It’s January in the hockey world. That means two things: that we are starting to see what team will compete for playoff spots, and that trade rumors are really starting to heat up. On Twitter, on blogs, on fan boards, and even on nightly NHL Network shows. The rumor machine is starting to kick it into high gear and there is no stopping it. It can be fun to listen to and read about, but putting trust in 95% of it will just bring letdowns and headaches.
So where do the Dallas Stars fit into everything this season? Last year I think most of us didn’t expect for the Stars to make a big trade in the second half of the season. They didn’t have ownership still, money was tight, and GM Joe Nieuwendyk really looked like he had his hands tied unless he moved Brad Richards and decided to give up on the season. But then Nieuwy made a move that few of us might have seen coming. Young power forward James Neal was on his way to the Pittsburgh Penguins with struggling defenseman Matt Niskanen and the Stars received a young puck-moving defenseman in Alex Goligoski that they wanted. Despite the argument that Dallas might have overpaid, they did make a move during a time that it seemed they would have little ability to pull one off.
Fast forward a year and things are starting to kick up again. The Stars are again in the playoff picture, but are again having injury issues and inconsistent efforts that are leaving them bouncing around the final playoff spot. But what the Stars do have this season is new ownership. With Tom Gaglardi now in place, the Stars do have an owner willing to spend some money. He has already said he does not plan to keep the Stars close to the salary-cap floor. So with the team struggling at times and now without Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro, some fans are eager to see GM Joe and the team make a big move.
While adding a top-line forward like Bobby Ryan, Derek Roy, or even the very unlikely Zach Parise would be exciting and fun to bring in. But do the Stars really have the pieces to perform such a deal? Bringing in a top line player requires sending out quite a bit in return. Who can the Stars move? Obviously Benn and Eriksson are untouchable, and they should be. Ribeiro could be someone a top playoff team would be interested in, but making such a move would probably bring in youth and not another top player. Michael Ryder should bring in interest from teams as well, but the Stars just signed him and moving Ryder would probably bring in youth as well, plus probably hurt their chances of competing this season. Many of the Stars players that I would move would probably bring in lesser players or really youth and picks. Nicklas Grossman, Stephane Robidas, and Tom Wandell would be pieces, but nothing big. And Joe’s style and philosophy of building through drafting and youth probably means he wouldn’t be likely to move high picks or good prospects unless the deal really fit.
Where Stars fans should expect things to change is in the summer. Free agency might be the first place that we really see Tom’s big bucks shake things up. Expect small moves, maybe something to bring in some depth or add a player for the run towards the playoff. But unless the Stars and Joe see a deal that really works for them, don’t hold your breath waiting for a big move. Right now Dallas just is not loaded with pieces to make a big move without taking away from the core of the team and its youth. The plan is in place, the prospects are starting to come, and this summer’s draft is supposed to be one of the biggest in years. For another 3-4 months, the Stars should really just stay the course and I’d expect nothing less from Joe Nieuwendyk.
Topics: Alex Goligoski, Bobby Ryan, Brad Richards, Dallas Stars, Derek Roy, James Neal, Joe Nieuwendyk, Matt Niskanen, Michael Ryder, Nicklas Grossman, Pittsburgh Penguins, Stephane Robidas, Tom Gaglardi, Zach Parise