Dallas Stars midseason breakdown: Marchment’s mire may motivate trade

Jan 27, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Stars left wing Mason Marchment (27) and New Jersey Devils left wing Jesper Bratt (63) look for the puck at center ice during the first period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 27, 2023; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Stars left wing Mason Marchment (27) and New Jersey Devils left wing Jesper Bratt (63) look for the puck at center ice during the first period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Dallas Stars limped sheepishly into the All-Star break, the contingency of hockey fans in North Texas found themselves with a sense of unease on how the first half of the 8-game homestand has unraveled before us. Three straight 2 to 3 OT losses against playoff teams have disenfranchised Stars fans from the concept of “just coming away with a point.”

One of the benefits of fan disappointment is that the masses call out the negatives as they see them, and storylines arise that potentially bring about positive changes. Of course, the more metal is tested the stronger it gets. Furthermore, the swirling storylines behind the Stars’ trade involvement and the Marchment drought pressurize how the coaching staff deploys its depth; revealing how corrosion resistant these alloys truly are.

Dallas Stars Midseason Breakdown: State of the Union

Not to be a sunshine and rainbows guy, but the Stars remain atop the Central Division regardless of their current streak. They picked a good time for their first 3-game losing streak of the year, as the only Star enlisted for All-Star duties was Jason Robertson.

Further, Robertson has extra energy stored up since his underreported holdout allowed him to rest through training camp (doesn’t that feel like a lifetime ago?). With a point lead and a game in hand, the Stars had from January 27th to February 6th to shore up the built-up lag from the first 51 games. With the glass being half full, they’re also on a 5-game point streak.

While it may seem discouraging to lose 10 games in OT, the league has strangely built this to be an advantage. Dallas is great at even strength, allowing them to push great teams to the brink and make it to overtime for an eventual floundering effort. The true test of a team takes place in regulation, and 3-on-3 overtime is an effort to maximize the star power of the McDavids, MacKinnons, and Jack Hughes’ of the league who operate optimally with speed in space.

A microcosm of this concept is the new All-Star format where no one truly plays a real match but leverages the spotlight to showcase skills. Ultimately, 3-on-3 overtime is a publicity stunt that doesn’t indicate true team talent or balance the scales fairly between two competitive sides.

Fortunately for teams like the Stars, it all comes out in the wash come playoff time. While begrudgingly stockpiling bonus points for losing in style, the Stars’ 3-game losing streak has garnered 3 points in the standings while the 2nd place Jets’ 2-game losing streak hasn’t warranted any. Come playoff time, the Stars could be operating with a home-ice advantage while relinquishing the burden that comes with their close contest being decided on a skills competition.

While the Stars may not always field the best trio on the ice occasionally, I’d wager they have a more solid 5-man lineup than 90% of the league when organized correctly. All things considered, the “organized correctly” component is currently under scrutiny on numerous fronts that initially seemed accounted for.

Dallas Stars Midseason Breakdown: Marchment’s Movements Mired

Mason Marchment felt like the sneaky signing of the offseason after registering 3 goals in the first two games of the season. Fast forward to where we are now and that trio of goals accounts for a third of his scoring this campaign and his goalless streak has run to 21 games. Marchment’s doldrums have been overshadowed by resurgences from the older forwards on the squad but he’s far below pace to replicate that career year he had in Florida last season.

His role has changed and increased, as he’s already blocked more than twice as many shots as last year and is averaging over a minute-thirty more in ice time per game. Marchment was signed to the Stars to be a middle six left-winger and he’s lived up to those expectations, even if it’s impacting the lineup differently than expected.

Marchment has been the mainstay on the most unstable line the Stars are icing. He’s stayed afloat through healthy scratches/leaves of absence from Gurianov and Seguin being called up to sub for an injured Roope.

