The cutting room floor here at Blackout Dallas is littered with words that I had written to inspire hope that the Stars would be signing Damon Severson this offseason. As the only right-handed defenseman worth more than $5 million in AAV, Columbus was wise to snag him via sign-and-trade prior to him hitting the market. There is another right-handed defenseman that has been elevated to the top due to recent trade rumors, Brett Pesce.
With rumors of Brett Pesce’s availability circulating the mill, the Stars could be enticed to add a valuable piece in an area of desperate need to avoid the defenseman drought in next year’s free agency pool.
Shayna Goldman was kind enough to publish a thought-provoking piece on Pesce’s likelihood of moving within the next year, with the Stars listed as the top destination. To understand why such a valuable piece would be on the move, a few layers of context need to be added.
Carolina is rumored to be working on two things: A Brett Pesce extension and a trade for Erik Karlsson. Karlsson is a name we’ve seen requested in Dallas a few times, but the price is ultimately too steep no matter how much San Jose retains. For a team as secure on the right side of their defense, Carolina will need to make some space.
Being unable to agree with Pesce on the term and dollar figure of his deal will likely create more aggression towards a Karlsson deal. Further, Pierre Lebrun has stated that Pesce will not be sticking around if a deal does not get done prior to the season. To make space for Karlsson, positionally and with the cap, one would deduce that Pesce is the odd man out.
Between RFA Dylan Coghlan, overperforming UFA Jalen Chatfield, and their current #1 D Brent Burns there isn’t space for Pesce to maximize his earning potential. In Carolina’s eyes, doesn’t it seem worth it to spend $2 mil more for a 100-point defenseman? (Given that San Jose retains part of Karlsson’s deal and Pesce’s extension is around $6 mil)
If Carolina’s trying to move the last year of Pesce’s deal, the Stars will need to forfeit some of their value. With the surplus of forwards, they have, after the Duchene miracle landed in their lap, the Canes could see Radek Faksa as a 4C luxury the Stars could send their way. Similarly deep on offense, the Canes would use Faksa in the same capacity.
He’s a 3C on a good team and a 4C on a cup-winning team. Since Faksa & Brett Pesce have movement restrictions in their contracts, I imagine they’d both like to be moved to a contender and each of these teams was in the top 4 last year. There will also need to be some more give on the Stars’ end that makes sense to sweeten the deal.
Jani Hakanpaa could be a net positive for Carolina, as a system fit and as a cap circumvention technique. Sean Shapiro recently stated on Spits & Suds that he could see Hakanpaa starting the year on LTIR if his knee surgery requires extensive rehab.
While he was speaking in the context of Gavin Bayreuther’s contract, there’s an unspoken value in today’s NHL to be able to put a contract on LTIR (see Nikita Kucherov or Mark Stone for recent cup winners).
If Hakanpaa starts on LTIR and then provides depth as 7D in a slow, gritty, dump-and-chase scheme he would be a benefit to Carolina and it would likely get more out of his game. Add in a pick swap and Hakanpaa’s $1.5 mil cap hit and the Stars could likely secure Pesce to shore up their top 4 D core.
All of these semantics and cap/trade gymnastics are validated by the precise fit that Pesce would provide opposite Thomas Harley. The Stars pairings need a bit of duality to them, a sturdy offensive facilitator opposite a safe condenser of energy that eliminates the danger and secures possession.
Pesce would be that role for Harley just like Lindell will be for Lundkvist next year, and do it better than the player currently slated to execute that role. The Stars’ offense took flight last year parallel to Harley’s deployment. Adding a Norris-caliber shutdown defenseman to his pairing would push his game even further.
JK from Defending Big D has been positing a theory that a Harley extension sooner than later would bode well for the Stars, and his figures would line up well with a Brett Pesce extension. If Harley takes Suter’s money for term and Pesce takes a discounted $6 mil on his extension, they’d be set at less than $27 mil spent on the defense for the peak of their cup window.
Given the talent of their core, this is an optimal spending figure and a testament to the enormous hometown discount that Miro gave them. One of the contingencies about paying Suter money is not spending money on Suter though, and that relies heavily on how the big Swiss kid plays down in Cedar Park this year. If he makes the strides Nill and Co. are anticipating, the plan could come together quite beautifully come this time next year.
With a free agent pool as weak as this year’s, the best option to build our fortitude comes via trade. Waiting for next year’s pool would only yield the same results as this one. Names like Brett Pesce’s don’t circulate in this forum very often, a reasonably priced player that makes the team better now and later. If the talks for Karlsson to Carolina heat up, look for Jim Nill to swoop in and put Brett Pesce in victory green.