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Nill open to trading third overall pick in draft

Stars GM said he would be looking for established player in return

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill said Thursday he would be open to trading the third overall pick in next month's 2017 NHL Draft.

"I have talked to other teams already about possibly moving that pick, getting an established player back," Nill said during an interview on SiriusXM NHL Network. "It gives us lots of options."

The Stars secured the third overall pick in the NHL's Draft Lottery on April 29. It is their highest draft position since the team moved to Dallas in 1993.

Centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier are considered the top two players in the draft, but there is no consensus No. 3 pick.

"We know there are lots of choices at three. It's not like the top five or six are set in stone. Everyone has talked about the top two and then after that there is probably a group of ten players," Nill said. "I think it is going to come down to team's personal preference. Are you looking for a big, strong centerman? Are you looking for a scoring winger? Are you looking for a power forward? There are lots of different options there."

Nill said he expects talks about possibly moving the third pick to ratchet up as the draft, which will be held June 23-24 in Chicago, draws closer.

"We're going to analyze this. I think it is going to heat up as we go. I think the expansion draft may play into this too," Nill said. "I think the next month is going to be a busy time for the NHL as far as player movement."

Nill said he will be hitting the road to do some scouting, attending both the Memorial Cup and Royal Bank Cup. Nill didn't mention any players but forward Gabe Vilardi, who is ranked third on many draft lists, is playing at the Memorial Cup and defenseman Cale Makar, who is ranked among the top ten draft prospects, is playing at the Royal Bank Cup.

Nill said he's close to finalizing his protection list for next month's expansion draft in which the Vegas Golden Knights will select one player from each of the other 30 NHL teams. But he is still exploring options.

"I've got a good idea where our list is going to go," Nill said. "I've got some pretty good players that are going to be exposed. Do I talk to [Vegas GM] George [McPhee] and do something? Or do I say that he is going to pick one of these four or five guys and go from there? I've been talking to a lot of teams. We are all talking right now. There is some interest in the guys I do have to expose. We'll see where it goes. I would say things are really going to heat up around the first of June."

Also on the agenda for the Dallas GM is his goaltending surplus. With the recent acquisition and signing of Ben Bishop, Nill has to move either Kari Lehtonen or Antti Niemi off the roster via trade or buyout.

"I have to make a move with a goaltender, I definitely have to do that," Nill said. "I've talked to some teams already. I think that will heat up more as we get to the expansion draft. I do have a lot of different options in moving one of those guys. Ben is our No. 1 guy, and we have some good options with the No. 2 guy and what we do with the third guy."

Could Nill move both Lehtonen and Niemi and go with a younger backup to Bishop?

"I think that will depend on the expansion draft," he said. "I know the goaltenders we've had here the past two years have taken a pretty good beating, but they are actually not that bad of goalies. So that gives us a pretty good option to have a number two guy also. This league is becoming more of a two-goalie league. I think the Pittsburgh Penguins are a great example of it. I think even the Ottawa Senators with what [Craig] Anderson went through with [Mike] Condon and these other goalies stepping in. It's important to have a two-man system. We've got lots of options, and we are going to weigh them all, and we'll see where it goes."

And for now, the offseason seems to be going in a positive direction for the Stars. They secured the third-round pick in the draft lottery, got another first-round pick via the Patrick Eaves trade when Anaheim advanced to the Western Conference final and upgraded their goaltending with the acquisition of Bishop.

"It gives us some more assets to make moves to acquire players," Nill said. "We've got lots of cap room. So far, everything is falling into place pretty well for us."

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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