Although we’re just two months into the season, the trade deadline is already less than a month away. Where does each team stand and what moves should they be looking to make? We continue our look around the league with the Dallas Stars.
The simple truth is that the Dallas Stars cannot be true buyers at the deadline. Yes, the team currently has $4MM in unused LTIR space, but that will disappear when starting goalie Ben Bishop returns to action. Without any cap space, any trade that the team makes will have to be a hockey deal with a salary going out in order to bring a salary in. With those types of deals more unlikely this season than in most years, the Stars might not have much choice at the deadline.
True, they are within reach of a playoff spot and could certainly stand to improve their roster. However, this is a team that just won the Western Conference last season and hopes to have Tyler Seguin and Bishop back this year. Those internal additions may be enough to get them to the postseason and make them a potential threat. Even then, the Stars likely face a Stanley Cup rematch with the Tampa Bay Lightning right away. There simply isn’t enough upside to be buyers, even if there was flexibility.
Could they be sellers? Possibly, but they don’t have much to offer. The team would likely gain more from keeping their roster together in hopes of making the playoffs and even re-signing some of their impending free agents rather than dealing them for minor returns. Again, Dallas could try to peddle some of their impending UFA’s in order to clear space for an addition, but most teams aren’t looking to add salary this year unless it is attached to a top quality player. Those are in short supply among the Stars’ expiring contracts.
They likely won’t touch their term contracts, either. This is a team that found success in the postseason last year and returned virtually the same roster this year and will be back together again next year. Injuries and a start slowed by COVID Protocol has impacted Dallas this season and, while their team isn’t perfect, they could be an off-season piece or two away from getting back to Stanley Cup Final in no time.
So for now, they should probably just stand pat.
9-9-7, .500, 4th in Central Division
Deadline Cap Space
$0MM in full-season space (LTIR), 0/3 retention slots used, 44/50 contracts used per CapFriendly.
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In deciding whether or not to move players off of their current roster, the Stars have options but lack upside. With only a handful of impending free agents, most of whom are merely bottom of the lineup players at best, Dallas may be better off keeping their group together and hoping to sneak into the playoffs.
If Dallas does decide to sell, their most valuable piece will be defenseman Jamie Oleksiak. A big, physical defender – the team’s current hits leader – who skates well and can play big minutes, Oleksiak is a solid addition to any team looking to stabilize their blue line with a strong defensive presence. In a rental market that is severely lacking in defensive talent, Oleksiak could return a nice package, especially given his reasonable price tag. The caveat though is that Dallas has traded Oleksiak once before, only to bring him back and have both sides realize that he is a great fit as a reliable defensive complement to the Stars’ offensive-minded blue line. If there is mutual interest in an extension and Dallas remains close to a playoff spot, they likely hold on to Oleksiak.
Versatile defenseman Mark Pysyk makes more sense to move. In his first season in Dallas on a one-year “show me” deal, Pysyk has failed to do just that. The Stars’ No. 6 defenseman spot has been split between Pysyk and Hanley this season, with neither doing enough to seize the consistent role. Both have been unproductive on offensive and largely invisible on defense while playing minimal minutes. Pysyk at least brings more experience playing in a regular role and has also experimented with lining up at forward, which could be especially valuable to teams down the stretch and in the postseason who want to avoid depth issues caused by possible COVID-19 restrictions. At $750K, Pysyk is affordable in cap terms and should be cheap to acquire as well.
Up front, the Stars may be willing to part with veterans Andrew Cogliano and Blake Comeau, but there may not be much interest in the duo. Both have been consistent and dependable two-way players throughout their careers, but their play this season has lacked offensive upside. The pair have totaled just four goals and 13 points in 46 combined games. In a cap-strapped climate, Cogliano’s $3.25MM and even Comeau’s $2.4MM may be too rich for players that would have to fight for top-nine jobs on a contender. They are more likely to move if Dallas is just swapping contracts to bring in new blood for the stretch run.
Given that Dallas was a Stanley Cup finalist just last year, the team is unlikely to make any drastic moves this season with their core players, all of whom have term remaining on their respective comments. Names like John Klingberg and Alexander Radulov are occasionally bandied about, but trading either in-season is both unlikely and ill-advised for the Stars. If they were to make a surprise move, it could be in goal. With young Jake Oettinger holding his own in net, the Stars could decide to move current starter Anton Khudobin if actual starter Bishop is healthy before the deadline. Khudobin is set to be exposed in this summer’s Expansion Draft and should be a strong candidate for selection. With both Landon Bow and Colton Point satisfying the goalie exposure requirement, the Stars could instead trade Khudobin to a team with needs in net this season rather than potentially lose him for nothing in expansion. A healthy Bishop backed up by Oettinger should be enough for the Stars the rest of the way this season and moving forward.
Others to Watch For: D Joel Hanley ($700K, UFA), D Taylor Fedun ($737.5K, UFA), F Tanner Kero ($762.5K, UFA), F Justin Dowling ($750K, UFA)
1) Defenseman – If the Stars can find a way to move contracts around and open up cap space, it will likely leave room for just one acquisition. While they are only middle-of-the-road when it comes to scoring and could use a spark up front, that might come in the form of a healthy Seguin. There is no one coming to take over their No. 6 defenseman role, a spot where Dallas has received no production from this season. A reliable blue liner to improve the starting defensive corps would be a key addition. If they can find a defenseman with some offensive upside and power play experience, that would be even better.
2) Term Forward – While it would again require shuffling salaries, which may make it a more likely move in the early off-season, the Stars at some point could look to add a forward who they can expose in the upcoming Expansion Draft. Currently, with the assumed protection scheme, the Stars are short both forwards that meet the games played and term requirements that the expansion quota demands. Their options to fill those spots internally are to re-sign UFA’s Cogliano and Comeau (unlikely) or RFA Jason Dickinson. RFA Nick Caamano will also be eligible with eight more games played. However, extending Dickinson or Caamano will only make them more attractive to the Seattle Kraken. Either of the players, the arbitration-eligible Dickinson specifically, may also not want to rush into an extension before the drat. As a result, the Stars could choose instead to add another eligible forward to expose.