Thursday, February 5, 2009

Stars May Be Buyers at the Deadline

The Dallas Stars' hot play of late is not going un-noticed around the league. Winners of five games in a row, and going for their sixth in-a-row tonight against Colorado, the Stars are hunting down that 5th playoff spot in the West. This is the type of team the pundits around the league envisioned when they were previewing the league last summer. After a rough start, they have finally gotten here.

The strong play of younger players and new arrivals have really boosted the Stars in their play. James Neal and Loui Eriksson have both been having banner years - although he probably won't win it (the competition is VERY stiff), Neal is in the chatter about contenders for the Calder Memorial Trophy, the award given to the league's top rookie. Although quiet in the points department, Brian Sutherby has really chipped in with some great physical play since his acquisition in December. And, of course, there's Brad Richards. After a slow start, he has become the Stars' leading scorer.

There are rumors that the Stars may still be in the hunt for that "missing piece" before the trade deadline at the end of this month, though, and I have to agree that it's a strong possibility. Although the offensive side of things has looked pretty strong all season, the defense has been suspect at times, as has the goaltending, and those are areas the Stars may want to shore up before the deadline passes.

Before suffering a broken hand in last night's game against the Avalanche, Toronto's Tomas Kaberle was one of the most talked about names for available top-tier defensemen. Kaberle has a no trade clause in his contract, but he has said many times before that he is willing to waive it if he is not in the Maple Leafs' long-term plans. It still appears he isn't, but with this injury, he may be much more difficult to move at the deadline. I wouldn't completely rule him out, however, as he is arguably the most talented defenseman available when he's healthy.

Because of this injury, I think the Stars will look elsewhere. They still want a puck-moving defensemen who is a proven contributor, but I believe they want someone who can step into that role as soon as he's acquired. They may look at another Canadian team in the Eastern Conference - the Ottawa Senators. Filip Kuba is in the final year of his contract, and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. The Sens will probably want to get what they can for him while they are able, and the Stars are a prime canidate. Kuba is a capable, offensive-minded D-man who knows how to chip in and be mobile. Kuba has 25 points this year (1 G, 24 A) through 41 games.

Whether or not the Stars look for a goaltender remains to be seen. With Marty Turco's strong play of late, and the organization's announcement that they're not looking at anyone else to start games this year, that speculation is starting to dwindle. They may wish to get another able veteran if they can find one at a reasonable price (no small feat) if they are worried about Stephan's lack of experience for a playoff run, but more than likely they will stay put in this area. Personally, as I have stated before, I would like to see them sign Curtis Sanford. He'd be a lot more comforting as a backup if things get serious. Let's just hope no rash decisions are made...the chemistry is finally looking good this season.

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