill–and other GMs– love to make and could actually become rather significant come playoff time (hello, Michal Kempný?).
  • The second one is the sexy trade option out there. The type of player that you’d love to have on your roster and just–maybe just–you can also afford him, somehow.
  • The third one, a pipedream scenario. You see these types of deals all over Twitter and in the Cap Friendly Armchair GM section. But it’s still fun to try to make some of them work for both teams. Basically sell the whole farm to get the star player you covet kind of thing. That’s why we’re tempted to call the category galaxy-brain, too. /

So without further ado, here they come. The actual trade proposals:

David’s Trade Proposal No. 1 (Realistic aka Boring)

Dallas receives: Nick Bjugstad

Arizona receives: 4th round pick in 2023 and a 3rd round pick in 2024

David (explanation): I don’t actually like this move on the surface. For one, it doesn’t put Dallas over the top. Two, this is Bjugstad’s 11th NHL season, and he’s never exactly lit the world on fire. The third reason is even more important: his primary linemates, Lawson Crouse and Matias Maccelli, are better players which explains why he’s producing better. So why is this mountain of evidence not enough? I’m still holding out hope where we one day live in a parallel universe where they split the damn top line up. I won’t revisit that argument (itself revisited from a point about last season’s roster which remains relevant) here. It’s self-evident: Dallas doesn’t have John Tavares behind Auston Matthews, Steven Stamkos behind Brayden Point, David Pastrnak behind Patrice Bergeron, or last year’s Nazem Kadri behind Nathan MacKinnon. I only mention it because it’s that world where Bjugstad is a great addition.

Dom Luszczyszn wrote a great piece explaining why Seattle is suddenly an unlikely contender. Rather than build from the top down, they’ve focused on building from the bottom up, creating a bottom six that outperforms the average bottom six at an absurd level. Dallas isn’t built that way, but it’s possible they can have their cake and eat it too:

Robertson – Seguin – Pavelski
Marchment – Hintz – Gurianov
Benn – Johnston – Bjugstad
Kiviranta – Faksa – Dellandrea

You can swap Bjugstad and Dellandrea if you like, or even Bjugstad for Gurianov, putting Dellandrea back, and moving Gury down to the 4th. The point here is that as much as we fixate on the top line, goals aren’t the problem. Possession is. I have a hard time believing that this lineup can’t drive play at a high level. Bjugstad, a toolsy middle six winger, feels like the ideal quiet addition for a quiet contender.

Juraj: Honestly, from all the trades we will propose today, this one might be the most realistic one. I’ve tweeted before that Nick Bjugstad would be your ideal sneaky addition if you’re a contender as I’m not a big believer in spending too much during the trade deadline. For the last few years, this has been a seller’s world with depth guys like Ben Chiarot or David Savard fetching first round picks and costing the acquiring teams way more than they have brought back. The price seems okay, as I believe Bjugstad is worth around a third rounder, but as I said, it’s also a sellers market out there.

Juraj’s Trade Proposal No.1 (Realistic aka Boring)

Dallas receives: Sam Lafferty

Chicago receives: Riley Damiani and a 5th round pick in 2024

Juraj (explanation): This is the kind of deal Jim Nill likes to do and is a little bit similar to the Shore for Cogliano swap. What intrigues me about Lafferty is his ability to kill penalties while also adding a bit of a scoring touch to the roster. This might not be the sexiest option out there, but he is signed through the next season as well at a very moderate cap hit of $1.15 million. He’d also be an ideal replacement for the probable departure of Luke Glendening.

Sending Riley Damiani away could seem like an overpay at first, but he kinda fell down the depth chart a little bit in the Stars system and might use a change of scenery. He could thrive in Chicago, though. And we all know that 5th round pick from Dallas has arguably bigger value than from any other team. I could also see the Stars send Jacob Peterson to Chicago instead of Damiani in this kind of deal.

David: I like where your head’s at. Unfortunately, us bantering back and forth about how to improve the fourth line and why it’s so meaningful might actually lose us clicks, so let’s strip this discussion of nuance and fast forward to the clickbait: I don’t like Lafferty because I’m always skeptical of players with strong defensive metrics (which admittedly Lafferty has) who don’t generate offense. Jason Dickinson was a lot like that. If good offense comes from good defense as they say, then where’s the offense? Players like that make me think they’re headed for some kind of regression. Lafferty would be an upgrade over Glendening. I’d add a caveat about low bars, and faint praise, but it feels passive aggressive enough on its own.

