Pros and Cons of Dallas Stars’ Trade Deadline Attitude

ELMONT, NEW YORK - MARCH 19: Denis Gurianov #34 of the Dallas Stars celebrates his second period goal against Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders at the UBS Arena on March 19, 2022 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Dallas Stars’ management has kept the media in the dark about their plan for the NHL trade deadline on Monday. Stars general manager Jim Nill has said over the past couple of weeks, ‘we will see where we are at,’ and ‘we like what we have,’ about the team’s talent. Nill’s prolonged decision of rebuild or playoff push will come to a head on Monday, as the current roster is too good to blow up, yet reliant on the top two forward lines for scoring. As the deadline is a few days away, let’s weigh the pros and cons of the Stars’ attitude at the deadline.

Pros

If Nill’s most recent statements on the trade deadline are factual, this would be the second consecutive season the Stars made no moves on deadline day. Amidst a rough 2020-21 campaign, the Stars chose not to sell off older players like Joe Pavelski. While this season has been rocky at times, the Stars are within the grasp of a playoff spot. They are also already tight on salary cap money, and a trade to get a veteran rental would cost both draft picks and players to get done. Stars management is historically stingy with making big trades in general. These are the pros to not buying in on deadline day.

Keeping Draft Picks

The Stars invest tremendous trust in growing players throughout their organization. The few times the team did trade or sign a free agent, the Stars won the trade or hit a home run on a cheap signing. However, three of the top four best franchise players were Stars draft picks.

Mike Modano, Jamie Benn, and Marty Turco were all drafted by the Stars. Modano and Benn were part of the team’s three separate Stanley Cup Final appearances, while Modano won their only Cup. Only three team captains were not drafted by the team since the NHL and WHA merged in 1979, and Benn is the seventh-straight captain to be drafted by the team. If management wants a leader, they look from within.

Even looking at the Stars lines today, the most impactful players are former Stars draft picks. Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, Jake Oettinger, Miro Heiskanen were all selections over the past five years, who make nightly impacts. All of this means that draft picks are way too valuable from the view of Stars management, and giving that up for a rental in the last two months of the season can cause a seismic hole in future plans for the franchise. Although this team may not be talented enough to win the Cup, the Stars can slowly build a dynasty by drafting rookies.

Trading Rentals for Draft Packages

The re-signing of Joe Pavelski is confusing if the Stars don’t make more moves at the trade deadline. To send a 37-year-old player for, at his highest value, a first-round pick and a prospect is an absolute win for a rebuilding team. His extension extinguished any probability that he will be traded.

Pavelski has been super beneficial on the top line, but how much more can you expect from a winger closing in on forty? Pavelski followed up a 70-point pace in last year’s shortened season, projecting that his point totals will be in the mid-80s this season. Pavelski has 60 points through 59 games, as the Stars’ number one line has hit a bit of a cold stretch.

Pavelski has also been great for a growing Robertson and Hintz. During press conferences, Robertson has said many times that he looks up to Pavelski and tries to mimic how he is on the ice.

Robertson has 55 points in 51 games. The Stars lost a good chance at capitalizing from Pavelski’s elite year. His extension will send him into his 17th season in the NHL.

The Stars could also get a haul for John Klingberg, who is on an expiring contract. Klingberg, and his agent, explored trade options with other teams earlier this season, but nothing has materialized. His value would probably fetch two draft picks and a B-level prospect. Klingberg is usually a scoring threat at the blue line, but his performance has suffered at times, specifically after news leaked of his supposed trade request. Nill has been quiet with the media about plans for Klingberg’s future.

Cons

The Stars from 2019-20 that went to the Stanley Cup Final are a distant memory. They lost multiple members of their depth due to salary cap restrictions, and injuries ravaged the remaining core. While Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov are finally starting to get back to 100 percent, the third and fourth lines are unproductive. The top line of Hintz, Pavelski, and Robertson have the biggest impact on wins. The Stars will need to trade for some depth to help secure a playoff spot.

Top Line Does All the Scoring

That number one line of Hintz, Pavelski, and Robertson accounts for 35 percent of the Stars’ total points and 45 percent of the team’s goals. These three are the top three goals and points scorers for the Stars, where the next teammate is not relatively close in either category. Coach Rick Bowness regularly mixes up the line, but Pavelski, Hintz, and Robertson skate the most ice time per night and will eventually be on the ice at the same time.

During an off night, where the top line doesn’t score, The Stars are hopeless in their efforts. Take their most recent loss at the hand of the Islanders on Saturday. The Stars’ lower lines scored two goals, but it wasn’t enough to even tie a struggling team with a Covid-ruined season. The Stars need to address either scoring or signing defensive-minded forwards on Monday’s trade deadline.

Lower Lines are Replaceable

While teams like the Rangers have slightly higher depending on their top lines for scoring, the bottom lines are packed with good skaters and heavy-hitters. The Stars are missing complete lines that can do this. Luke Glendening was a solid offseason signing, I dare say he’s played better than Andrew Cogliano, but the pairing of Radek Faksa and Jacob Peterson is not getting it done. The lower lines are a mush of different play styles, who look decent when we look at them individually.

The Stars need to decide whether they want a gritty third line or one that scores. The ever-rotating players that run through the lower lines kills chemistry and shows that these players are not ready to play in the NHL. Peterson, Joel Kiviranta, Riley Tufte, Riley Damiani, and Tanner Kero have all disappointed at the bottom of the lineup.

Blake Comeau only played six games this year before being sent to the AHL, while Ty Dellandrea and Rhet Gardner have played less than five games. These were players who were supposed to fill the lower lines, and none of them have posted meaningful results. With these players on the lower lines, the Stars will be underdogs if they can make the playoffs this year.

Playoff Chances

The Stars are on the doorstep of being back in the playoff race despite my complaints. They currently sit three points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the second Western Conference Wild Card spot and are four points behind Nashville in the Central Division with a game in hand. The Stars are a very streaky team, whereas they passed the Predators in the Central last week. After going 1-5 this week, that changed, but there’s no worry that the scoring will fall off from the number one line.

If Nill doesn’t make any deals at the deadline, the Stars could still make the playoff, but you’re betting against injuries down the stretch. Sticking with the offseason acquisitions of Ryan Suter, Michael Raffl, and Glendening is a half-hearted attempt at creating a Cup contender. At the season’s end, you’ll likely see Klingberg sign with another team.

Monday will serve as an important day for the future of the Dallas Stars. I am fine with a rebuild or a playoff push, but sitting complacently at the trade deadline will further shut the Stars’ window at a Stanley Cup.

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