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Hey Heika: As trade deadline nears, who could Stars target?'s Mike Heika talks potential deals, special teams, Johns' return and more in his latest mailbag

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

I always enjoy talking with the fans.

This is a sport that creates a lot of debates and I truly believe we can all be right at certain times. Your vision for the team might actually be better than the vision of those in charge. Your take on the happenings of Monday's game could be more salient than those in the media.

So let's make this democratic for at least one day, and have some public discourse on the Dallas Stars. You asked questions on Twitter, I answered them here. If you disagree with me, go to Twitter and voice your thoughts.

Here's another edition of Hey Heika:


Now that Stephen Johns is healthy, who could be a potential target for this club at the end of February? (If we can't fix our scoring woes) -- @JakeRD_

Mike Heika: There are some interesting players who could be available, and yes, I do think the Stars need to concentrate on trying to help the offense. If you look at what Mats Zuccarello added last year, you might want to lean toward acquiring a facilitator. But if you look at the passing ability already currently on the Stars, you might want a finisher.

Probably the three easiest targets also are the three players who would cost you the most in draft picks or prospects. Tyler Toffoli, Chris Kreider and Brandon Saad each could help the offense.

Toffoli plays for the Kings and can become a UFA in the summer, so he will likely be part of a bidding war. He has 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) in 49 games and is 27 and a right-handed shot.

Saad plays for the Blackhawks and has another year left on his deal at $6 million, so you'd have to make room for that. He's 27 and has battled injury this year. He has 21 points (13 goals, 8 assists) in 39 games.

Rangers winger Kreider is 28 and can become a UFA in the summer. He is big (6-foot-3, 217 pounds) and fast and has 32 points (17 goals, 15 assists).

Each team might want to keep these players, so you''ll probably have to give up a lot to make the deal. The Stars have already traded their second and third round picks in 2020, so dealing their first would be devastating. They could possibly dangle 2021 picks if they get desperate. As for prospects, the cupboard is a little bare, so other teams will be asking about Thomas Harley, Jason Robertson, Ty Dellandrea and Jake Oettinger. Do you want to give up any of those four?

If the Stars do make a move, they could wait until late on Feb. 24 and try to grab a bargain. Could the Canadiens move Ilya Kovalchuk? He's 36, and he was a problem with the Kings, but he seems to be playing well in Montreal and would be an interesting wild card on the Stars who could play either with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin or maybe with Roope Hintz and Alexander Radulov.

Dallas also could look at someone like Alex Galchenyuk. The Penguins have been rumored to be looking to shake things up and the 25-year-old has been inconsistent this year. Maybe a change of venue would be good for him. Dallas also might be able to swap a forward to make the salaries balance out.

We'll see what happens as we get closer to Feb. 24. I just think they will wait until the last minute if they do something this year.


If the Stars were to try and acquire a forward at the deadline, would it be more beneficial to get a faster player for a potential Colorado matchup or a more physical forward for a potential St. Louis matchup in the playoffs? -- @benpatterson33

Heika: The guess is you're playing Colorado first, so you want to get past them. I really like all of the speed in the new NHL, and I actually think the Stars use a lot of their speed to defend. Dallas is positionally strong and swarming with their checking, so speed could actually help them more than physicality at this point.


What's going on with the power-play entries? Is it bad play design or lack of scoring threats that allows opposing teams to look amazing on their PK? -- @rewdy214

Heika: They were doing well there for a while with power-play goals in six straight games, so the hope is they know what's wrong and can fix it. They seem to be working more on entries in practice, and that should help.

The power play was awful on Monday, but the belief is they were out of sorts because of the break and will respond well to practice.


Better Costner movie; Robin Hood or Waterworld? -- @fuzywzyboomboom

Heika: I'm a sucker for cheesy movies, so give me "Robin Hood." Give Costner his due, though, he has made a lot of great movies. I'll stop down for "Bull Durham" or "Field of Dreams" whenever they are on TV, and I'm a huge fan of "For Love of the Game" and "Draft Day." He also was quietly good in "Hidden Figures."


Tighty whities or briefs? -- @YaMomsAccordion

Heika: Not that there's anything wrong with them, but I haven't worn tighty whities in 25 years. I like boxer briefs.


Is there any new info on a potential Julius Honka trade? -- @ryandez11

Heika: He can't play in the NHL this season, so my guess is trade talk will start up in the summer. I hope he makes it back. I think he has the potential to be an NHL regular.


What do you see Heiskanen's potential reaching? I think he could become another Lidstrom. -- @BrandonSmillie

Heika: Nick Lidstrom is a pretty high bar, but we were talking about trying to measure Heiskanen's potential the other day. The Lidstrom we remember was 25-40. That's when he was in his heyday. Sergei Zubov joined the Stars at age 26. Miro Heiskanen is 20. It takes a while to understand the nuances of playing defense in the NHL, and Heiskanen is only going to get better.

