The NHL trade deadline now looms only three weeks away (Feb. 27) and for the fourth straight season, it seems the Stars are stuck in no man's land. Dallas isn't quite good enough to make the playoffs (or go very far into them if they manage to sneak in) and aren't quite bad enough to be completely out of the picture. In those past seasons Dallas has actually been buyers on the market. The first of those moves was the huge Brad Richards trade of the 2007-2008 season.
Since that season Dallas has made more big trades near deadline time and most of those have come from a buyer's prospective at the deadline. Lesser names like Brandon Segal and Jamie Langenbrunner have come and gone in ill-fated attempts to bolster for playoff runs.
Dallas has been more than willing to make big deals though. Kari Lehtonen arrived during the 2008-2009 via trade and last season Dallas made one of the biggest moves of the year by trading James Neal and Matt Niskanen for Alex Goligoski.
This season should provide much of the same as Dallas is again on the cusp of the playoff race. Owner Tom Gagliardi and GM Joe Nieuwendyk have hinted that Dallas will be active come deadline time. Dallas has 12 games before that dead though, so they should have a good view of where they stand in the West by then. If these moves do take place, who should the Stars put on the trade block and just how valuable can they be? Here's a look at where I would put each of the players that have seen significant time with Dallas this season.
more after the jump
Only if we're getting Malkin back
These guys are the obvious future of the Stars team and the players that Dallas needs to build around. They won't be traded unless the deal nets them players that are in Malkin's class (and let's be honest, that'll never happen). The players on this list should be pretty obvious (and short): Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, Kari Lehtonen and Alex Goligoski.
I'm actually inclined to also put Trevor Daley on this list as well as his contract makes it damn near impossible to move him. He's got a limited no-trade clause and is signed on for the next five years (at $3.3 million per year). He's better than most Stars fans would think and management obviously thinks he's a integral part of the future.
Benn will get a huge deal once the season is over that should pretty much lock him in for life as a Stars player. Eriksson and the newly re-signed Goligoski are here for another four years and centerpieces on this team. Lehtonen is here for another year, has played like a top-10 goalie in the league and is the clear cut number one goalie till Jack Campbell is ready (or if Richard Bachman makes a tremendous leap). Unless something insane happens, these guys are here to stay.
They're worth more to us than you
Players in this list are valuable for the Stars, but not in the untradeable level. Their value (and probably play) wouldn't be as effective on another team as they are on this one or they are young guys that seem to be the future big players of this team. They're good solid pieces for the future that can help build depth in the roster. They shouldn't be dealt away unless Dallas is getting good young talent that can make an immediate impact. On this list:
Eric Nystrom - I doubt that Nystrom's value will ever be any higher than it is right now as he's already having a career year and still has three more months to play. I feel like this is the perfect situation for him. He fits well in this team, is a tireless worker, does penalty kill duty and probably should be getting time on the power-play as well. What's not to like? It would be a shock to see him moved anywhere.
Mark Fistric - I really like Fistric and what he provides for this team. He's the big hitter for Dallas and brings that "holy crap!" factor whenever he really lays into another player. Dallas doesn't really have another consistent physical presence on the team. Steve Ott gets more hits, but not to the magnitude of what Fistric does. I doubt Fistric has much value to other teams around the league so there's not a lot of value in trading him. This is pretty much the only place where he can stay.
Fans were dying to get him onto the ice last season in place of Woywitka and it's happened again this year with Adam Pardy so why not keep him around? If he can get more consistent as an all-around defender, he could be an asset. He's played well when paired with Goligoski so it's not out of the question.
Philip Larsen - Larsen is basically a mini-Goligoski in training. He's a smooth skating offensively talented d-man and one team can never have too many of those. Larsen is really young (22) and if he keeps progressing, he has a future as a 2nd pair defenseman on this team. The only worrisome thing is that he's a waif of a player and can get pushed around easily. He'll need to be paired with a big body that's more attuned on the defensive end of the ice. I like where his career path is heading though.
Steve Ott - He's on this list because, if for nothing else, the rest of the league pretty much hates him. I don't know if any other GM out there wants to trade for Ott, but that's all right with me. Ott is the emotion on this team, something that's really tough to replace. He's the first guy willing to get into a fight to try to get this team jump started.
His role has also progressed through the years from an annoyance to a valuable commodity that's now counted on to score a few goals. He does work on both special teams units and is a solid second-liner and really, can you picture Steve Ott doing his annoying work in another jersey?
Richard Bachman - Bachman has shot up the value charts on this team with his play in the past month. He's light years better than what Andrew Raycroft was and is easily one of the better backup goalies in the league. Lehtonen is always an injury risk so Bachman's value to Dallas is huge.
Bachman should never go back down to the AHL now that he has shown what he can do at this level. It will be interesting to see what happens to the team when Campbell is ready to enter the NHL while Lehtonen and Bachman are still around. It might be interesting to float him on the market just to see if they can get a haul for him (hey, Mike Smith was the main piece for Brad Richards so who knows).
Dangle them, but only for the right price
Michael Ryder - Ryder is one of the few guys on the team that has consistent goal-scoring punch (heck, he leads the team in goals). Dallas would lose a lot if they were to send him away. A goal needy team (like Florida or Winnipeg) would be an interesting spot for the right price, but I'd like to see Ryder stay here. He works well with Benn, though Benn probably works well with just about anybody.
Mike Ribeiro - Stars fans got to see what it was like without Benn and Ribeiro a couple of weeks ago and how important Ribs was when he came back to the team. This team can't count on just Benn to be carry the club while our third best center is Tom Wandell.
Looking through the roster, it seems like Dallas has a bunch of tradeable assets, so it should provide another interesting trade deadline for Stars fans. Here's to hoping that it's a successful one for the Stars.
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