A long homestand with an All-Star break sandwiched in the middle of 4 game sets has been completed by Dallas and a lot has been left desired by the team Jim Nill has assembled for Peter DeBoer’s system. Chinks in the armor are becoming more prevalent and the imperfections have been tested as teams good and bad have come through to reveal our team’s character.
While managing a point in all but one game, the Stars only came away with 3 victories out of 8 contests. After four 3-2 OT losses in an eight-game homestand, the Stars approach the trade deadline with their off-ice work cut out for them in addressing areas of need.
Dallas Stars Deadline Primer: Backstopping
The Stars’ goalie tandem held opponents to two goals or less in regulation of 7 out of the 8 games played in the homestand. If the bar is set at surpassing 2 goals per 60 minutes, this team is more than talented enough to cover that number. Oettinger continually shines as one of the best goalies in the league, and his Vezina candidacy is held back only by the team’s inability to stack wins.
He’s 3rd in the league in save percentage and GAA while tied for the league lead in starts at 41, meaning he’s overperforming his 23-7-8 record. The best place for the Stars to make up this difference is with effective special teams, the weak spot of this past stretch.
The Stars are hurting for a power play quarterback like John Klingberg and it shows with their absent scoring depth on the power play. At first, the loss of Dallas’ prolific offensive defenseman was shrugged off because of the generational talent that Miro brings to the table. These sentiments are justified as Miro is tied in PP assists with Robo at 17 but replacing that blue line with Suter and Lundkvist on the second unit has become an offensive black hole.
Unless the faceoff is won in the offensive zone and Wyatt can facilitate from there, the power play is most likely over when #20 hits the ice. Not all of the blame can be left at Suter’s feet, some needs to be distributed to Nils and Gurianov.
The Stars could mirror their top unit with opposite handedness if Gurianov could play Roope’s role and Nils could be a righthanded Miro (calm down, I only mean offensively). The issue is that neither of them plays a safe enough game for Gurianov to even remain on the unit or Nils to have a 4th forward on the blue line with him.
When right-handed Klingberg was replaced by left-handed Heiskanen, the PP was able to provide that mirror. Paying the cost to bring Lundkvist in this offseason has forced them to be patient with the development of their second unit, as it’s contingent on Nils’ growing into his role. With Nils leading the team in healthy scratches for the sake of his “growth,” there has been a shrinking sample size of power play opportunities for Nils to settle in and develop chemistry with his unit.
This uncertainty on the second unit and instability on the back end reveals where the Stars should be setting their sights in for these few weeks leading to the deadline.
Dallas Stars Deadline Primer: Defense to Offense
One of the biggest names on the market, who could be moved at any second, would be an ideal fit for the Stars to shore up their woes. Jakob Chychrun is a left-handed scoring defenseman that could spell Heiskanen’s power play time and facilitate offense from back to front without sacrificing defensive capability.
He grabbed headlines this past week when the Yotes claimed he would be scratched until he’s moved, and the list of suitors is quite extensive. The key factor here is how much patience the Stars have. Trading for Chychrun would be like pressing the fast-forward button on their LD prospect pool of Harley, Bichsel, and Grushnikov, and it will likely take one of them and a few picks to seal the deal.
The Stars are being patient with bringing Nils along slowly, and they’ll likely be in the same boat with Harley next year unless he gets moved. The only thing that would warrant moving him at this point is an opportunity like this, an excellent defenseman at an ideal dollar figure that would easily be the second punch of a cup-winning D core.
He could slot in on either side to pair with Suter or Lundkvist depending on the night, or even Miller if the Stars wanted to push Suter back up the ladder with Heiskanen on the right like last year. Most importantly, he would be an offensive step up from the current 4 man unit beneath the Miro-Miller pair.
If the Stars don’t want to shell out prospects or if they just want to check the market price for offensively defensive help, they’ll need to wait until Chychrun is moved. I imagine the trade would take 2 picks, Harley/Bichsel, Gurianov, and possibly another prospect, but the price for help doesn’t need to be that steep.
