After winning the third overall pick at the draft lottery a month and a half ago, rumors have run rampant that the Dallas Stars were open to trading the pick for immediate help. There are certainly pros and cons to any trade decision, but this one seem to line up nicely for the Stars. On the one hand, the Stars would keep the pick and most likely pick up a defenseman to help their blueline, which, outside of John Klingberg and young Julius Honka, lacks top-end talent. However, Dallas’ core is reaching its prime years, as Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza are all in “win-now” mode. After the signing of former Vezina-nominated goaltender Ben Bishop, it is evident that the Stars are aiming to return to the playoffs rather than retool or rebuild. In as such, let us look at the teams that could be lining up with packages for the very coveted pick and who these prospective teams would select:
Vancouver Canucks: After the second straight year of finishing 2nd to last in the NHL standings, the Canucks are looking to swing for the fences and pick up a potential blue chip prospect at number 3. Currently, the Canucks hold the 5th overall pick and would most likely utilize said pick along with a defenseman of like Ben Hutton or Troy Stecher to warrant the fall from 3rd to 5th overall for Dallas. Many would be screaming at the thought of trading Chris Tanev, as he should, in theory, be worth more than the cost of trading up from 5th to 3rd overall. In as such, Vancouver, who had just pick London Knights defenseman Olli Juollevi last year at 5th overall, would most likely target the talented Miro Heiskanen from Helsinki of the Finnish Elite League. The 6 foot, 174 lbs rearguard would instantly set up the Canucks on the backend for years to come. The acquisitions of young and promising forwards like Jonathan Dahlen and Nikolay Goldobin allow Canucks GM Jim Benning to pursue youth on defense. With their forward group currently led by franchise cornerstones Henrik and Daniel Sedin and future captain Bo Horvat, the defense would be all but secured and would coincide with the entry of blue-chip goalie prospect Thatcher Demko.
Vegas Golden Knights: Many would be very quick to downplay this scenario, as the Golden Knights’ options to move up would either be contingent on what they received in the Expansion Draft and what their package would entail. With the very real reality that Vegas would acquire a few top 4 defenseman in their expansion draft , a valuable player to Dallas , along with their 6th overall pick could be the draft day splash that would allow the Golden Knights to pick their franchise cornerstone for the next 10+ years. Based on that, I’d see Vegas targeting Memorial Cup winner Gabe Vilardi. The young center was dynamite for the Spitfires during the season and Memorial Cup, often outplaying 19-year-old Logan Brown (who was initially pegged as the first line center of the team, but was supplanted by Vilardi due to his offensive struggles). Vilardi would present Vegas with the best long-term building block for their franchise, as a first line center is always coveted in a seemingly offensively-starved league.
Detroit Red Wings: Detroit hasn’t picked this high in the last 25 years and would certainly look to take advantage of their mediocre season to get top end talent. Picking at 9th overall, the Red Wings, who have holes on defense themselves, would have to unload someone of the ilk of Danny Dekeyser if they wished to move up in a way that would satisfy the needs of the Dallas Stars. However, for the Red Wings to do this, they would have to value Miro Heiskanen much higher than AJHL standout Cale Makar or the dark horse Timothy Liljegren for them to move a piece like Dekeyser. Furthermore, Heiskanen would most likely slot into Detroit’s backend as soon as this upcoming season, which would make the loss of Dekeyser and potential ceiling of the young defenseman that much more attractive.
Montreal Canadiens: Lastly, another team rumored to be actively pursuing the Stars is the Montreal Canadiens. Other than offering up their 25th overall pick, the Canadiens could also persuade the Stars with Nathan Beaulieu or Alexei Emelin (with retained Salary) as well as the addition of a defensive prospect like Noah Juulsen or Brett Lernout. This would solidify Dallas’ needs at defence, stabilizing their back-end with either rearguard, while also giving them a young prospect that could jump into the line-up in the near future. Dallas would still be able to pick up a solid player at 25, with many potential draft slips that could come after the 15th overall pick.
Montreal would most likely be eyeing the Windsor teammate of their top prospect, Mikhail Sergachev, Gabe Vilardi. Vilardi showed great chemistry in both distribution and reception from both Canadiens prospects Sergachev and Jeremiah Addison while playing with them this season. With Vilardi being viewed as a full-fledged center right out of the gate, the young pivot could easily slot into Montreal’s third line and could overtake Philip Danault as the team’s second line center if the Habs brass realizes that Galchenyuk can pivot the top line. In as much, the Habs would solidify their center position for the foreseeable future, while also shedding salary to pursue other offensive opportunities via trade or free agency.
Ultimately, I believe that Dallas will retain their pick, but we have been surprised in the past. Dallas simply wants to make the best of their draft lottery luck, and it would not be surprising to see them jump at the chance to acquire immediate help on the backend. As it stands, they already have some of the best forward depth in the entire league. Adding a guy like Heiskanen to their back-end would solidify their defense for the foreseeable future on their top pairing. However, with Dallas having already acquired another first round pick from Anaheim in the Patrick Eaves trade this March, Dallas could easily afford to venture on the trade route. They have lots of assets to use as trade chips at the moment, most notably the 3rd , 29th and 39th overall picks, they could use to convince other teams to unload their exposed asset leading up to the upcoming Expansion Draft. The Stars should be better prepared to attack a wide-opened western conference in the 2017-2018 season. It really comes down to whether Stars GM Jim Nill wants to return to the playoffs and wing it or if he wants to sustain long-term success in the playoffs for the foreseeable future.