Juraj: Oh, I like that we may disagree on something because oftentimes I feel we see the Stars through similar lenses – which is not a bad thing – but I’d argue a bit of a back-and-forth is vital. Lafferty’s offensive impacts are above league average while his penalty killing underlying stats are among the league best. The reason why I’m doing this trade as a GM is that it a) improves your depth in a similar way with Nick Bjugstad but you also add a natural Glendening replacement for the next season with cap certainty, and b) you don’t need to overpay during free agency. And if it doesn’t work, you can bury Lafferty in the minors without any cap concerns. The only caveat I would mention is this could also easily be a summer trade. Is it boring? Absolutely. So let’s move to some deeper (sexier?) waters.

David’s Trade Proposal No.2 (Sexy … or Stupid?)

Dallas receives: John Klingberg, 50 percent retained (whoa whoa whoa—hold your damn overreaction horses, people)

Anaheim receives: 2nd round pick in 2024, Denis Gurianov

David (explanation): I know. And I know. This trade is more stupid than sexy. And I’m not even sure how serious I am. Let’s talk about all the reasons this trade works off the ice. For one, Klingberg’s value is somewhere between the bottom of the Mariana Trench, and the plastic we find at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. This means if Dallas wanted Klingberg, they could have him. They won’t have to worry about having to overbid, and it’ll be great for optics: “we’re getting the band back together!!” So not only is there no challenge to acquiring him, no major assets Nill will need to give up, but it’s also a feel-good story for everyone involved (again, we’re not talking about the on-ice part yet). Given the fact that Klingberg fired his agent, I don’t believe Klingberg blames Dallas for not getting that deal done. In addition, Anaheim is one of the few teams who may feel like Gury is value added. They’re extremely weak on the right side, so there’s also that.

As far as on-ice value, I have no real argument here. Except that Dallas needs an impact player behind Heiskanen. Is Klingberg that player anymore? I have a hard time believing Klingberg is as bad as he’s looked so far in Anaheim. Yes, Klingberg was seeing a decline before he got to Anaheim, but he’s still an elite passer. Per Corey Sznajder, Klingberg is assisting on 7.51 shots per 60. Nobody in Dallas comes close to that rate. Heiskanen is the best Dallas has and he’s assisting on only 5.83 shots per 60. A few other things help Dallas with Klingberg’s presence: Klingberg would take Suter off the second unit. Or he takes Heiskanen off the first unit and Heiskanen goes back to the second unit. There’s nothing wrong with Dallas’ power play, granted, but elite teams should be able to boast areas of excess. This would mean that Lundkvist becomes the 7th d-man, or potentially even goes back down to Cedar Park. I like Lundkvist, but I’m trying to look at it from Dallas’ likely perspective. They’re clearly not that enthused by Lundkvist—at least not in high pressure situations. Two of Heiskanen’s partners have been healthy scratched, and another one is the guy who should have been scratched for them instead (Ryan Suter). Is Klingberg really a downgrade by comparison, even with his value in the tank?

Juraj: You know my love for John Klingberg still hasn’t gone anywhere, so to see him suit up for the Stars once again would be an eye-watering experience for me, just for the nostalgia purposes only. But let’s get to the nitty-gritty of the trade. I like it and I hate it at the same time. What I like: your explanation of the trade. It could even serve as an offensive security blanket in case Heiskanen goes down with an injury, god forbid. The domino effect to kick out Suter from the second power-play unit is also a strong argument. Everything makes sense, right until the last thought.

While having Lundkvist play for the Texas Stars may seem like an option if he continues being healthy scratched along the way, this was the same exact reason why he didn’t want to continue with the New York Rangers. He’s an NHL defenseman already and a great one in the making. He’s further on his development journey than, say, Thomas Harley who we can all agree should also be in the NHL. I’m not saying he (Harley) would make the same impact as Stephen Johns did in 2015-16, but we’re also not exactly saying he won’t once he gets that chance. He is an overall much better option – and free! – than Klingberg.

I wouldn’t underestimate the power of a great offseason preparation for Klingberg. Just look at Erik Karlsson’s resurgence. This year? I’m just simply not doing the move, not because it’s bad but because I don’t trust the organization to organize musical chairs (aka the six defensemen playing) properly.