Once Chychrun is dealt, the Stars will see what it will cost to get blue line assistance and the asking price for Luke Schenn will likely go up. The next-best right-handed defenseman on the market commands a much lower price, as Dave Pagnotta recently noted a 3rd rounder and a prospect for his services. Making this work hinges on the Star’s ability to sweeten the deal on one side of the offer sheet.
The Canucks are reportedly looking for a pick and a prospect for Schenn’s $850k of defensive talent and leaning one way may get the Stars a better deal. When Horvat to Dallas was being rumored, my first thought was that Guri would benefit from a change of scenery and Kuzmenko would entice him to extend since Russians historically enjoy playing together.
Since a prospect & 3rd rounder is wished for Schenn, Guri and a 2nd rounder should ideally garner the attention over curiosity from Vancouver’s front office. While Schenn doesn’t solve the special teams issues, he allows another righty in Alain Nasreddine’s group to give stability and depth in front of Otter. Additionally, it saves the real assets for a different push to make the scoring difference.
Dallas Stars Deadline Primer: Being Forward
While the Stars have been quiet in defensemen trade talks, plenty of smoke has centered around their need for a top 6 forward to strengthen their offense. Looking past the woes from bringing offense from defense, there has been actual talk surrounding Dallas’ interest in high-end goal scorers.
Two names have stuck out in particular for this search: Patrick Kane and Tyler Bertuzzi. Each of these brings about very different approaches to playing hockey and picking between these identities may be what ultimately decides the pursuit from Jim Nill. Further, the decision between the two will likely determine the moves made for the blueline afterward.
The star power and allure of Patrick Kane grabs headlines and the fact that Dallas is in talks gives more credibility to rumors than the large market teams. Kane is the Chychrun of forward candidates, meaning there’s a 0% chance the Stars would get both (I might argue that Chychrun would be the only move if actioned).
Kane’s approach to the game is what you would expect from a former elite player, with potential floor-level defensive output while turning his game up in the offensive zone. Adding Kane to the PP would allow the talent to be more evenly distributed, as he is an elite PP facilitator, and he would add an even-strength scoring punch on the 2nd line to make up for Marchment’s recent lag. The offensive zip would be there, the question is whether or not the team has enough defense to sacrifice to still be a cup contender.
Putting the chips in on Kane would force the team to be patient with their D-core, while also commanding them to be more productive. Substantial defensive help won’t be available on the market if the Stars’ capital is spent on Kaner, but Bertuzzi could slot in and bring an edge with him. At 6’1”, 186 lbs., Bertuzzi brings the scoring punch without the worry of him being dedicated enough to chase a puck into the corner.
He’s been a top-line forward for the Red Wings for the past 5 years and is 7 years younger than Kane, topping out at 62 points last year for his career high. In the midst of his prime, Bertuzzi makes a ton of sense for the Stars adding another layer to their top 6.
The key to this flexibility is the underreported Calder campaign of Wyatt Johnston. Wyatt could slot in on Seguin’s right, opposite Bertuzzi, or even Center a line with Marchment & Benn if Dellandrea were to be pulled up to the 2nd line with Segs and Bertuzzi.
Other assortments could work, but ideally, the lines have a facilitator, grinder, and scorer to balance them out that fit the billing of the lines mentioned above. Historical context also shows that Nill has his eyes on Red Wings players (Vlad Namestnikov & Erik Cole) and I imagine he trusts their staff. The cost-effectiveness and personal history tell me that this is the right trade and the most probable.
Dallas Stars Deadline Primer: Identity Crisis Conclusion
Where there is smoke there is fire, and Dallas could use some movement to heat themselves up. Any 1 of the 4 names mentioned here would do wonders for the Stars curing their scoring sickness, but addressing both issues at hand cuts the shortlist in half.
While the front office may feel no pressure because of their bright future, making a move like Schenn or Bertuzzi would engage the team and show them they aren’t waiting until next year to push the chips in. The core is here and it’s never too soon to open the championship window. The looming deadline will signal the team’s true intentions.