With 56 points, the Dallas Stars currently sit in 9th place in the Western Conference and 3rd place in the Pacific Division. The Stars are 2-1-0 since the All Star Break, but the team suffered a five-game losing streak just prior to the break. If the Stars hope to have a successful playoff push, they may need to make a move before the February 27th trade deadline. Although Dallas is a better team than last year, there are still positions where the Stars lack depth. Here are two key areas where the Stars could pursue trade-deadline acquisitions.
A Bottom-Four Defenseman
With Stephane Robidas, Alex Goligoski, Sheldon Souray, and Trevor Daley, the Stars have relatively strong top-four defense pairings. Other than Nicklas Grossman as a No. 5 or 6 defenseman, the Stars lack depth in the bottom rungs of their defense corps. The Stars don’t need to go out and acquire a top defenseman, but adding another defenseman would help solidify play in their own zone where, at times, they have had trouble. Quality defenseman are some of the most coveted players in the league, and–as we saw last year with the Alex Goligoski for James Neal trade–a team must give up a lot in order to acquire a talented defenseman. Seeing as the Stars don’t have excess trade assets on the current roster, acquiring a top defenseman is probably out of the picture. However, because the Stars have quality defenseman (Souray has remained a great addition to the D all year) at the top of the depth chart, landing a highly touted defenseman isn’t required. Winnipeg Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey could be a solid acquisition for the Stars, as he has maintained a +7 +/- rating in 30 games played this season on a team that has a -21 goal differential. Last season, with the Atlanta Thrashers, Hainsey recorded a +3 rating on a Thrashers team that finished -46 in goal differential. Hainsey only has eight points (all assists) this season, but the Stars don’t need an offensive weapon on the blueline, they just need a defenseman who can handle the puck reliably in their own zone. The Stars could possibly deal a mid-range prospect and a 3rd- or 4th-round draft pick for a defenseman of this caliber.
An Offensive-Minded Center
The Stars have offensive threats on their wings with Jamie Benn, Michael Ryder, Eric Nystrom, Brenden Morrow, and Loui Eriksson, but the team lacks offensive weapons and playmakers down the middle. At center, Mike Ribeiro is a great playmaker, and Steve Ott can use his physical presence to create chances in the offensive zone, but other than that, the Stars are without a quality playmaker in the middle of the ice. With the loss of Brad Richards during the offseason, the Stars have not been able to fill that gap in the middle of the ice. Adding a quality third-line center would improve the Stars depth, and it
would make opposing teams have to respect the Stars third line even more. Although Vernon Fiddler has done a nice job at center, if the Stars could pair Eric Nystrom and Radek Dvorak/Adam Burish with a crafty playmaker, it would greatly improve the Stars chances of a successful playoff push. The lowly Carolina Hurricanes might be willing to move quality center Tuomo Ruutu, and he would be an experienced, solid addition to the Stars roster down the middle of the ice. A player with Ruutu’s abilities would demand more in return in a trade, however. The Hurricanes might be willing to trade for a center or defense prospect, and the Stars have numerous young defensemen and centers to deal. Mark Fistric and Philip Larsen are two such prospect defensemen, and young centers Tomas Vincour or Tom Wandell could also play into a trade for a quality centerman. The Stars may have to give up another player or draft pick, but Ruutu would be a solid addition to the Stars roster and would certainly enhance the Stars chances of making the postseason.
If the Stars hope to compete for a playoff spot this year in the competitive Western Conference, they most likely have to make a deal to supplement their depth and will need to give up a decent draft pick and/or prospect.
Tim lives in Dallas, TX, and serves as a Dallas Stars correspondent for the Sunbelt Hockey Journal. He has professional sportswriting and editing experience in print and online media.