The Dallas Stars did some major revamping so far this off season. From GM, to coach, to nice new green-based uniforms. But changes to the guys in suits and some fancy new threads on the ice won’t bring the once Dallas faithful back to the AAC, at least not for long.

There are definite holes to be filled in the actual lineup if the fellas wish to show that all the hoopla so far isn’t just for show (well okay the uniforms are for show). The Stars can’t go in to the 2013-14 season with the same lineup as last year and expect to improve. Isn’t that the definition of insanity?

There are options out there this summer – from free agents to trade targets – and Jim Nill and co. have been working the phones already to try to find the best of those options. With a nice chunk of money to play with, the Stars are in a position where they can afford to be the team that takes on the more salary in any deal – as well as outbid other teams for any free agent they feel is a good fit.

 


Vincent Lecavalier – The recently bought out 33 year old Vinny Lecavalier would be a good temporary fix for he Stars down the middle. Despite seemingly falling off the map the last few seasons, he can still put up decent numbers (32 points in 39 games this passed season). He’s a big body and uses his size well creating space and fighting for pucks. Would go well centering either scoring line as well as the power play. Moving to a new team after all of his 14 seasons being spent in Tampa Bay could give him something to prove.

The Stars are one of several teams said to be interested, and have already had talks with the Lecavalier camp.

 


Daniel Briere – Also bought out this passed week, Briere is another who is on the downside of his career but can still be effective. Playing for Lindy Ruff in Buffalo for four seasons is a nice tie with the Stars new coach. He had his career best offensive output under Ruff (95 points in 06-07) and although those numbers are likely out of reach for the 35 year old Briere, he’s only two years removed from scoring 68 points in 77 games with the Flyers. His playoff resume is far more impressive than what some may realize too. In a day and age where even a point per game is tough to achieve (especially in the playoffs), Briere has 109 points in 108 games over his career.

To sum up his career – never count the little guy out.

 

Sam Gagner – I may be a little biased towards Sam as his father Dave was a favorite of mine when I was a kid (I still have my Dave Gagner North Stars home jersey from 1989 to prove it), but Gagner Jr. is on the rise. He may never be a number one center or an All-Star like his dad, but like Dave he may just need to throw on that Stars jersey to truly break out. Dave was a high draft pick by the Rangers in 1983 and was never really given a shot in New York. It wasn’t until a trade to the North Stars a few years later that his career took off.

Sam himself was a high draft pick and although he’s been a regular with the Oilers from age 18, the now 23 year old and already six year veteran is being overshadowed a little in Edmonton by the newer exciting youngsters. His size means Edmonton goes with two small centers on their scoring lines and although they like Sam, it’s a bit of an issue. The Oilers are bent on making the playoffs next year so a defenseman or a veteran forward who could help them achieve that could help pry him away. They’d likely need to have a plan in place to replace his spot on the second line too before they dealt him.

Like his dad, he’s a leader and a hard worker – as evident by his off season dedication to strength and conditioning last summer. Don’t let anybody fool you in to believing that any recent rise in his numbers has to do with team mates, it’s all Sam.

 

Sean Couturier/Brayden Schenn – The two budding stars coming over to the Flyers two summers ago via trade (Couturier in the form of a draft pick) give youth and depth to the lineup and help secure the future in Philadelphia. But as we all know, patience is not Paul Holmgren’s middle name. That’s not to say he’s in a rush to deal either of the young centers, but he’s not shy when it comes to pulling the trigger if he believes there’s a deal that can help put his team over the top. In this case, over the top would mean getting back to the playoffs.

Both players will demand big raises after next season and as Philly continually flirts with the cap, that could pose an issue. Receiving one of the two in a deal could mean taking on one of Philly’s unwanted contract as well (depending on what’s sent back in return), but youth and skill is what the Stars need and having one of these two at center could mean stability down the middle for a long time. The only real issue here is that neither are all that proven.

 

Tyler Seguin – Would the Bruins already part with their “consolation prize” in the Taylor vs Tyler Sweepstakes? Most would say not a chance, but most don’t have a say. It’s already being reported that the Bruins would like to get in on the first round action of what’s labeled as the best draft since 2003. The Bruins are also a team that entered the off season with decisions to be made. Those decisions involve money, and Seguin makes a fair bit himself already at $5.75 million per starting next season.  With 121 points in his first 203 regular season NHL games (keep in mind being sheltered for a good portion of those), his numbers could rise if given the opportunity.

Seguin is naturally a center and being just 21, he’s exactly what the Stars covet. He won’t come cheap though.

 

Jeff Skinner – The Hurricanes are another team that’s not far off the cap and still needs to round out the roster. They’re currently looking for a solid top four defenseman and the Stars could possibly fool them by sending over Trevor Daley or Alex Goligoski disguised as one instead…….

Okay in all seriousness, Daley himself has a very manageable contract and is a serviceable defenseman with a great set of wheels. The Hurricanes could very well see the value in that. The Stars would have to add for sure, as Skinner is just 21 years old and with three seasons under his belt already, he averages 57 points per 82 game season when pro rated. His $5.7 million cap hit for the next six seasons is something the Stars could absorb. The two sides have talked and striking a deal of some kind is not something I would completely rule out.

