The Dallas Stars Need to Make Trade Deadline Moves Now

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 02: Los Angeles Kings goaltender Cal Petersen (40) looks for the puck as Dallas Stars left wing Jason Robertson (21) sneaks in during the game between the Dallas Stars and the Los Angeles Kings on March 2, 2022 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Dallas Stars have a lack of production on their lower lines. While the team is in a playoff position, they are pretty deep at defense, and their 1st offensive line is arguably the best in the Western Conference. However, three players can’t carry the entire team into playoff relevance. Over their last four games, the lack of depth has been troubling for the Stars. General manager Jim Nill wants to wait until the trade deadline before designating Dallas as a buyer or seller. With the looming expiring contracts of Joe Pavelski and John Klingberg, Nill should decide to make trade deadline moves now rather than wait.

Context

The Stars are currently in a playoff spot but lack the depth needed to make a deep playoff run. Their first line of Pavelski, Jason Robertson, and Roope Hintz has combined to score 63 percent of Dallas’ total points and 45% of its goals. Without potential career years from these three players, the Stars would have likely started to trade away rentals and expendable players.

While the second line has done okay, coach Rick Bowness is constantly mixing every line, besides the first line, to gain consistent production from the bottom 9. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are having great seasons, but Denis Gurianov and Alexander Radulov have been too inconsistent to fill the scoring hole on the bottom lines. Michael Raffl and Luke Glendening nearly outscore Gurianov while pacing Radulov. Glendening and Raffl signed with Dallas in the offseason to help the penalty kill and for grittiness on the 3rd and 4th lines.

Gurianov fronts the list of Stars who rotate amongst the bottom lines because of inconsistent play. That list includes; Jacob Peterson, Joel Kiviranta, Riley Damiani, Blake Comeau, Tanner Kero (shocked to learn he’s played 23 games this year), Ty Dellandrea, Rhett Gardner, and Riley Tufte. The Stars have tried to institute each of these players as a mainstay for the lower lines, but only Gurianov and Peterson have put up decent production over the last two seasons. Suppose we take out the combined goals scored by Gurianov and Peterson, the other seven players combined for three goals and eight total points this season. The lack of production from the lower lines is holding the Stars back.

The Case to Buy-in

The biggest factor is that the Stars are in the playoff race. Dallas is tied for third place in the Central Division even with inconsistent bottom lines. While a playoff appearance this year would prove that the injury-plagued 2020-21 season was a fluke, the Stars should be buyers at the deadline. More than that, Dallas needs to make moves to bolster a legit run at the Stanley Cup. Waiting until the NHL trade deadline on March 21st will keep many doors closed for the Stars. If the Nill hesitates for too long, Dallas could miss out on the player that makes the difference for the lower lines.

Pavelski and John Klingberg have expiring contracts after this season, meaning the Stars may break up members of the current core. Pavelski has 59 points in 55 games and is on pace to have 90 points this season, at the age of 38. How much longer can the team depend on him to produce phenomenal numbers? Or will they forgo signing a 38-year-old winger to a long contract? With the window seemingly closing, what is the point of selling the team while being competitive?

Last year, the Stars decided to ‘stand pat’ at the trade deadline, despite being lower in the standing than they are now. Pavelski had 51 points in 56 games last season, and his value is likely not much higher than it was a year ago. It would make no sense to play out a losing season to sell the following year when things are clicking.

As buyers, the Stars have all seven picks in each of the next three NHL drafts. CapFriendly estimates that the team is out of space on the salary cap, but extra draft capital may entice a team to recoup salary from that contract. The Stars can add a piece from their lower lines in the trade to clear more money off the cap. For instance, trading a 2022 first-round pick and Joel Kiviranta for Jake DeBrusk and a depth defenseman. The Stars would fill two holes while getting around $1 million off the books, and Boston would get a first at the price of a few million dollars. The Stars get a good producer for the lower lines, while Boston receives fair value for DeBrusk at little cost to themselves.

This will not be an easy feat for Nill to pull off, but the Stars are desperate for scoring on the third and fourth line. Look at Jason Robertson’s reaction after his game-winning goal against the Winnipeg Jets.

Did I mention he has seven goals over his last three games, including two hat tricks? The Stars can’t live and die by goals from just their top line. Dallas is riding Pavelski, Hintz, and Robertson into the ground, and they need to give some reprieve to their top scorers.

The Verdict

The Dallas Stars are still determining whether they will buy-in at the trade deadline. Waiting until the deadline before making a move seems like Stars’ management is leaning towards being sellers. However, Nill decided not to deal players during last season’s deadline. The Stars need scoring depth and have a carousel of players who are not producing enough to make this team a contender. As the Stars climb into a tie for third in the Central Division, Dallas should be making trades to make a deep playoff run.

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