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Down the Stretch

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB /

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - And so the clock ticks towards the start of the 2017 NHL Draft on Friday night and the Dallas Stars remain very much in the thick of myriad conversations about just how things will unfold at the United Center.

With the expansion draft less than 24 hours in the rear-view mirror, discussions for many teams looking to enhance their position in the draft continues unabated.

Dallas GM Jim Nill's phone is getting a workout given the prime position the Stars enjoy, holding the third overall pick as well as a second first-round pick, the 29th. Nill expects the conversations will become more definitive as Friday night's first round draws nearer.

"Yeah, there's been continuing interest," Nill said during a brief conversation at the team's hotel Thursday afternoon.

"Teams calling; what's the price to move up? Vice versa," Nill explained. "So, there's lots of dialogue that will probably pick up even more tomorrow. You start getting closer to the deadline teams will have to make decisions. I've got to make decisions too."

At the heart of the discussion is whether the Stars are best served keeping the third overall pick in a draft that is deceptively deep, but which lacks the kinds of generational talents we've seen the last couple of seasons.

You can debate the merits of the four or five players that would likely be available third, including a couple of top-end defensemen like Miro Heiskanen or Cale Makar, or one of the four or five very strong centers expected to go early in the first round including Michael Rasmussen, Casey Mittelstadt, Gabriel Vilardi and Cody Glass. Most, if not all, are unlikely to be NHL-ready this fall.

And so, the bigger question than who does Dallas take with the third pick is whether someone will be on the other end of Nill's phone line offering a package that makes sense to give up that pick and that would certainly mean an everyday NHL player coming to Dallas and likely a defenseman.

The dynamic of these kinds of discussions has been enhanced in the hours after the Vegas Golden Knights finished the expansion draft with GM George McPhee stockpiling draft picks and young prospects along with selecting one player from each NHL team's exposed list.

The Golden Knights have three picks in the first 15 picks Friday night; 6th, 13th and 15th. They are rumored to be angling to move up from sixth and that could mean a possible fit with Dallas, especially given some of the defensive talent the Golden Knights possess via the expansion draft.

McPhee has already moved two defenders selected Wednesday night Trevor van Riemsdyk, who went to Carolina and David Schlemko, who was moved to Montreal. The name that has surfaced in connection with Dallas has been former Ottawa defenseman Marc Methot.

"I haven't heard from Vegas so I can't comment on that," Nill said. "I don't know what they're doing, they don't know what I'm doing. So really nobody really knows the answer to that."

Nill wouldn't handicap whether he is leaning towards moving the third pick or keeping it and that's a function of how fluid the situation is around the league.

"There's still too much time and too much going on," he said.

Earlier in the day, the New York Islanders made a huge splash acquiring Jordan Eberle from Edmonton for Ryan Strome. It's expected Eberle will play with Islander captain John Tavares.

"There's still lots of time for a lot of things to change," Nill said. "We'll see where it goes."

In some ways it's a no-lose situation for the Stars. Keep the pick and get a very good young player or swap it for a package that makes your team better both in the short-term and down the road.

"This draft is like any other draft. It's a good draft," Nill said. "I never think there's a bad draft. There's players that come out every draft so it's our job to find them. We're fortunate where we're picking because it gives us more options than we've ever had in the past. That's got us in a good spot."

He and his scouting staff will be ready to react regardless of how things unfold, the veteran GM said.

"We're prepared," Nill said. "We've done our homework. We know where we're at. Our lists are all done. Depending on where it goes our guys are ready to go."

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB

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