The NHL trade deadline (February 29th) is rapidly approaching and the buyers and sellers of the league are becoming more clear as the season goes on. The Dallas Stars will be an interesting team to monitor as they have a handful of upcoming unrestricted free agents but are currently contending in the race for the Presidents’ Trophy.
The only players I see the Stars moving off their current roster before the deadline would be potentially Ales Hemsky or Travis Moen. The UFA group consisting of Alex Goligoski, Jason Demers, Jordie Benn and Vern Fiddler will almost certainly be Stars by the time the season comes to an end. All four of those players are far too important for a really good team to part with just because they may lose them in the offseason.
So what do they need to become a true Cup contender? They are stockpiled at forward so unless an incredible deal arises there is no need to add another. What I would like to see is for the Stars to pursue a right-handed depth defensemen who is simply a solid player. They don’t need a top-pairing guy, they might not even need a second-pairing guy. They just need some solid depth on the right side. Why? This team clearly struggles with balance and depth on the right side as evident of their six games without Jason Demers in the lineup.
For those that don’t know, Jason Demers is a right-handed, second-pairing defenseman on the Stars who is often paired with Johnny Oduya. They have been the best defensive pairing for Dallas so far this season.
Without Demers in the lineup for six games this season, the Stars have struggled. The record isn’t bad at 3-2-1, but the defense has been awful. The Stars have, on average, given up over four goals per game with Demers out of the lineup. John Klingberg is the only other NHL-ready right-handed defenseman on the team so they will likely need to bolster up that position.
Who should they pursue?
The Depth Targets
Now these names aren’t going to draw a ton of attention but they would be relatively cheap moves that would make the Stars better this season. Think players for a depth Cup run that you don’t plan on bringing back. Here is who I would target if I was Jim Nill:
- Yannick Weber (Vancouver Canucks) – 48.4 5v5 Corsi-For-% (0.5 CF%rel), 47.9 high-danger-scoring-chances-for-% (5.43 HSCF%rel), $1.5M cap hit, UFA in July 2016.
- Roman Polak (Toronto Maple Leafs) – 50 5v5 CF% (-0.46 CF%rel), 57.14 HSCF% (4.36 HSCF%rel), $2.75M cap hit, UFA in July 2016.
- Kevan Miller (Boston Bruins) – 48.75 5v5 CF% (-0.22 CF%rel), 51.52 HSCF% (4.77 HSCF%rel), $800K cap hit, UFA in July 2016.
All of the above players are cheap and on expiring contracts. All three of them would provide much-needed depth on the right side of the blue-line and likely wouldn’t take much for the Stars to land them. While their names or statistics don’t immediately jump out at you, they are all respectable enough defensemen to help the Stars with depth on the right side for a potential deep playoff run.
The Long Shots
There are some dream targets for Dallas who, if available, make the Stars a better team today and in the future. All will involve at least one of Oleksiak, Nemeth or Jokipakka going the other way along with some other assets. Now these are not likely to happen but you can never say never when it comes to Jim Nill making trades.
- Anton Stralman (Tampa Bay Lightning) – 55.18 5v5 CF% (4.87 CF%rel), 49.53 HSCF% (-1.89 HSCF%rel), $4.5M cap hit, UFA in July 2020.
- Justin Braun (San Jose Sharks) – 49.61 5v5 CF% (-1.47 CF%rel), 61.38 HSCF% (8.54 HSCF%rel), $3.8M cap hit, UFA in July 2021.
- Travis Hamonic (New York Islanders) – 51.88 5v5 CF% (3.61 CF%rel), 47.08 HSCF% (-2.01 HSCF%rel), $3.857 cap hit, UFA in July 2021.
Do any of these happen? Probably not, but the Stars are in an interesting situation. Outside of maybe Hemsky’s $4M cap hit, they don’t really have a bad contract on the team. They have a wealth of young defensemen both in Dallas and waiting in the wings and are also pretty deep with good forward prospects. They have a lot of assets they can send the other way for the right deal. Hamonic asked to be dealt closer to home near Winnipeg early in the season (Dallas is about 250 miles closer to Winnipeg than Brooklyn) but I’m not sure Dallas is what he had in mind. Braun and Stralman would both be fantastic additions but at this time it is unsure if the Lightning or Sharks would be willing to part with excellent defensemen while they are on the cusp of playoff spots.
What is to come?
The long shots are exactly that, long shots. They are highly unlikely to happen. The depth options, however, should all be available and at a relatively low-cost. Personally I see the Stars ending up with Polak at the deadline for draft picks.
Who do you think the Dallas Stars should go after? Let me know in the comments below and thank you for reading.