Juraj’s Trade Proposal No.2 (Sexy … Definitely Sexy)

Dallas receives: Kevin Labanc at $4 million AAV through 2023-24 (15% retained – $725k)

San Jose receives: 2nd round pick in 2023, 6th round pick in 2024, and Denis Gurianov

Juraj (explanation): While adding a depth forward is a low-cost option for the Stars to improve the depth, going after a bigger fish and the subsequent domino effect is a surer thing when it comes to roster construction and the necessary ability to strike within all four lines, especially during the playoffs. I went back and forth between Tyler Bertuzzi, Travis Konecny, and Labanc among the “sexy” options here, but eventually chose Labanc for a couple of reasons.

He may not cost as much as Konecny and is still signed through the next season. San Jose could also be willing to eat a small portion of his cap hit and could be an interesting destination for Denis Gurianov, who can have a fresh start and top-six opportunity in the same way Alexander Barabanov had departing from a stacked Toronto Maple Leafs team.

I specifically constructed my offer so that I can make both of my trade proposals during this year’s trade deadline and still stay within the salary cap this year and the next. While I know some fans may argue my two moves could potentially block Logan Stankoven from asserting himself in the lineup next year, this is what the great teams actually do. They stack up talent. Just imagine this for the rest of the season if both of my proposals would materialize:

Robertson – Hintz – Pavelski
Marchment – Seguin – Labanc
Benn – Johnston – Dellandrea
Kiviranta – Faksa – Lafferty/Glendening

Which could become this in the 2023-24 season:

Robertson – Hintz – Pavelski
Labanc – Seguin – Stankoven
Benn – Johnston – Dellandrea
Marchment – Faksa – Lafferty
(Bourque being the first call-up option)

Yes, it would cost draft capital. But it would also provide the Stars with much needed forward depth. If I have to choose one deal I make this coming March, I’m obviously choosing the Labanc deal. And yes, before you say it, I can see Mason Marchment being a force in the bottom-six role. That fourth line has some fun zing to it, albeit a pricey one.

David: Add the DeBoer connection as well, who Lebanc credits for his development. I’ve got nothing to add here. Labanc is exactly the kind of player Dallas needs: a toolsy, right shot winger who is particularly good in transition, and stout defensively.

My lineup looks like this though:

Robertson – Seguin – Pavelski
Marchment – Hintz – Labanc
Benn – Johnston – Dellandrea
Kiviranta – Faksa – Glendening

As good as Stankoven is at center, Dallas doesn’t have a choice. They’ll probably just plug him into Glendening’s spot next year. My only criticism is what you’re offering San Jose. Not only is Labanc a good player, but he’s a good player signed through 2023-24 as well. If I’m GM Mike Grier, I’m politely telling you to micturate off. “I’ll retain some salary, Jimmy, but I want Ty Dellandrea.” (Grier has talked openly about the kind of players they’re interested in. Gurianov doesn’t fit that bill. Dellandrea does. Hell Dellandrea plays a lot like Grier too.)

Juraj: I see your point. We’ve probably identified a right target for the Stars, now the price remains up for discussion. I’ve tried the Cap Friendly Trade Tool to see if the numbers would work even without retention and voilá!

(This cap calculation assumes the trade happening on March 1st)

Turns out Dallas doesn’t need San Jose to retain any salary this season. The one after this one is up for debate, but let’s keep that elephant in the room for summer. I’m not saying it’s not doable, but it would definitely require some workaround. Now, for the price: I’m keeping Gurianov in because you’ve got tomake the money work somehow. But maybe I’d upgrade that 6th rounder in 2024 to a 3rd round pick in the same year. That and no retention should be enough to make this trade work, and you get to keep Dellandrea. We happy, Vincent?

David: Oh, we happy.

David’s Trade Proposal No.3 (Pipe Dream aka Galaxy Brain)

Dallas receives: Jakob Chychrun, 4th round pick in 2024

Arizona receives: 1st round pick in 2024, 2nd round pick in 2023, Thomas Harley, Radek Faksa

David (explanation): If Dallas wants to take full advantage of the Pavelski Window, this is the kind of trade that can do it. Nill did the right thing in letting Klingberg go, but the Stars still obviously yearn for another impact defensemen. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if Klingberg’s absence isn’t having a domino effect on Miro Heiskanen. Heiskanen isn’t dominating in the defensive stats we typically expect, which I suspect is a function of opponents targeting the hell out of him knowing he’s all Dallas has. Chychrun would change that dynamic overnight, creating something like this:

