In this edition of Dallas Stars News & Rumors, an update on the health of Miro Heiskanen and some new faces in the lineup after the trade deadline.
Stars Add Depth in Namestnikov & Wedgewood
With the Stars just one point out of a playoff spot, general manager Jim Nill opted to add some needed depth to the lineup for the stretch run before the trade deadline had passed.
On Sunday, the Stars announced that they had traded a conditional 2023 fourth-round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for goaltender Scott Wedgewood ($825,0000 cap hit). Then, as the deadline reached its end on Monday, Dallas traded a 2024 fourth-round pick to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for forward Vladislav Namestnikov (Detroit will retain 50% of his salary, leaving him at a $1.0 million cap hit).
Related: Dallas Stars Trade Deadline History
Wedgwood, 29, has bounced back and forth between the New Jersey Devils and Arizona Coyotes during his four seasons in the NHL. This season in Arizona, he has played pretty well, recording a 10-12-2 record, 3.16 goals-against average, and .911 save percentage on a team that allows a lot of shots and high-quality scoring chances. One of his best performances of the season came against Dallas on Feb. 20 when he made 33 saves in a 3-1 victory for the Coyotes.
“We started the year with four NHL goalies,” said Nill. “If you would’ve told me six months ago that I’d have to make a trade for a goalie, I would’ve said why would I have to do that? But that’s where you’ve got to be flexible. You deal with it, and you adjust your roster.”
The reason for this trade is simple. Braden Holtby has been sidelined with a nagging lower-body injury that has kept him mostly sidelined since the end of January. That has forced 23-year-old Jake Oettinger to shoulder the load, something he has handled quite well. However, with 21 games remaining in the thick of a heated playoff race, Nill and the Stars believed they needed to allow him some breaks and Wedgewood was the perfect fit to do that.
“We’re asking a lot of Jake here, and there’s major concerns with that,” Nill said. “We realize that right now Holtby might not be able to play for a while [placed on LTIR retroactive to Mar. 8]. And with the schedule, we’re exposing [Jake] to potential injuries, so we needed to add another goalie. We’ve seen Scott play lots, we’ve played against him and he’s played very well. He was a good fit, and the acquisition cost worked. We have to work within the cap.”
Namestnikov, 29, is also a perfect fit into a Stars lineup that has struggled to score goals, especially at even strength. The Russian forward has one 20-goal season under his belt and is sitting on 13 goals and 12 assists in 60 games this year. While he is likely not going to be a 40-goal scorer for Dallas, he does bring a bit more skill and production, along with his defensive focus, to the current forward group, which will push younger players and depth players to work hard to maintain a roster spot.
“He’s a good player, he’s versatile, he can play up and down the lineup and we thought with the acquisition cost, it was a good move for our team,” Nill said.
Namestnikov can slot in pretty much anywhere throughout the Stars lineup. His addition should allow Dallas to keep their top line together, find a steady combination on their checking line, and then mix and match the remaining players to find a good balance across four lines. In a playoff race and the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it is essential to have four lines that can not only play but also produce. Dallas now believes they can find that within their dressing room.
“I think we’re in a good spot right now,” Nill said. “The biggest thing is we have to be more consistent. We’ve got to play well, but when we play our game, we’re a tough team to play.”
Wedgewood will be in Dallas to back up Oettinger on Tuesday night while Nametnikov is questionable due to scattering storms across Texas postponing multiple flights.
Heiskanen Health Update
Along with the bad news of Holtby’s injury came some good news in the form of Miro Heiskanen. The 22-year-old defenseman has missed the last eight games with mono, and his timetable for return was very much up in the air. While we still do not know an exact date that he will suit up, he did skate by himself on Monday, a good sign of his progress.
Rick Bowness said that he is hopeful for Saturday as a potential return for Heiskanen but reminded the media that the situation can change at any point. Still, his eventual return to the ice will be a massive addition for Dallas, as they have certainly shown that they miss him (4-4) during his absence.
The Stars return home for another quick one-game homestand as they face the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night. Dallas currently sits one point behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the final playoff spot but has four games in hand.
Sam Nestler is a credentialed Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!