With the trade deadline now just a week away, we continue to take a closer look at each team. Where do they stand, what do they need to do, and what assets do they have to fill those needs?
The Dallas Stars were a popular pick to go a long way in the Western Conference this season. Unfortunately for them, the injury bug has struck in a tough way while their goaltending has struggled considerably. Accordingly, they’re lined up to be sellers over this next week and have quite a few rental players that should be of interest to other teams around the league.
23-27-10, 6th in Central Division
Deadline Cap Space
$10.3MM – full-season cap hit, 46/50 contracts per CapFriendly
2017: DAL 1st, DAL 2nd, DAL 3rd, DAL 4th, DAL 5th, DAL 6th, DAL 7th
2018: DAL 1st, DAL 2nd, DAL 3rd, DAL 4th, DAL 5th, DAL 6th, DAL 7th
The Stars have a lot more potential unrestricted free agents than most teams do which makes them a team that anyone looking for short-term help will be calling on a regular basis. It’s not crazy to think that three or four of them could be moved over the next week. Considering where they thought they would be this season, it’s unlikely that they’re going to drastically change course and move anyone from their core out. Instead, they’re likely to take what they can get for some of their rentals and regroup in the summer.
One intriguing player that isn’t a rental is right winger Valeri Nichushkin. He spurned an offer over the summer to re-sign with the Stars to ink a contract back at home in the KHL with CSKA Moscow. The former tenth overall pick has another year left on his contract in Russia but his restricted free agent rights could conceivably be included if the right trade presents itself.
Also, if Dallas makes a move for a goalie (more on that shortly), one of their current netminders would likely be on the move in an effort to match salaries.
1) Goaltending Upgrade – The Stars have the highest cap hit allocated to their goalies this season with a duo of Kari Lehtonen ($5.9MM) and Antti Niemi ($4.5MM). To they haven’t received a high level of goaltending would be an understatement as the duo have combined for a .895 save percentage, tied for worst in the NHL. Both players are signed for one more season beyond this one as well which means this situation isn’t likely to resolve itself for at least another year.
Between the expansion draft and other situations where a second quality goaltender has emerged, this isn’t a bad time for GM Jim Nill to be on the lookout for some help between the pipes as it looks to be a bit of a buyers’ market. It’s not as likely that they’ll be able to bring someone in via free agency though as one of Niemi or Lehtonen’s contracts would have to be moved out first and that will be a considerable challenge if they’re not taking a goalie back in that trade. They don’t have to address it by the deadline but by the time July 1st rolls around, this should be resolved.
2) Defensive Improvements – Dallas has several defensemen whose offensive abilities stand out more than their defensive prowess. While the hope that quality stay-at-home veterans like Oduya and Dan Hamhuis would have been able to offset some of those concerns, they haven’t been able to. As a result, the Stars will need to bring in some help on the back end at some point to complement the likes of John Klingberg, Julius Honka, and Esa Lindell. It’s more likely that a deal here would come over the summer but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add some pieces (picks or prospects) to help them fill that void later on.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.