In the Buy Or Sell series, I’ve been talking about what approach the Dallas Stars should take at the NHL trade deadline and what players could be discussed. But through the series, I’ve talked primarily about what other teams could want from the Stars and what players they could be better off trading. Today I want to talk about what the Stars should be looking to gain at the deadline, either from trading for youth or even adding on players.
Let’s start in net. The Dallas Stars seem to be set with the emergence of Richard Bachman. We all have witnessed what Kari Lehtonen has done for the team since he was acquired two years ago. He has risen to the level of a true number one netminder and the team often wins games because he is a big part of their effort. The Stars now have Bachman rising as a viable backup and someone who could press to be something more in the future, while they still have former 1st round pick Jack Campbell down in major juniors. Past that the Stars even have former 2nd round pick Tyler Beskorowany in the system and starting to come along. As far as netminders go, the Stars are probably set unless they trade one for some reason.
The defense is where things really get interesting in my opinion. While the Stars have recently signed Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley to big deals in the last two seasons, a lot of the defense is still up in the air. Nicklas Grossman and Sheldon Souray will both be free agents and we don’t know if either will be back. Past that, Adam Pardy shouldn’t be on the NHL roster and while I love Stephane Robidas, we all know he might only be a top four NHL defenseman for another year or two. But after that the Stars are starting to pile youth. Mark Fistric and Philip Larsen are in the NHL right now, and Larsen looks like he could be another Goligoski/Sydor type in a couple of years. The system features big prospects in Jamie Oleksiak and Brenden Dillion that could be top four, physical defensemen in a few years and a slew of projects like Jordie Benn, Troy Vance, and Patrik Nemeth that they hope can become something with time and work.
But the Stars are definitely still missing something at the NHL level. The defense is missing that top-pairing talent. A Shea Weber or Jack Johnson or Kris Letang type of defenseman that can play in all situations and just looks like a stud in almost every game. But so are about half of the teams in the league. Finding one elite defenseman, much less two to really contend, is really hard. The Stars could have one in the making with Oleksiak. But if the team is going to make a trade at the deadline, especially if they move a veteran to look for youth, they should definitely looking for a little more defensive help to either bolster the system or try to gain another big, blueline prospect.
And finally the forwards. They obviously have to two nice, top-six guys in Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson up at the top. And while some of the fanbase, including myself, have not fully been supportive of Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro this year, both are players that I would put in the top-sixe forwards for a lot of teams. And let’s not forget, Michael Ryder has been a great signing and he leads the Stars in goals so far this season. But after that? Steve Ott is a great player and he can fill a lot of roles, but truthfully I see him as the perfect two-way third line center who at times jumps up when needed or when injuries hit, not as a full-time top-line guy like he has been used this season. I feel the same way about Eric Nystrom. He provides a lot from the third line, but I don’t think he should be on one of the top lines. Then they have a plethora of bottom-six forwards currently in Vernon Fiddler, Adam Burish, Tom Wandell, Jake Dowell, Radek Dvorak, Toby Peterson and probably a few more guys I’ve forgotten.
From there the team again has a lot of young guys in the system that looks like they can reach the NHL level, but it is hard to tell if any of them are top-line guys. Tomas Vincour, Matt Fraser, and Scott Glennie are all guys that could be on the NHL roster next season or be fighting for ice-time, and all three have spent time in Austin this season (with Glennie being the only one not to get called up yet). Past that the Stars have three guys that are currently playing in the NCAA in Reilly Smith, Alex Chiasson, and Austin Smith that are showing potential but the Stars will have to see how they transition from college hockey to the pros. But the Stars have a glaring lack of center prospects. Glennie can play center or RW, but other than him, the pool is thin. Both in the NHL and in their system, the Stars have an obvious lack of depth and offensive firepower at center. And while guys like Ott and Benn have tried to transition to center and help the team, the franchise is missing something down the middle. Capable centers not only help wingers shine, but also are extremely important to winning games at the pro level. Most of the top “contenders” in the NHL all feature three or more good centers and there is a reason that those teams are considered strong teams. The Stars can move veterans like Robidas or Morrow if they choose to for youth, or they could look to add on middle-aged players to try and improve their chances for this season, but either way they need to look for centers as returns for trades if they want forwards. Right wing looks a little weak right now, but three of those “strong” prospects I listed play along the right side and the team could be fine in a year.
In the end the Stars needs are the same ones we have been talking about all season. Benn is nice at center, but does the office really want him staying at center for his whole career? The team is still missing depth and top-end talent at center, and while the defense is improving, the Stars still need to gain physicality and that top-pairing anchor. Will they look to fill some of these holes in the coming weeks? Or will they patch things over for now and look to really make changes in the summer? I have a feeling the latter is more likely to happen, but who knows.
Topics: Alex Goligoski, Brenden Morrow, Dallas Stars, Jack Campbell, Jamie Benn, Jamie Oleksiak, Kari Lehtonen, Matt Fraser, NHL Trade Deadline, Nicklas Grossman, Philip Larsen, Philip Larseon, Reilly Smith, Richard Bachman, Scott Glennie, Shea Weber, Stephane Robidas, Steve Ott