As we enter the middle of March, the trade deadline is inching closer. 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 Dallas Stars’ ability to make a splash at the upcoming trade deadline is a question of both “can” and “should”, to which the answer is the same for both: no. The Stars are currently utilizing the Long-Term Injured Reserve and are not accruing any cap space. As of today, they have practically no cap space and any trade would have to be dollar-for-dollar in terms of full-year cap hit. While small roster tweaks like demoting third goalie Adam Scheel or young defenseman Thomas Harley or waiving recent claim Marian Studenic could open up marginal space for an acquisition, anything more than a low-salary addition will be impossible without sending a regular roster piece the other way. The Stars have put together a deep, diverse roster and should not be disassembling it this season, either as a seller or in a bid to to make a major move as a buyer. While the pursuit of a playoff spot is important (and the Stars currently hold the final wild card spot in the West), a first-round match-up with the Colorado Avalanche likely awaits. Dallas fans should not be fooled by an unlikely run to the Stanley Cup two years ago; the best move this season is to be cautious and conservative rather than overreact one way or the other. The Stars have already extended Joe Pavelski and seem likely to retain John Klingberg as an internal rental – that could very well be the extent of their deadline plans.
32-22-3 (.588), fifth in Central Division
Deadline Cap Space
$50,000 today (LTIR), $50,000 in full-season space, 0/3 retention slots used, 46/50 contracts used per CapFriendly
Upcoming Draft Picks
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The most talked-about trade chip in Dallas will of course be Klingberg. However, recent reports suggest that he may not be on the move after all. While Klingberg seems destined to play elsewhere next season, the Stars’ playoff position combined with Miro Heiskanen’s recent mononucleosis diagnosis makes Klingberg far more likely to stay on as an internal rental rather than be dealt. The Stars are able to largely stand pat because their current group has put them in playoff position. If Klingberg was traded, Dallas would have to replace him if they hoped to hold on to that position, likely making retaining Klingberg more valuable than the return they would receive for him.
As for other roster players that could be on the move, it is hard to say who Dallas could move. They would probably like to move Alexander Radulov or Radek Faksa, both of whom have had very poor years relative to their lofty contracts. However, for that same reason neither is likely to move at the deadline. The up-and-down play of Denis Gurianov can be frustrating, but the Stars are unlikely to move him just yet. The same can be said for Joel Kiviranta, who has fallen very short of expectations this season but still has upside. Barring a godfather offer, the two young forwards are likely safe for now.
The roster position to watch is likely in net. Jake Oettinger has established himself as the proven, long-term starter this season. If the Stars are willing to bet on the young keeper to lead them through the stretch run and into the postseason, they could move on from impending UFA Braden Holtby, who has drawn interest from other contenders. Holtby’s current injury situation complicates the matter, but shouldn’t rule out a trade completely. If Holtby is dealt, the team would look to Anton Khudobin to return to the NHL roster as backup. If Holtby stays, the Stars will continue to look for a new home for Khudobin.
Assuming that the Stars keep things quiet at the deadline, it is likely that none of these aforementioned players are traded. It also would imply that their top picks and prospects are safe. Dallas is more likely to peddle mid- to late-round draft picks, older prospects, or lower-level prospects in order as a means to add depth players. Members of AHL Texas who have yet to carve out an NHL role in Dallas but could contribute more to a seller include forwards Riley Tufte and Nicholas Caamano and defensemen Ben Gleason and Ryan Shea.
1) Affordable Secondary Scoring – On paper, it would seem that the Stars are well off at forward. The team has skill on every line, with at least one recognizable (and well-paid) anchor, not to mention a blend of experience and youth. Yet, it hasn’t gone as planned this season. Dallas is in the lower half of the league in scoring despite their considerable talent and depth, as many players have struggled with inconsistency and underperformance in general. While it may not be clear exactly where in the lineup an additional forward may fit, there is room to improve. If the Stars felt that the unproven Studenic could help, then there is a need. Of course, the problem is that the Stars will have no more than $1.75MM or so to add – and that is if they budget for only one acquisition. Dallas will have to target affordable contracts given their cap space.
2) Defensive Depth – Even if Klingberg stays and Heiskanen is healthy sooner rather than later, an extra body on defense certainty wouldn’t hurt the Stars chances. The Dallas top four is strong, but the depth falls off after that. Jani Hakanpaa is one-dimensional, Andrej Sekera is well past his prime, Joel Hanley plays a limited role, and the capable Harley is nonetheless an inexperienced rookie. Again, this will have to be a bargain addition, but there are options available that could prove to be an upgrade