Tyler Bertuzzi, Patrick Kane: Assessing Players The Stars Have Been Linked To In Advance Of The Trade Deadline

Dallas GM Jim Nill runs a notoriously tight-lipped ship. So what does it mean when they’re associated with players in the media as the trade deadline approaches?

I’ve covered the Dallas Stars for 12 seasons now, and one thing I know with 100% confidence as the trade deadline approaches is that the moves being considered by general manager Jim Nill aren’t usually leaked too far in advance of it actually happening. Nill runs a pretty tight-lipped team, with few moves widely known before the deal is done.

It’s a pattern Nill has had his entire tenure in Big D.

Tyler Seguin? Came completely out of nowhere, surprising most of us over the July 4th holiday nearly a decade ago. Nils Lundkvist? Interest from the Stars reportedly came almost a year before the trade was made, and nary a peep was seen about it until the team traded for the young defenseman early this season.

So what does it mean when the Stars have been linked to Patrick Kane consistently this year? Or is theorized to be interested in Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi, as Jeff Marek reported on 32 Thoughts on Sportsnet Saturday night?

Sometimes it means something, sometimes it means nothing.

It’s important to understand how trade rumors get started. At its core, trade rumors begin with one party speaking to someone in the media, that reports what they’ve been told after (presumably) getting collaboration from a second source. That initial contact could be anyone involved, and sometimes the motive isn’t just to alert of a move coming. It could be an agent trying to drum up interest in their player, it could be a team trying to sell higher interest on a player to drive up prices for other interested teams.

For whatever reason, Nill’s moves never seem to make it into the news cycle that often. So it’s fair to assess the reports of Dallas’ interest in the two players most noted as targets (Patrick Kane, Tyler Bertuzzi) with a hefty dose of cynical salt.

Kane is a known quantity. He’s been a scoring force on the Chicago Blackhawks for years. He’s also had a number of off-ice issues. Recently, though, Kane’s offensive production has not been enough to outweigh his lack of defensive deficiencies.

There’s also concerns about a “lingering” injury — reported to be a hip injury — that could impact his trade value and effectiveness until it is resolved. However, Kane himself says it’s overblown. “I’m not sure what the story is to be honest with you, but I feel better than I did last year,” Kane said last Thursday. “It’s just one of those things that maybe the story leaks out and it piles up a little bit.”

Maybe Dallas has a structured enough system to utilize Kane as a purer offensive player and power play specialist, sheltering him from the defensive side of the equation as much as possible. But with his cap hit, and his performance this season, acquiring Kane could very well blow up in their face and create an albatross they’d have to carry through the playoffs.

Not to mention the New York Rangers apparently moved on to their second target, Vladimir Tarasenko, after realizing the asking price for Kane was “too high”. Does Dallas want to trade a high-end prospect for a rental? If they feel that is the missing piece to go all the way, maybe they are willing to do it. But my gut from being around the team seems to point to they’re happy with the offensive production they’ve gotten this season - they’re 11th in the league in goals for as of Sunday night, and just barely out of the top 10 - and may not feel the need to add a big-name forward at the trade deadline.

So what abut Bertuzzi?

He had a career year last season, tallying 30 goals and 62 points in 68 games played. This season, he’s had a string of injuries that has kept him out, including not one but two(!) broken hands, one of which required surgery. In the 19 games he’s appeared in, he only has two goals and seven points.

Bertuzzi seems like the type of depth forward that you acquire for insurance for a long playoff run because he can slot into the middle six and play up if a top guy gets injured. He’s got a little sandpaper to his game, as some old-school hockey minds would call it. Here’s what our buddy JJ over at Wingin’ It In Motown gave as a little scouting report on Bertuzzi:

“Dogged player. Real hard to get away from the puck. One of those guys who just knows the right angles to approach. Hand-eye coordination is unreal. He makes real good passes about twice as often as he makes real dumb ones. Nobody ever knows what he’s going to do with the puck.”

That seems like a type of player Dallas doesn’t have in one single player in their lineup today, so it makes sense they could target him as a depth guy. Set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and carrying a $4.75 million cap hit, Bertuzzi could be an ideal rental acquisition for Dallas. His cap hit, should Dallas wait to acquire him on the trade deadline date of March 3rd, would be just over $1 million according to Cap Friendly. The Stars are projected to have around $1.6 million in cap hit space at the deadline, so Bertuzzi easily fits into this season.

This assumes, of course, that Dallas actually is interested in him. Given Nill’s track record, there’s no guarantee that there is fire with this smoke.