Dallas Stars trade tiers: Who can be dealt to upgrade the blue line?

The NHL trade deadline is a month away, but movement in the league is already in full force. The Dallas Stars are floating atop their division, in a close battle with the Colorado Avalanche and the Winnipeg Jets, the latter already dabbling in the trade market by adding Sean Monahan.

The Stars’ needs are simple to read. Barring injury, they have their duo in net and are set up nicely at forward, both in terms of the current NHL roster and organizational depth. The Stars have a group of defensemen that can win enough in the regular season, but it’s a position they could stand to upgrade for the best chance at a deep playoff run.

Let’s take a look at what the Stars have to offer on the open market.

Off the table (NHL roster)

NMC crew: Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski, Esa Lindell and Ryan Suter

Trade deadline season is a prime time to play armchair general manager, but it’s good to be grounded in reality. No matter how one feels about the play or contracts of certain players, speculating on packages including those carrying a full no-move clause, unless they asked for a trade, is a waste of time.

Not up for discussion: Roope Hintz, Jason Robertson, Matt Duchene, Wyatt Johnston, Mason Marchment, Miro Heiskanen, Thomas Harley, Jake Oettinger and Scott Wedgewood

This group is pretty self-explanatory. It’s mostly young players that are part of the core but also has some mix of veterans, like Duchene and Wedgewood, who would be a big part of a 2024 postseason run. Marchment, with a modified no-trade clause, is perhaps the only player who could be on the edge of this category, but his play this season, and fit on the line with Duchene and Seguin, as well as his popularity within the organization, likely take him off the table.

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Radek Faksa and Evgenii Dadonov

Despite a four-year difference in age, these two veteran forwards face similar circumstances. Both are 30-plus, both are under contract through 2025 and both have modified no-trade clauses. Faksa, 30, carries a $3.25 million AAV with a five-team no-trade list and Dadonov, 34, carries a $2.25 million AAV with a 10-team no-trade list (check it twice!).

Both players hold some value, but neither can be the face of a package if the Stars are looking to make a substantial upgrade. They are both players a team would be happy to have on their third or fourth line come playoff time, but their roles are replaceable for a cheaper tag. Including them in a trade package, whether it be directly with another team or involving a third team, could make sense to create cap room.

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Nils Lundkvist. (Keith Gillett / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Nils Lundkvist and Ty Dellandrea

The Stars claim they’re still hopeful about Lundkvist living up to the first-round price they traded away to get him prior to last season, but he’s coming off yet another healthy scratch in Toronto on Wednesday while the six defensemen in the lineup ahead of him gave up five goals to the Maple Leafs (it was just the second time in 2024 Toronto scored at least five goals, the only other time being a month ago against the San Jose Sharks). Lundkvist is 23 years old and a restricted free agent after this season, which could entice a rebuilding team to bring him in for a third chance in the NHL. If Lundkvist can salvage things in a new city, an acquiring team would have control beyond this season.

Dellandrea is a solid player with penalty killing ability. He could claim a spot in most lineups around the league, including Dallas. Ideally, it’s Faksa and/or Dadonov that get moved and Dellandrea slides into their spot. For his ability, versatility and contract, Dellandrea has some value. Still, if his contract, age and RFA status are sweeteners that can help bring back an impact player, the Stars would have to do it.

Craig Smith, Sam Steel and Jani Hakanpää

None of these players will be focal points in trade packages, but the Stars wouldn’t mind moving them. Smith is an effective fourth liner who can bring some energy and physicality to a lineup. He’s a seasoned veteran who can help a team come playoff time on the fourth line. Steel has had his moments and he’s still relatively young at 26 years old. He’s a pending RFA after being on the books for just $850,000 AAV.

The Stars like Hakanpää because of his size, but the veteran right-shot defenseman is bringing virtually nothing else to the table. Now that the penalty kill has become leaky, the main factor used to defend Hakanpää being in the lineup has taken a hit. Hakanpää is slow defensively and a liability with the puck. Unless the Stars can sell somebody on his size, they might have a tough time finding a team that would want to take on the soon-to-be 32-year-old defenseman.

Joel Hanley

This is not a shot at Hanley, who plays the seventh defenseman role supremely, but most teams already have their version of a Hanley. No team would be asking for him in a package and the Stars would be happy to keep him, aside from an effort to clear cap space for a newcomer.

Future assets

Untouchables: Mavrik Bourque and Logan Stankoven

There is nothing on the market right now that could get the Stars to give away their dynamic duo of young forward prospects. The top two scoring leaders in the AHL, Bourque and Stankoven will both have a spot in the NHL next season, if not sooner.

There is belief that Bourque could have the highest ceiling as an NHLer, and yet it’s Stankoven who has the slight lead in the scoring race. Both are great talents on entry-level contracts. It would take a phenomenal player on a ridiculous contract to pry either from Dallas.

Don’t bet on it: Lian Bichsel

Despite his unexpected departure to Europe, the Stars have high hopes for Bichsel as a future partner for Harley or Heiskanen. Bichsel is a big body who can play either side and projects as a shutdown type of defenseman the Stars currently lack. Bichsel may take a little longer to crack the NHL than the two forward prospects mentioned above, but he’s still very much in the Stars’ plans.

On the table: Draft picks

If the Stars want to add an impact player and are reluctant to move any of their top three prospects, they will have to bend somewhere, and draft picks could very well be in play. Stars general manager Jim Nill has shown, through the Lundkvist trade, that he’s open to moving a premium draft pick if it means acquiring a young player on a favorable contract in terms of team control. Nill also showed willingness to attach multiple first-round picks, with conditions, in a trade, when he acquired Mats Zuccarello in 2019.

Over the next four drafts, the Stars have seven of their eight top-two round picks, only lacking their 2025 second-rounder, which was shipped out as part of the Max Domi trade. The Stars are relatively light on picks in the 2024 draft, though, as they are without third-, fourth- and sixth-round picks. Nill has shown the desire to stock up when organizational depth starts to dip, and it’s trending that way once the aforementioned youngsters graduate to the NHL.

The Stars are going to have to make some judgment calls. Clearly, the Stars are in a championship window, and although it’s not exactly shrinking because of a strong young core, each passing year, key players are getting older (Pavelski) and talented players’ contracts are expiring (Duchene). Dallas also has to weigh the strength of the draft class against the potential of the team; in some years, a deep playoff run push a late first-round pick into second-round value territory, for example.

The Stars possess decent players on the NHL roster who can be nice supplemental pieces of a trade or an avenue of cap clearance for Dallas. They don’t have anybody, though, who can be the face of a trade package that brings back a high-impact player. If the Stars want to explore any bigger swings — and want to hold on to Bourque, Stankoven and Bichsel — draft picks will have to be on the table.

(Top Photo of Radek Faksa: Jerome Miron / USA TODAY Sports)

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