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Stars' win streak factored into deadline strategy

by Steve Hunt /
FRISCO, Texas -- With the Dallas Stars (33-26-4, 70 points) currently on a four-game winning streak and just three points behind current Pacific Division leader Phoenix, the team chose not to make any moves prior to Monday's NHL trade deadline.

Dallas did trade defenseman Nicklas Grossman to Philadelphia on Feb. 17 for two future draft picks, a move the Stars made because GM Joe Nieuwendyk felt his club had sufficient depth at the blue line. But other than that, all was quiet at the team's headquarters on Monday.

"I think nothing would have been done unless it was good for us moving forward whether it was three weeks ago or today," Nieuwendyk said. "But there's no doubt that I'm pleased with the way we've been playing lately. I know we have a tough road ahead, but it's also a message to this team that we do believe in them. This group has shown some resiliency."

But as little as several weeks ago, Nieuwendyk's outlook on his club was much different.

"Three weeks ago, it was hard to figure out what our team was all about. We didn't look like a team," he said. "We were having a lot of difficulties. So that's been encouraging to see how this group in the absence of [Jamie] Benn and [Brenden] Morrow, how they've really come together. I just think a lot of guys have really stepped their games up."

But with the return of Benn, a 2012 All-Star center who has missed seven straight games with a knee issue, coming as soon as Wednesday against the Penguins and the return of captain Morrow, who has missed 12 straight games with an upper-body injury, likely coming next week, it's almost like the Stars will be getting two new players since this talented duo has been out some time.

"The way I look at this deadline is that we've got some pretty good players coming back to us in Brenden Morrow and Jamie Benn, so let's not forget about that either," Nieuwendyk said. "I think with the boost of energy that [rookie] Ryan Garbutt has given us, we have some pieces that are going to help us going forward here."

Morrow missed six games earlier this season with similar issues and was a different player upon returning. His GM expects a similar resurgence once the Dallas captain returns to the ice.

"I think that's something that will happen," Nieweudyk said. "I think he looks terrific. If he comes back and gives us the boost that we expect he will, it's going to be really good for us."

And the 2011 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee admits his club's current four-game winning streak did play a role in his and the other organizational brass deciding not to make significant changes to their roster before the deadline.

"I think it's made it challenging in the last few weeks with the way our team has performed and that's a good thing because they've really stepped up and shown that they're here for the fight. That's a good thing going forward," Nieuwendyk said.

However, it wasn't like the Stars GM and other decision makers weren't presented with at least several intriguing scenarios leading up to the deadline.

"Yeah, I would say there was a couple of things on the table that took a lot of time to sort through, but at the end of the day had a responsibility to put the best team on the ice right now, to challenge to make the playoffs here and didn't want to risk moving anything that would not help us with a return going into the future," Nieuwendyk said.

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