With the NHL trade deadline approaching in just over three weeks, the Dallas Stars find themselves in a unique position regarding the role they can play.
Like every team in the Western Conference, they are in the think of the playoff race. With 29 points in 28 games, the Stars sit 10th in the conference, just a point behind eighth place San Jose. In fact, the Stars are only five points behind fourth place Los Angeles.
However, the Stars are only five points ahead of 15th place Colorado. And, while they would be right in the thick of the Northwest Division, they are 17 points behind Anaheim for first in the Pacific Division. With only 14 games remaining in the regular season, Dallas isn’t quite eliminated from winning the division title, but it would take a minor miracle.
So what will the Stars do at the trade deadline? That decision will not be made based on payroll; according to Capgeek, Dallas currently boasts more than $12 million in cap space.
Rather, that decision will likely be based on how the Stars perform in the next two weeks and, to a lesser extent, what happens regarding contract extensions for certain players.
What makes the Stars position unique is should they decide to be sellers, they have several capable pieces who would likely find themselves in high demand. Three players come to mind, and all have been capable offensive producers in their careers.
The case of what happens with Roy is not as black-and-white as being out of the playoff chase.
Brought in during the offseason for Steve Ott and Adam Pardy, Roy has been exceptional for Dallas this season, despite missing time with a groin injury. On the season, he has 16 points in 23 games.
At 29 years old, he is also in the prime of his career. When he was brought in during the offseason, he was brought in to fill a top-six center roll for years to come, not be a one-year rental player.
In a notebook for The Globe and Mail, Eric Duhatschek notes Vancouver as one possible landing place for Roy. The Canucks attempted to trade for Ott last year, but ultimately balked when the Stars asked for Cody Hodgson.
In this situation, Roy’s future in Dallas is likely to be tied to whether or not he agrees to a contract extension prior to the trade deadline. As Duhatschek also noted, General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk was burned in a similar situation several years ago with Brad Richards. In that case, Dallas was also right on the verge of the postseason at the deadline, but Richards insisted he would not resign in Dallas if stable ownership was not in place.
Dallas’ ownership did not get resolved well into the following season, so Richards left for New York. That situation might remain fresh in Nieuwendyk’s mind as he contemplates trade Roy, but the two situations seem at least a little different in the sense that Roy has not issued a similar ultimatum. However, he may be tempted to test the open market to see what he would be willing to fetch, especially in light of the recent extensions signed by division rivals Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry — although Roy is not in the same echelon as those two.
One player who does seem to be on his way out is the Stars’ captain.
Entering the final year of his contract, he seemed to be the odd man out in the Stars’ top six forwards, with the offseason additions of Roy, Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney.
However, even with injuries to Whitney, Roy and Jamie Benn so far this season, as well as constant line shuffling, Morrow is averaging only 14:54 of ice time per game, a career-low for him.
Joe Haggerty of CSN New England says the Bruins could have interest in Morrow to bolster their third line. The Stars recent had scouts in Ottawa to watch the Bruins and Senators face off, possibly signifying mutual interest there.
Despite his drop in offensive production the past few years, Morrow is still a player with some grit and leadership skills who could likely excel in a third line role. With the Stars seemingly ready to get younger, and thus unlikely to resign Morrow following the season, he seems to be the most likely player on the roster to get traded, barring a huge two weeks from the team.
Here is a name I don’t think many Stars fans would have expected to see on this list at the beginning of the season, or even as recent as two weeks ago.
But if the Stars fall out of the playoff race — and by fall out of the playoff race I mean lose almost all of their seven games remaining prior to the deadline — then I would not be surprised to see Jagr get moved.
He is currently second on the team with 18 points, and from all accounts has been a supremely positive influence on the rest of the team. But at 41 years old, his future beyond this season is unknown. Even if he does choose to play one more season in the NHL, there is little reason to think he would want to play in in Dallas should the Stars miss the postseason again.
While he isn’t the elite scorer he was prior to his stint in the KHL, Jagr is still more than capable of playing top six minutes. This season, he is averaging 18:04 of ice time per game, almost two minutes more per game than he averaged last season in Philadelphia. Additionally, as he has shown the past two seasons, his work ethic is a great influence on the rest of the team.
For the Stars to even consider moving Jagr, they would likely have to completely flop in the next two weeks. While he was signed because he is still a good player who can help the team win, he was also brought to Dallas to mentor some of the team’s younger players, as well as to help the organization fill seats at the American Airlines Center.
That being said, trading him would likely fetch the team a solid return that could be helpful to building for the future. But if I had to guess at this time, Jagr will probably remain with the team for the duration of the season.