 

Valtteri Filppula – Filppula looks to be hitting the open market July 5, and those looking to guess where he’ll land could make worse guesses than the Stars. Obviously the connection here is with GM Jim Nill, who spent nearly 20 years in the Red Wings organization as assistant GM before being hired by the Stars this spring. He knows Filppula well and vice versa.

The 29 year old center enjoyed a breakout year with the Wings in 2011-12, scoring 23 goals and adding 43 assists in 81 games. The belief is that given more opportunity he could achieve those numbers again. He’s highly skilled and shows creativity in the offensive zone, and has learned the typical puck-possession and two-way style the Wings demand. There will likely be a handful of teams knocking on Filppula’s door once free agency hits, and should the Stars be in that group Nill could be the key.

 

Stephen Weiss – Maybe not the sexy pickup, but Weiss could come at little cost as far as trade (for his rights) and could fill in as a second line center quite nicely. The 30 year old has put up some decent numbers in Florida over the years, averaging around 25 goals and 55 points over the three seasons before the lockout. He managed only 17 games this shortened season as a wrist injury cut his season even shorter. It’s been confirmed that the Stars, as well as the Leafs and Wings have all shown interest in Weiss, and it would require a draft pick in order to obtain his negotiating rights before he hits the open market July 5.

Weiss isn’t big, at 5 “11 190 pounds, but he plays a nice two way game and can move up and down the ice well.

 

Thanks for reading. Comments appreciated. Check me out on Twitter at travcurrie

 

 

The Stars have been pretty up and down this season – looking like a playoff caliber team one week only to look like a lottery team the next.

So which one will management view this team as now that the 2013 trade deadline is just days away?

Obviously the goal at the start of the season was to make the playoffs. With less than a month to go in the regular season, that goal is within reach. But should that still be the primary focus?

Playoffs would be nice, but…

Too often GM’s let delusions of grandeur get in the way.  ”All you need to do is get to the dance”, or, “The playoffs are a brand new season”. Save the cliches, please. That Cinderella run back in 1991 was nothing short of amazing and I cherish those childhood memories, but it’s much better to build something lasting like our teams of the late 1990′s and early 2000′s.

This is an opportunity for this franchise to make some real moves for the future. Trading Brenden Morrow to the Penguins last week for 20 year old defenseman Joe Morrow was a heckuva start, and it’s the exact kind of deal management should be seeking for the other veterans who are not in the long term plans.

You can’t go out and sign good prospects (Brenden Dillon being the exception), but you can sign veterans in the off season that can be traded for them. So whether acquired last summer (Jagr for example) or long time fixtures (Morrow), none should be exempt when it comes to sacrificing for the the future core.

The worst thing this team could do is forego anymore veteran sell-offs in hopes of a miracle run, then go on to win enough to miss out on a  high draft pick but lose enough to miss the playoffs once again. That ladies and gentlemen is purgatory. We’ve managed to add some high end prospects in Jack Campbell and Jamie Oleksiak drafting from that area recently, but there’s a glaring need for a top end skilled forward and typically the best ones are plucked by then.

Now I’m not suggesting this team wave the white flag or lie down and play dead, I’m suggesting that in the next few days management really sets precedence on long term stability and success rather than the possibility of a few short term hurrahs – then let the chips fall where they may.

 

Thanks for reading. Comments very much appreciated. Check me out on Twitter at travcurrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are three ways to acquire assets: via free agency, via draft, and via trade. Some teams attract the big name free agents – the Dallas Stars aren’t that team. Some have had the fortune (if you want to call it that) of drafting high enough to add high end talent to their lineup to build around immediately – the Dallas Stars haven’t been that team.

They’ve remained in or around the middle of the pack for some time now and although they’ve been able to add some nice pieces, the high end talent in the prospect pool runs a little thin after the top three or so, especially at the forward position.

So how do they go about adding to the future core of this team?

Regardless of how you want to rate the current prospect pool, and it does have its gems, the fact is there are some veterans on the current roster that are not and should not be in the team’s long term plans. They could be flipped in to younger talent.

 

Brenden Morrow – Years of sacrificing his body has caught up to him, and he’s just not the same. Even if that’s the case, his reputation still follows him so you can bet there would be teams interested in adding a warrior like that for a long playoff run. He’s scheduled to be a UFA at the end of the season and at age 34, he’s likely not in for another long term contract. What he has left in the tank to offer this team over say the next couple years should he be re-signed, may not match the value of what he could bring in return via trade. Is it finally time to part ways? Morrow has a NTC so he has a say in that too.

Michael Ryder – A good signing by Joe prior to last season, Ryder has brought his goal scoring prowess to the Stars and has rounded out the top six nicely. He’s worked well with Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, but has yet to really find his game this season playing mostly with new center Derek Roy. He’ll be 33 at the end of March and like Morrow, is scheduled to become a UFA. He still has his shot and would definitely help round out someone else’s top six, or even just add some scoring depth like he did so well with Boston when they won it in 2011.

