Jim Nill and the Stars have been busy this season as the team has now been involved in four trades this season, the most recent two coming on Saturday. After Sunday’s tilt against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Stars find themselves facing a major setback as the newly acquired Mats Zuccarello is out at least 4 weeks after blocking a shot.
Prior to him leaving the game after the second period, Zuccarello was providing a spark scoring and assisting on a goal which helped lift the Stars to this victory. Numerous Stars including Dickinson, Cogliano, Ritchie also appeared to be playing hurt throughout the game. Jim Nill said Saturday he has done his part. With Zuccarello now out and numerous forwards potentially facing injuries, many questions remain with a day left until the trade deadline.
Who Will Nill Target?
Presumably, after losing Zuccarello for at least a month, Jim Nill will reenter the market to try and reinforce the forwards by adding another top 6 player. The cap strains the Stars find themselves in does make things far trickier, but there are players that they can target to give them some forward help.
Gustav Nyquist from the Detroit Red Wings has been a popular name for Stars fans and he makes sense not only from a salary perspective, but also he produces. He has 15 goals and 33 assists so far on the season for a struggling Red Wings team. The problem comes from what will the Red Wings want from the Stars? The Red Wings, similarly to the Stars, have almost no cap room and likely will want to be able to unload some salary. Dallas having already committed three high round picks for the next two years leaves only prospects as likely targets for the Red Wings. Jim Nill will have a difficult decision to make in what he is willing to give up to acquire more forward help.
Kevin Hayes is also rumored to be available and the Stars have already done business with the Rangers this week, so a good relationship exists there to potentially help a deal get done. His salary comes at a higher price unfortunately, but it is possible trading for him helps you resign Zuccarello who could be a staple for years to come for the Stars. Again, the issue though is what do the Stars have the Rangers would be interested in acquiring?
The ideal trade is going to have to involve trying to move some players on the roster currently as the locker room has grown rather crowded with three healthy scratches a night heading into Sunday. The Stars also do have the option of putting Stephen Johns on long term injured reserve to help with some cap relief for the Stars. Nill showed he was willing to take risks to help this team for their playoff push. How much further is he willing to go however, remains to be seen.
What Is Lovejoy’s Role?
The Stars currently have 8 defenseman on the roster. Lovejoy is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and the Stars gave up Connor Carrick and a 3rd round pick to acquire him. It is hard to imagine making him a healthy scratch at any point for the remainder of the season. So, where exactly does he fit in on this team? Fedun has been playing well and has even contributed at points this season, but it seems he will be the odd man out unfortunately. Honka will probably continue to be at the bottom of the totem pole and it certainly feels like his days in Dallas are numbered at this point. So Lovejoy will be playing every game, but that brings about another question.
Who does Monty pair Lovejoy with in his defensive pairs? History tells us it will be Oleksiak and Lovejoy creating a large, beefy defensive pairing there. Most likely, that will be his role on this team and he will contribute to the penalty kill. Potentially he can also spell Polak who has played a lot of hockey this season. The addition of a defensively sound player on the blue line also will be able to ease the minds of Stars fans in case another defensemen goes down with an injury. This is also where he will start in his first game with the Stars against the Blackhawks.
We know what conventional wisdom says, but it is more fun to imagine and dream. At times this season, Monty has split Lindell and Klingberg to mix up his defensive pairs. The Stars are in need of some offense in a bad way. Lovejoy is not known for his offensive skill set instead known more for being a stay at home d-man. Pairing the offensively skilled players with a player who is more focused defensively could help allow more creativity and more risk taking from the defensemen. Lindell, Miro, and Klingberg have proven their ability to put pucks on net and at the very least generate scoring chances. Pair each with a partner who can stay home and cover while they take chances in the offensive zone, maybe the goals will come more frequently.
The Stars lost Zuccarello for a month, but they showed heart and fight against Chicago. After a listless performance against Carolina, playing on a back to back, and losing their Captain in the first 3 minutes of the game, it would have been easy for them to lay down and give up. Instead, they scrapped and fought their way to a tough win on the road and picked up a valuable two points. Playing with 10 forwards for an entire period and having to survive a four minute penalty with less than five minutes to play is not an accomplishment to scoff at for certain.
But, if the Stars are going to make the playoffs, Nill is going to have to make at least one more move and the Stars will have to play with this kind of intensity they showed this afternoon.
Featured Image: C.L. Kohuss, Fansided.com, Photo by Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images