Lindell – Heiskanen
Chychrun – Hakanpaa
Suter – Miller

I know, I know. I don’t like Miro on his weak side either. But we know he can handle it, we know Lindell can handle tough minutes, and anything to push Suter down the lineup is a win in my book. Yea, it’s tough giving up Harley (who I’m a huge fan of), but Chychrun would fit into Dallas’ short and long term plans. He’d also be a boon in DeBoer’s system, with its emphasis on defensemen breaking into the offensive zone (which Chychrun is elite at), generating shots (which he’s also elite at), but without sacrificing defense (which he’s admittedly less elite at, but he’s also not your typical puck-moving defenseman, with size and skill he utilizes in the defensive zone to consistently fend off forecheckers). I don’t know that this is the best deal Arizona can get. If I’m GM Bill Armstrong, I wait until the draft to trade him as a chip to move up or grab more first rounders. That’s why Dallas can’t blink. Make a solid offer. Give them a blue-chip defensive prospect. And throw them a bone (Faksa) when they trade Bjugstad.

Juraj: Going for Chychrun, who is the best defenseman available on the market, is the move you make to become an elite team. The problem with that? Dallas is not the only team in the league thinking that. The price would probably need to be way higher if you intend to include Radek Faksa in the deal also. However, I love the gumption of going for Chychrun. What would the Coyotes realistically accept then?

Your proposed offer is the baseline they would probably want, so say we keep Faksa in the deal. We really need to turn up the volume on that trade call, otherwise Doug Armstrong just switches to a different line – and there will be many. We all know what would make this trade probably done – and that is the inclusion of either Mavrik Bourque or Logan Stankoven, but we want to avoid that. How about another first round pick in 2025 though? The Coyotes still have a long way to go in their rebuild, not to mention their whole will-they-or-won’t-they NHL arena situation. So my upgraded offer would be: 2024 1st round pick, 2025 1st round pick, 2023 2nd round pick, Thomas Harley, and Radek Faksa.

David: Damn. When you put it like that, I’m not sure I like Chychrun that much. Then again, do we want to go to playoff jail or do we want to go home? I pull the trigger.

Juraj’s Trade Proposal No.3 (Pipe Dream aka Galaxy Brain)

Dallas receives: Filip Hronek, Jakub Vrána

Detroit receives: 2024 1st round pick (Top 10 protected), 2023 2nd round pick, Christian Kyrou, Denis Gurianov, Anton Khudobin

Juraj (explanation): This one is loaded, so bear with me. From Dallas’ perspective, you add exactly what you need on defense – an impact defenseman in Filip Hronek – but it comes with some baggage in the form of Jakub Vrána’s contract. That “baggage” desperately needs a change of scenery though, because at his best, he’s one of the most impactful 5v5 forwards in the league and if treated right, it *could* be exactly what Dallas needs on offense, too. There has been some tough love from Steve Yzerman towards Vrána and he also went unclaimed on waivers earlier this season. So does it mean no team in the league wants him? Not necessarily. It’s just his cap hit likely throwing teams off.

In this move, Detroit cuts ties with him at the cost of losing a great player on the right side of their defense who is 26 years old and already in his prime. Why is that important? Detroit’s contending window is not exactly correlating with Hronek’s prime, as I genuinely feel they are still at least a couple of years away from it. Hronek would also require a hefty raise after next season and they already have a younger Moritz Seider ahead of him on the depth chart. So why not capitalize on such an opportunity?

Aside from a couple high-end draft picks, they’d get a tantalizing young defensive prospect in Christian Kyrou to compensate for their loss on the blueline. Kyrou’s career trajectory may align with the Red Wings contention window much better than Hronek. For Vrána, they’d get another project in Denis Gurianov. Fortunately for the Wings, Gurianov is at least an RFA at the end of the season and if things don’t work out well, they could simply not qualify him in the summer.

We would need to throw Anton Khudobin in there to make the money work this season, but Detroit is already getting compensated very well in the draft picks department, so no need to add a further pick. The only caveat of this trade is that it leaves you with $181,621 above the salary cap ceiling according to the Cap Friendly Trade Tool. There may very well be a scenario of Nils Lunkdvist heading to the minors, not only to be cap compliant but also to get Lundkvist some playing time and take advantage of the fact that he’s still waiver exempt. You could then roll out defensive pairings of Heiskanen – Miller, Lindell – Hronek and Suter – Hakanpää, because we now know Dallas’ front office apparently still loves what Suter does on the ice. As for the forwards, if/when Jakub Vrána gets his mojo back, you could roll out three potentially very deadly lines, something resembling this:

Robertson – Seguin – Pavelski
Vrána – Hintz – Marchment
Benn – Johnston – Dellandrea

I know, I know. If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas, but this was a pipedream scenario, so I acted accordingly.