Jaromir Jagr – I know I know, trade Jagr? Well, let’s be realistic here. If this team isn’t in a playoff position come deadline, what do they need him for? He likely attracts the most offers out of anyone. He’s only signed on for this season and at age 41, will he even want to come back ? He’s still in phenomenal shape and by all accounts can still play, not to mention the experience  and work ethic he’s brought is invaluable and should leave an ever lasting impression on the youngsters. I’m certainly not opposed to keeping him around and re-signing him if he wants to return, but that’s something that he and management will have to discuss ahead of time.

Ray Whitney – Like Jagr, his experience and work ethic is appreciated and he can still play the game. He was also brought in to round out the top six and help with the power play. The 40 year old is currently on IR with a broken bone in his foot, but has been productive in his eight games so far notching two goals and six points. It’s unlikely he goes anywhere as he is signed for another year and there really isn’t any top six talent pounding on the door to take his spot.

Stephane Robidas – He’s given his heart and soul to this  franchise for the better part of his career, but he’ll be 36 on March 3 and could attract takers come deadline. Defensemen are always a sought after commodity for any playoff team and Robidas should be that. Like Whitney, he still has another year left on his contract and that means he wouldn’t be just a rental for any potential trade partner. That also means management will have to decide if he has a place on this team come next season or if it’s time to turn the page. His return likely wouldn’t be substantial so barring this team really derailing, it could be more worth it to keep him around at least for the rest of the season then re-evaluating in the off season.

 

This is not a knee-jerk reaction to just blowing a 3-1 third period lead to Calgary. I’m certainly not suggesting we fold our tent or completely decimate the roster of its veterans and void any potential miracle run. This is about evaluating and being one step ahead of the game – turning assets in to assets rather than letting them diminish or disappear in to thin air.

The likes of Jamie Benn; Jack Campbell; Jamie Oleksiak; and Cody Eakin, will need others like them to be on board if the Stars are going to compete with teams currently ahead of them in the young talent department. And those “others” have to be acquired somehow. For the Stars, turning older assets in to younger ones (Mike Ribeiro for Cody Eakin for example) could very well be its saving grace.

Whether this team is barely in or barely out come trade deadline on April 3, Joe and co. absolutely have to do their diligence and weigh out what a player can still bring versus what he can bring via trade. The only real problem is, this team hasn’t played a playoff game in five years and trading away veterans if a playoff position seems attainable won’t go over well with anyone.

Tough decisions will need to be made, regardless.

 

Thanks for reading. Comments always appreciated. Check me out on Twitter at travcurrie

 

 

 

Steve Ott’s name has recently been thrown around as potential trade bait for the Dallas Stars. It’s been reported that several teams have shown interest in him, and so they should, but would Joe Nieuwendyk part with him?

To answer that question, I would have to say yes – but it would have to be for something that helps the Stars out with their glaring needs ie. top end prospects/young players or a top six forward, and it would probably have to be an over payment.

Ott is a $2.95 million cap hit for two more years, so the fact that he’s both locked up and doesn’t really carry a hefty price tag would make him a very move-able asset.

The truth of the matter is, about anyone off this roster can be had if the price was right.  With the exception of a couple obvious players, why shouldn’t Joe at least be open to offers? Yesterday Kyle Quincy was acquired by the Lightning and then flipped to Detroit for a 1st round pick  - that should suggest that this is a sellers market. With big name players like Rick Nash and Jeff Carter carrying big contracts, and Nash commanding a ton in trade, teams looking to add could very well shy away and look at the next best options out there – which would mean some of the Stars veterans could be targeted and if it is a seller’s market, this could be the time to get maximum return.

Steve Ott has at times frustrated everyone with untimely penalties due to over aggressiveness, but overall he’s worth having around and does bring a lot to his team – hence the interest shown by others. He kills penalties, is one of the better faceoff men in the league, adds a physical element and also chips in on the offense at a decent rate. Some have been critical of the Stars for having him play up on the second line, but that’s what a lack of depth will force you to do. He can fill in nicely when needed, but he is best suited for the third line. If the Stars can add some depth up front,  he will be moved down and fill his natural role.

Any good team needs a player that plays with Ott’s gumption, and we would miss that. Management should also take in to consideration that he is a fan favorite and getting people to the rink has proven difficult the past few seasons. Shipping him out could be another blow to the fan base and local familiarity with the franchise.This team does need to hang on to some veterans and considering everything Ott brings to the table as well as the fact that he’s still on the good side of 30, he can still be a vital part of this team moving forward.

It’s difficult to say what veterans will or won’t be traded –  it simply has to depend on what offers are on the table. In no way would I suggest that this team needs to unload Steve Ott because as I stated above, he plays a very important role, but Nieuwendyk does have a responsibility to make this team better any way he sees fit and that means at least listening to any offers that may present themselves.

Ott does have a no trade clause so he would also have to approve any deal.

 

Thanks for reading. Check out my twitter at travcurrie

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