Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Bag of Pucks - April 2 - Trade Deadline Eve Mailbag Edition

Tomorrow is the day.  The last day of the NHL calendar year when you may trade assets and regain value for players who are on expiring deals.  In July, those assets turn to dust as they become unrestricted free agents and you get nothing for them.  It is generally a tough decision for NHL General Managers to know when to hold them and when to fold them.

But, this should not be that tough a decision.  For the Dallas Stars have shown on the ice that while they may be huffing and puffing, they are surely not blowing any houses down in 2013.  A playoff drought that is now 4 years and counting looks assured to hit 5 years in just a matter of weeks.

The drawing board is being summoned, and the Stars are being told to head back to it.  This is altogether disappointing and depressing for those of us in the area who thought that they might be able to get in the mix again this year - especially with a shortened season compressing everyone closely together.  Maybe this would be their year that things fall magically into place, right?

Ummm.  No.

The Morning of March 12, I wrote in this space the following:

9 of the next 11 are home for the Stars.  They need to hit the afterburners starting tonight against Nashville.  If on April 1 they are not sitting pretty, then it is doubtful that 2013 will be a playoff year.  They simply must shoot for 16 points out of the next 11 games.  That won't be easy, but then again, it never is. 

They shot for 16 points and they found 9.

That projection was hoping for a run that would get them 8-3 during a month where they were predominantly at home.  That was the golden opportunity that they had pointed to.  During that stretch, they went 4-6-1, and were outscored 39-27.  They had particularly deflating home nights when they were shutout at home by Nashville (4-0), destroyed in front of the home crowd by Chicago (8-1), deflated on home ice by Minnesota (7-4), and then the back to back in the last 2 days as Los Angeles (3-2) and Anaheim (4-0) decided to show Dallas and the dwindling home crowd who was boss.

Now, with 13 games to play, you can see how it would take 9 wins roughly to get in the mix for the final playoff spot, and if you can see a scenario under which they can take 9 of their next 13 games (with 8 of them on the road against playoff opponents), well then you and I might be watching 2 different teams.

Sadly, it appears time to reset and re-rack yet again.  This could cost jobs and certainly cost more ground in the pursuit to get this city fired up for their local NHL offering, but the writing seems clearly on the wall.  If some of the expiring deals that we discussed in this spot a few weeks ago can be flipped for assets that can help moving forward, then those moves need to be made.

The Stars are in a great spot where many of the names at this trade deadline of great quality have already been moved around the league.  As we get to deadline day, the team in the catbird's seat as long as they agree that they are on the outside-looking-in would be the Stars.  They have assets of quality and the rest of the league that is pursuing a Cup might be calling Dallas with offers.  If you can have a few teams calling on the same asset, now you can have an auction.  And auctions at trade deadline time between 2 teams in desperation to add a piece and don't want to back down to the other can turn out really well to the seller.

And that could be the Stars.

Let's answer your mail:

Good morning Bob,
It's time for Nieuwendyk to go. The guy has made mistake after mistake. Starting with the firing of Tippett. That guy has done nothing but win with no talent and no money in PHX.  
The Neal trade is obvious.  
Not trading Richards. There was 0 chance they were going to resign him. The Ryder trade was proof he has no confidence in being able to sign a Free Agent.  
The fact he stacked a team with 18 skaters and only 1 right handed winger makes for awkward fast breaks and an inability to have a proper cycle game. No one ever talks about this. 
That's my case to let GM Joe go.  
PS I know it would never happen but it would be great in so many ways if Ruff was the next Stars coach.  
Dustin Perez

There are plenty of people who have lost faith in Nieuwendyk as Stars' GM.  I understand the frustration, but would also remind people that we are falling into the cycle of change that can be a disease in certain franchises.  Remember, there were many who were sick and tired of Doug Armstrong and Dave Tippett.  Then, Les Jackson and Brett Hull were in trouble.  Then, Marc Crawford didn't know what he was doing.  Now, we have Glen Gulatzan and Nieuwendyk to blame.  Changing coaches and general managers every few years and never making progress (instead, regressing) is a downward spiral that leads to nowhere good.

That doesn't mean that you never fire anyone, but I might argue that Joe has put a young team together and very much improved the youth system substantially in the last few years.  This team might be a bold strike or two away from looking like one of the up and coming teams in the league soon with many prospects knocking on the door to the NHL coming.   The James Neal deal hurts badly and the firing of Tippett seems ridiculous now.  But, I have no 2nd guessing of the Ryder deal and they couldn't trade Richards if he didn't want to move.  Also, any cases against Joe must completely ignore that he found the Stars best player, Kari Lehtonen, for nothing and also was on post when Brenden Dillon (their best defensemen moving forward) was found for nothing.

Personally, I am tired of change.  They may need to make more, but now that this team is starting to look like a young and promising organization again, I am not sure I want a completely new set of decision makers who may choose to hit reset on the 5-year plan again.  Joe has not been perfect and I fear Gulatzan is not back next year, but don't count me amongst those who think Joe only makes poor moves.  Even the Jagr move has worked out very well, and I thought he was crazy to do that.