As good as he is now, I think he might get much better. My guess is his points will start to go up over the years, and that's when he'll start getting compared to some of the all-time greats.


Why is Jim Nill so adamant on keeping this current coaching staff instead of an easy choice like Gallant? Also, Are coaches subject to the same roster freeze rules as players? -- @CarterStephen18

Heika: I think there is some loyalty to Rick Bowness there. I think management worries there already has been too much change. I think there might be some trepidation on the part of the organization to make a commitment to another head coach for what would likely be four or five years. The Stars are in an interesting place when it comes to big decisions with management right now, and I think the easiest thing for everyone to do is simply stand pat. So they will stand pat.

There are no rules on hiring or firing coaches. Lou Lamoriello fired Robbie Ftorek with eight games left in the 1999-2000 season and the Devils won the Stanley Cup.


How long until we see Johns get some power-play time? And any chance we see him and Oleksiak together for a cannon tandem? -- @CraigOnlyCraig

Heika: Rick Bowness has mentioned Johns' shot on a couple of occasions, saying it's the best on the team from the blue line, so I think you could see him on the power play pretty quick. My guess is Johns and Oleksiak will not be on the power play together, but they could be a defense pairing at even strength (they were for much of last game).


Who do you think the Stars should be looking at obtaining? What does Gurianov have to do to earn Bowness' trust? What does he need to do to get ice time? -- @lunaticonice

Heika: We talked about the possible trade targets earlier. As for Denis Gurianov, I think Rick Bowness likes his teams to play good defense. It's how he sees the game, and he likes to make moves that will make it tougher for the other team to score goals. Gurianov is finding his place, and I think you will see him get more chances with good offensive players going forward. But if the team is defending a 2-1 lead in the third period, it will be easy to let Gurianov sit out more than play.


Hey Mike, rumors are out there about Janmark being on the block. Anything behind those snippets? -- @AWoelfling

Heika: I think it's just logic. The Stars have the LTIR money from Martin Hanzal, but they might have to do some wiggling to make a possible trade work. Janmark makes $2.3 million and is a UFA at the end of the season. If the Stars wanted to get a player with more offensive upside and another team wanted a player who is more defensive (like Janmark), that could help make the money work out. Or if an AHL player like Joel Kiviranta is ready to come up, moving someone like Janmark could also bring a draft pick back.


Mike, it looks like Bones uses his forward lines by matchup rather than situation -- FCC vs. top line regardless of D/O zone. Why doesn't he use a scoring line for O-zone faceoffs? -- @jtraviss09

Heika: I think we have seen with Rick Bowness that he likes to think defense first and he also likes to roll his lines and balance his minutes as much as possible. As such, he might pass on what might be an obvious offensive situation to instead use his defensive players. I also think he really does believe that active defense can lead to scoring opportunities, so he could be putting his players in a position to take advantage of an offensive group trying to work the puck up ice out of their own zone with the belief that's exactly where his players can take advantage of a turnover and create a scoring chance in transition.

This approach is confusing, but it can work. I know many of you don't like the fact that Bowness starts the 3-on-3 overtime with defensive players, but he does that with the belief that his team will not give up a quick scoring chance, that they will tire out the opposition's best players, and then he can put his best players on the ice and take advantage of the match-up that he wants. He really does see the punch and counter punch of a team starting with good defensive play, and that's one of the reasons he makes those deployment decisions.

As you watch it play out, he's right a lot of the time.


Who are the Stars' best matchups for the playoffs, and how many points gets them in this year? -- @StarsPotter214

Heika: I think they would be best off to finish as a wild card and then play the Pacific Division teams, but I don't think that will happen. My guess is they will play Colorado in the first round and then probably have to play St. Louis if they make it to the second round. It won't be easy.

It could only take 90 points to make it in the West this year. Teams nine and down don't look like they are going to make a big second-half surge.


What's your thoughts on Johns in his two games back? Do you think it helped that Tampa was coming out of the bye week and maybe a little rusty themselves? -- @farnsy17

Heika: I'm a fan of his, so I'm a little biased, but I think he has looked terrific. To be out as long as he has, I think his skating has been great and his physicality has been surprising.

Now, the common criticism even when he was on top of his game is that he doesn't always make the best decisions when playing in big games at top speed, so he has to be tested there. But I think he is a huge add that can help make the group of defensemen even better.


If Houston gets an NHL team, how do you think they would blend with the Stars? Rivalry? -- @SiscoSoSick

Heika: I think it would be fantastic for the state and for Stars fans, but at this point I think it would have to be a relocation. Seattle will make 32 teams for the NHL, and that seems perfect for now, ending any potential expansion talk for at least the near future.

Commissioner Gary Bettman is currently saying he doesn't see any teams moving, so this could take a while. But I honestly believe Houston would be a great market for hockey.

Some submissions have been edited for brevity and clarity. Have a question for a future Hey Heika mailbag? Tweet it to @MikeHeika and use #HeyHeika.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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