Needless to say, being new to the team and asked to play top-5 forward minutes on a chaotic line of uncertainty poses a challenge to any player in the league. For a line where nothing stays the same, something has got to change. The pressure of the situation at hand shows where the pipes are most likely to burst.

There’s a handful of cap hits on the team that aren’t currently holding value, based on their impact on the teammates in their immediate vicinity. In a year where the team’s important pieces have been revitalized, the suspected comeback of Denis Gurianov’s early career flash has yet to take back off. DeBoer can tinker with the lines all he wants but it’s foolish to mess with the chemistry of the first line and the third line.

Benn & the kids have been the surprise of the year and the Avengers line is one of the best in hockey, these cannot be altered. While the call-ups and send-downs have worked well with getting fresh feet, the approaching trade deadline offers opportunities that aren’t simply waiting to be called up in Cedar Park.

Dallas Stars Midseason Breakdown: Window Shopping

Recent talks of the Dallas Stars being interested in Bo Horvat indicate that they’re willing to make a splash at the trade deadline. They won’t be in the market for landing a franchise-altering player, but they will be searching for someone who could be elite in a category where the team is currently complacent. Obviously, bringing someone in with that kind of talent is going to require some salary cap gerrymandering.

The 4 contracts that look ugliest on paper are Khudobin’s $2.2 million in penalty (since he’s in the AHL), Gurianov’s $2.9 mil (RFA), Faksa’s $3.25 mil for three more years, and Suter’s abysmal $3.65 mil for two more years. The two Ruskis are the only ones without movement restrictions and I opine that it’s a bonus to not have to qualify Guri in the offseason, assuming they won’t let him walk.

Teams are already expressing interest in Khudobin for more than just a salary dump since he’s got a good track record and is having a great season for the Texas Stars. Playing the market smart is going to be key for getting his contract moved, as teams that would like more depth are willing to pay less for a goalie depth than teams that are down a goalie due to injury.

Leveraging Dobby’s value into a couple of picks from a team aiming to strengthen their net-minding could provide pieces to another future trade, making his cap hit secondary to the Stars’ bottom line. Assuming Gurianov is part of the trade, this would give the Stars over five million in cap space to bargain with their strong pieces.

With 5 million in cap space and imaginary capital gained, the Stars can play the market to their advantage and solve their blue line issues or shore up the long-elusive RW depth. In the offseason, Dallas was rumored to be in on Patrick Kane, and the situation outlined above would stoke those flames a bit. With 50% salary retained, the Stars could slot Kane into Guri’s role, and he would provide elite touch to Seguin and Marchment’s finishing capabilities.

The splash doesn’t need to be this big for 3 elite lines, as Kevin Labanc’s $4.7 mil hit could easily fit and more moves could be made for the blue line, as surmised by JK & David at Defending Big D. Conversely, bigger plays could be made at the blue line and place the 2RW second on the priorities.

The rumored ask for Jakob Chychrun is 2 first-round picks and a prospect from the Desert Dogs of Mullet arena, which the Stars could have in hand by the eleventh hour in March. Flipping Khudobin at the right price, and being willing to say goodbye to Thomas Harley, would be operative in making this play work.

With the investment the Stars have shown in their prospects, this one would be less likely to materialize. A lower cost would be for Filip Hronek in Detroit, as the Red Wings may be looking to cash in on him approaching his prime and their playoff odds dwindle this year. The options for an optimal hit are on a short list where other teams may be more desperate to pay, but the options are on the table for the Stars to play.

Dallas Stars Midseason Breakdown: Calm Before The Storm

As laid out, the crawl to this off-week has highlighted some weaknesses that the Dallas Stars can address. Potential cap room for next year looms large, based on how much of a bump the league sees, and the Stars could make quite the splash to shore up their lines.

With the capital already identified, the movements to optimize the efficiency of the middle-six and justify the off-season investments could be a few swift moves away from turning this team from a contender to a favorite. The manifestation of these merging concepts could dictate the month of February, and eventually the results of June.