David: come again? I have to admit I needed at least a minute to come down from this “WTF” hangover you put me through with this one. I don’t even know where to start. Now I just feel bad for my pipedream offer being so lame by comparison. You’re certainly feeding two birds with one stone (hey, I like birds). I feel bad that we keep sacrificing Gurianov to the trade gods, but the writing is on the wall. (Quick question: would you make the same move if we had drafted Lane Hutson over Kyrou?) I actually really like this deal. I don’t think Hronek is the player he’s perceived as, and if Vrana keeps struggling, this whole thing just explodes in Dallas’ face. It’s worth noting that Tampa under Yzerman was rumored to be in on Gurianov in 2015 so unlike other GMs, Yzerman would have a frame of reference. For all of “Yzerman plays 11-dimensional chess” talk, he’s gambled on lots of hard cases besides Vrana as he drafted Tony DeAngelo and Jonathan Drouin. As much as I love the spirit on this one, I don’t bite. Vrana is elite no doubt. Hronek, however, is not. I’m a firm believer in Bourque and Stankoven. Dallas will have plenty of forward reinforcements in the near future whereas their defense needs a true impact player. For example, if I were going full ham like this, I’d just go all-in on Timo Meier and call it a day.

Juraj: As a classic would say, some men aren’t looking for anything logical in the galaxy-brain scenario. Some men just want to watch the world burn. But then again, I have to disagree on Hronek, he’s as impactful a defenseman as it gets for the modest money he counts against the cap with (Hronek’s cap hit is $4.4 million through the 2023-24 season). But don’t take my word for it, just have a look at his player card over at Andy&Rono’s:

He might do exactly what the Stars need him to do. Bump Suter from that PP2 unit and provide much needed depth on that right side of the blueline. With the emergence of Harley and the continued development of Nils Lunkdvist, the Stars defensive unit could evolve from average to high-end. How does Heiskanen – Hronek, Lindell – Lundkvist, Harley – Miller sound as your go-to defensive pairings? It almost feels Avalanche-like from their Stanley Cup season.

Closing Thoughts

Juraj: You’ve probably noticed a trend in my trade proposals. Each and every one of the four targeted players for this year’s deadline is signed also through the next season. Why is that? While I’m rooting for the Stars to break the playoff success barrier already this year, I still feel they have some ways to go roster-construction wise, as well as offloading some contracts that are arguably taking them down a bit. But that’s a good thing! It means they are on the verge of becoming perennial contenders and if they are about to make a splash, I want them to make a move that will last further than just this current season.

It’s about finding that right balance between over-committing to this year’s team while thinking about the future as well, because that might be filled with even more aggressive trade deadline approaches. Does the 2022-23 season deserve some jolt from the outside to come closer to the league’s elite? Absolutely. But so will next year’s edition of the Stars. That’s just my way of looking at things this deadline, as I’m not such a big believer in going for the biggest rental on the market and sacrificing the future just because it will look cool. Don’t rush it. Trust the process. The results will come, sooner or later. With this amount of talent on the team, probably sooner.

David: I genuinely don’t know what to think or how to feel about this deadline. And the same goes for the Stars. In addition, I don’t know what to think about what pushes Dallas over the top. Is it really a forward that takes them to the promised land? I’m a little skeptical. Dallas is scoring goals at a high level, but they’re not possessing the puck at a high level. Does one forward affect how well they control shot share? Same thing for their blueline. Is one impact defensemen gonna make the difference at crunch time?

You’ve talked a lot on social media about the “mushy middle” and that’s something one player won’t suddenly take away. I don’t know if this is the year for the Stars to push their chips in. What is their window? The Pavelski window? Or is it the window where Stankoven, Harley, and Bourque are on the roster?

That’s the question the organization should be asking themselves.

I don’t know if there’s a good answer. Maybe there isn’t. Maybe it comes down to what Nill hears in the locker room and from the coaches. What’s the pulse of this team’s belief that they can beat anybody in a seven-game series? That’s the great thing about being an armchair GM. It’s the coziest job in the world. Lots of luck, Jimmy. I’ll be rooting for you regardless.