NHL.com is sitting down with newsmakers leading up to the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 25 at 3 p.m. ET. Today, Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill discusses the possibility of being active in the market, outlines why he believes there might not be much trade activity throughout the League until the day or two before the deadline, and why he believes the Stars can make a legitimate run at the Stanley Cup.
The Dallas Stars are willing to add a player on an expiring contract, preferably a scorer, if the cost is digestible, general manager Jim Nill said.
The question remains: What will the price be?
Nill said the market value might not be established until the hours leading up to the deadline.
“We’re very open to anything,” Nill said. “I think there are a lot of teams, because of how tight things are in the standings, they’re waiting to see where it all goes. So over the next two weeks that’s something we’re going to watch. We’re very open to making a hockey trade if it’s going to make us better. If we stay in the hunt the way we are, we’re open to adding to our team.”
Nill said he would like to augment the Stars offense but noted that most of the teams in the chase for the Stanley Cup Playoffs are after the same thing.
“It’s hard to score goals right now. You watch games, every team seems to be in playoff mode right now,” Nill said. “Every game seems to be 2-1, 3-2 right now. It’s hard to score goals. I think that’s where our game is going a little bit. If we could add a little more scoring, you can never have enough of it.”
The Stars added experience when they acquired 31-year-old forward Andrew Cogliano, who has 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 47 games this season, from the Anaheim Ducks in a trade for 24-year-old forward Devin Shore on Jan. 14.
They also acquired Jamie Oleksiak in a trade with the Pittsburgh Penguins for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft on Jan. 28. Oleksiak, a 26-year-old defenseman who played his first six seasons with the Stars before being traded to the Penguins on Dec. 19, 2017, has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 44 games this season.
The Stars (29-23-5, 63 points) are 10-7-2 since CEO Jim Lites publicly called out top-line forward Jamie Benn and center Tyler Seguin for their lack of production on Dec. 28. That includes a 6-0 road loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.
With the Stars holding the first wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference and less than two weeks remaining before the deadline, Nill addressed a number of issues with NHL.com.
On why he feels the Stars can make a deep Stanley Cup run without making trades:
“I know that once we make the playoffs, we’re going to be a tough, tough team to play against. We’ve been in the top three or five in goals against all year. Our defense has become a strength. What excites me is we have a lot of guys who have played well but haven’t gotten the point totals you might expect. We know what their ceiling is. I just think we’ve finally found our identity.”
On what the Stars identity is:
“We have real good size. We’re a heavy team. We play hard. And when we play the right way, we can match up against anybody because of our speed and our size. We’re getting outstanding goaltending. And I think our back end, with the evolution of (rookie defenseman) Miro Heiskanen added to John Klingberg and Esa Lindell and the young guys who have stepped in, defense has become one of our strengths. Our goaltending and our defense probably have been the biggest surprises for us.
“At the beginning of the season we were decimated by injuries. Five of our top six [defensemen] were out for a period of time. Klingberg was out for eight weeks. We kept our head above water. We kind of know what our roster is now.”
On how the team has responded after Benn and Seguin were called out by CEO Jim Lites in late December:
“First of all, those comments came out and it’s not who we are. It’s something that’s over with and we’re going to move on. The players accepted responsibility for their play. But what I liked is that they responded as far as the rest of the team took responsibility too; they didn’t just leave it in the hands of a few players. We’re all part of this. That’s what I liked.”
On the volatility of potential prices on the trade market:
“I think things are going to have to wait until the last minute. It’s going to be interesting. Maybe nothing happens. We’re all talking to each other, the teams. There are some teams that might be saying to themselves: ‘We’re going to be six or eight points out, maybe I’ll move my UFAs. But if I’m still in it, I’m not getting rid of my UFAs.’ So maybe the market dries up too. I don’t know. It’s no secret there are four, six big names out there. If they get signed, does that change the secondary market? If they get moved, does that set the market? We’ll have to see.
“In the end it comes down to what the price is. There’s a certain price that every general manager is going to be comfortable with depending on where their team is. If that price makes sense to us, we’re open to it. If it doesn’t, we won’t be doing it. It’s pretty straightforward that way and I think it’s that way with a lot of teams.”
On worrying about his job security:
“Every general manager, every coach, every player in this League, we want to win. That’s the pressure we put on ourselves. We’re competitive. I don’t know if it’s pressure. It’s the way we operate. Do I feel any added pressure? No, I don’t. I’ve been in this game in management, as a player, on the coaching side. We accept that and kind of relish these times. We know we have to make the playoffs, we want to make the playoffs, and that’s what we strive to do. My job is to make sure we make the right decisions short term and long term. Sometimes I’ll make decisions people on the outside don’t like but I know I have to make the right ones to get the right value to build this team. Sometimes they like it, sometimes they don’t. That doesn’t really bother me too much.”