Owning four picks in the first two rounds of arguably the deepest draft in at least a decade, Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill is feeling pretty good as the 2013 NHL Draft approaches.
Nill, hired April 29, told NHL.com Wednesday that he knows his team needs to change and improve, and this year's draft, to be held June 30 at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., is a good chance to move that process forward.
"We have four picks in the top 54," Nill said. "We have the 10th, we'll have either the 29th or 30th [from the Boston Bruins via the Jaromir Jagr trade], and we also have the 40th and the 54th. So we have four picks in the top 54 … it gives you a chance to get four pretty good players and it gives you options to do things at the draft, whether its trading up or trading down. Gives you a lot of flexibility."
However, Nill said trading up could be a proposition more expensive than he's willing to pay.
"I know historically to move up at the draft it costs you assets and we're trying to build up assets," he said. "Unless it was just something that I thought was a no-brainer, we'd move up, but I'm very comfortable where we're picking and I know we're going to get a good player."
What positions those players play remains to be seen. Stars assistant GM Les Jackson told NHL.com at the NHL Scouting Combine he sees the draft strongest at center and defense.
"It's a good draft," Nill said. "There's a lot of good players and there's going to be a lot of good players in the second round. It's a strong draft. … There's good forwards, there's good defensemen. If you want smaller, skilled guys, they're there. If you need some bigger power-forward guys … it's a good variation of players."
The draft will be one part of Nill's rebuilding plan in Dallas, which started with the acquisition and signing of veteran defenseman Sergei Gonchar. Nill sent a 2013 sixth-round pick to the Ottawa Senators for Gonchar's rights on June 7, and three days later announced he had signed Gonchar to a two-year, $10 million contract.
The 39-year-old had 27 points in 45 regular-season games in 2012-13 and six assists in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games. But more than that is the experience Gonchar brings -- in 18 NHL seasons, he's been to the playoffs 13 times, won the Stanley Cup once while making the Final three times, and played in four Olympics.
"We have a young team here and they've gone through some tough times in the last four or five years," Nill said. "You need those players in the dressing room that bring the experience, they know how to win, they know how to adapt to different situations, and that's a big part of the business, having those right players in place. He's a big part of that."
Nill said to expect more changes before the 2013-14 season starts. The Stars have missed the playoffs the past five years.
"I think we're going to be active," he said. "I know I need to make changes. We need to get … our team has to get better. That's my game plan -- I need to make some changes. It's going to be different."
The changes won't be just on the ice. The Stars are in the market for a coach, a position Nill said he hopes to have filled before the draft, but said getting it done before the end of the month isn't imperative.
"I'd like to [have it done before the draft], but it's not a must," he said. "Ideally you'd like to be able to go to the draft with your coach and he gets a chance to meet all the scouts and meet the players you're drafting. Then right after that you have development camp and free agency. You like to have a coach in place for those situations, but I'm not going to rush and make a quick decision just because of those dates either."
Nill said he's narrowed the field of candidates to replace Glen Gulutzan, but also said he's going to take all the time he feels he needs before making his first major hire.
"It's a longer process than people think sometimes," he said. "It does take time, and my schedule has to fit with the person you're interviewing. It's a process. You want to do the right thing and kind of go from there."
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Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor