Buyer or Seller?
To deal or not to deal. That is the question.
Actually, the more appropriate question is, “Are you a buyer or a seller?” when it comes to the NHL trade deadline.
That question becomes harder and harder for GMs to answer at this time of year, as teams stay in contention longer into the season since basically everyone gets standings points early and often in the NHL, even with losses.
The NHL trade deadline is Wednesday, March 5. The Stars’ 4-1 win over Carolina last night gives them 66 points in the standings. They currently have the second and final wild card spot in the Western Conference, but four teams are on their heels, all within four points or fewer (Phoenix, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Nashville).
So what are the Dallas Stars? Buyers or sellers with just 23 games left in the regular season? To me, they’re kind of both, which is really to say, they are actually neither.
Huh? Let me explain (get your slide ruler out). Just kidding; it’s actually quite simple.
One has to simply look at the Stars’ current roster and player personnel to get a good feel on where this team stands. The fact is, not making the playoffs for five consecutive years can be a good thing if management drafts well and makes some shrewd decisions at the trade deadline. The Stars haven’t been perfect, but they’ve been good enough, and fans should start by thanking former GM Joe Nieuwendyk, who did a decent job of stockpiling young talent. Current GM Jim Nill has taken it a step further, doing a great job of building upon the team’s base, especially along the forward lines.
The Stars could be a buyer. The team needs a top-four defenseman that can play right now. Dallas’ best years have always been when they had fantastic blue line players. In fact, ever since Sergei Zubov, Darryl Sydor and Philippe Boucher left, and even back to Deran Hatcher and Richard Matvichuk, the Stars have never been the same. So, a top-four D-man would be great. But at what cost? Let’s put it this way – high. You’re looking at a top prospect and/or high draft pick, minimum. Top-four defensemen are a lot like left tackles in the NFL – they’re hard to get and expensive to keep.
Should the Stars be a seller? They certainly have veterans that some teams might be interested in like Ray Whitney or Erik Cole. Stephane Robidas might also be a piece that teams would want had he not gone down with a bad leg injury at Thanksgiving. And what do the Stars get back in a deal like that? A draft pick; not much.
So what should the Stars do? In a word – nothing.
Dallas is slowly improving as an overall team and franchise, and much of that has come due to patience and development. It needs to continue. The team is playing in arguably the toughest division in hockey and is realistically no better than a wild card contender this season. So why go pay for an expensive rent-a-player and lose out on one of your important prospects or draft picks?
And trading Whitney or Cole is something I wouldn’t do either. Making the playoffs would be a huge accomplishment in a very competitive conference. The team deserves the chance to go for that spot and earn it. While Whitney might bring back a third or fourth round pick, his probable contributions to a playoff run outweigh it. Plus, he’s off the books this summer.
Dallas is 7-1-2 in its last 10 games and is making a push at the right time. More good news for the team is that it plays three more games prior to Wednesday’s trade deadline, including a home game vs. the worst team in the league in Buffalo, and a road game against mediocre Columbus (the other contest is vs. the Lightning on Saturday). Go 2-1-0 in those games and the Stars should still be sitting in playoff position come Wednesday when teams are making some tough decisions.
Unless a team blows me away with an offer, I would stand pat and take my chances with this squad. They’ve earned it and honestly, are pretty good right now.
Playoff hockey would be fantastic to see return to Dallas after a five-year drought. Here’s hoping that team brass keeps their powder dry and the players reward all of us with some postseason play.