Which brings us to this one:

I contend that the Stars took a flyer on Jagr, hoping he'd play well, in order to flip him at the deadline for a young player.  Stars have to trade him. He's not part of the future. That said, what market, if any, is there for him? 
Ah, yes.  The Jagr market.  Maybe the most interesting decision here at the deadline because for some reason people are starting to make the case about locking him up.  I find this talk intriguing because he has been such a find, but also reckless in that history tells us that players that age are only going to have one ending.

Jaromir Jagr has been a real treat here in Dallas.  His reputation (the good one that has appeared in the last few years) was spot on and he has been a wonderful example to young guys about what it takes to become all you can be.  That said, if they don't deal him to someone who wants a guy for right this moment to help tip the scales for them in their cup run this spring, then I will be disappointed.  You sign veterans like this hoping that they build value for the trade deadline so you can pick up a player at the start of his career or a pick and cash in your small return on investment.  Jagr could be the centerpiece of an auction and you have this opportunity where clearly teams must have interest.  He has been fantastic and if only to boost a power play with his uncanny vision, the phone must be ringing.

I have no idea the inner conversations between player and team.  I suppose it is possible that he was promised he would not be shopped or has said he wants to play in Dallas again next year.  But, let's not lose sight of the target here.  He is playing a shortened season where 35 games seems like plenty this year because it is 75% of the season, but in normal years (like next year), 35 games is but a drop in the bucket.  He slowed down last year in Philadelphia as the year went on.  Why?  Because he is old!  I love the player and the story and I cannot believe it has worked out so well.  But, of all the players that need to be cashed in, this seems like the one that MUST be dealt.

You think a guy like Trevor Daley gets moved?  Does his contract hinder him being traded, or is he part of the veteran leadership on this club, like Robidas?
Thanks.  You are my leader!
Joseph Ruscitti
 One really interesting question is whether any Stars defensemen would get moved.  Daley might be the least likely because of his long contract that runs through 2017, but at a reasonable number of $3.3m a year.  Goligoski is not likely either because his performance doesn't match his money of $4.6m through 2016.  That actually might make Stephane Robidas as the most likely to get moved, although I think the Stars like him too much to do so.  He is just the type of guy you want running your room and has certainly been nothing but professional his entire run in Dallas.

However, if you keep all 3 of those players, add in Dillon and either Philip Larsen, Jamie Oleksiak, and Aaron Rome or Jordie Benn, you see that you have logjams on your cap and in your lineup.  If the Stars really wish to fix their long standing issue of no top-end defensemen, then they need to make sure they don't have too many mid-tier defensemen locked up.  Unfortunately, it might be too late unless you can move one of those top 3 out.  Being so far under the cap, it might not be that big of a deal, but we shouldn't be too shocked if a defenseman gets moved just to clear a position for the summer.  You can see how that rare top defenseman can really change how the entire unit would look.  Could you imagine Ryan Suter at the top of this group?  Heck, even if they kept Sheldon Souray, this whole blueline would make more sense.
What's the expected reaction to the fact that Derek Roy has no more contract talks? Does that lower his price?

In case you are wondering about Brandon's reference, it was tweeted out yesterday by Renaud Lavoie that: "No more contract extension talks for Derek Roy. Hearing Canucks have interest in him. We'll see if he'll be traded or not."

The Roy deal is another complex and urgent issue for the Stars.  I have talked about this plenty, but to recap, I just can't justify breaking the bank on Roy.  He has simply not made a large enough impression on the team for me to say that I think they need to re-sign him at his price.  I think the Stars would love him at $4m and he would love them at $6m.  That gap is too big when I am sure they would like to do 5 years and he would love to do 8 years.  Their contract might be $20m (5 years/$4m) or so and his ideal deal is closer to $48m (8 years/$6m).

So, although your leverage is lessened when that word gets out, it doesn't drop the price he could fetch. Teams need centers and he brings plenty to the table for a squad.  Of all of the deals, this one could get the most back because he could re-sign with the new team, thus being a major chip for that destination and a head start on free agency.  I think he could get you more than the Morrow-Morrow trade did, and if the Stars can flip Roy and Jagr here at the deadline for prospects/kids, they would be doing the difficult, but proper thing.

In closing, it is a really odd situation that the Stars find themselves in again.  But, I think the Kings and Ducks games that were just completed at least give them a clear and proper reading on where they are at.

I hate to miss the playoffs again, but they are in this spot because on the ice, they can't pass the tests yet.  It hurts to sell off, but it often can put you in a position moving forward that can get you out of this cycle if you can bite the bullet on the short term to gain for the long term.

Now, it is up to them to pull the trigger.

1 comment:

haley joel said...

So cool , been watching this, the contracts for a sports person as now ad then, i wish they pull out something big everytime