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Hey Heika: Which top-six forwards could Stars target at deadline? senior staff writer Mike Heika answers Twitter questions from fans in his latest mailbag

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Occasionally, throughout the season, we will answer fans questions here in Hey Heika. As the trade deadline approaches on Feb. 25, you have a lot of questions, so let's get to them:


Is Nill willing to make a significant move to bolster scoring ahead of the deadline or is he more likely to wait until the offseason? I assume he's not interested in a rental. I haven't heard Dallas mentioned much in the rumor mill other than the obvious scoring needs. -- @OFT_77

Mike Heika: I think he's juggling a lot of options. I do believe he would add a rental before the trade deadline, because there are good ones out there who fit. I also think that we're to the point in the building of this team where they definitely need to make the playoffs and possibly even win a round or two.

Ben Bishop is 32, Alexander Radulov is 32, Jamie Benn is 29, Tyler Seguin just turned 27. They are in their prime, and the Stars need to take advantage of that. That said, you also could make a move that gives you a long-term player. You have already placed Marc Methot on LTIR and could do the same to Martin Hanzal or Stephen Johns, and that could open up cap space this year. The potential loss of contracts for players next season means you can take on a player who already is getting paid or wants to get paid. Thus, there is an opportunity to get a head start on the summer by acquiring a player who has a contract or wants a contract.

That's a lot to digest, and you also have to factor in what another team wants from the Stars, but I do believe the Stars will be active before the trade deadline.


What are the chances that Hanzal and Johns see their seasons ended before the trading deadline? Methot's decision helped Oleksiak come back to Dallas. How would that help out the salary cap? -- @FJGreene

Heika: I think the timing of both will be tied to whether the Stars get a player and need the cap space.

I'm not a medical expert, but you can guess that it might be tough for Martin Hanzal to return this season, so he is a candidate for LTIR. Stephen Johns is a little trickier, because you really don't know when he might get a breakthrough this season. Still, you don't have to put either on LTIR until you need to acquire a player, and all of that can be done retroactively when a decision is made on a possible trade. So, yes, the option is there, but they don't have to use it until it's needed.


What are the realistic options for a trade for a top 6 forward? I don't think we have what the other teams would be looking for in return for Panarin, Duchene or Stone. Could we get Nyquist or Dzingle? I feel like Nill might not make summer to make a big trade then -- @kthurmanator

Heika: It depends on what the other team wants, but you have plenty of draft picks, plenty of young players on the roster (Honka, Nichushkin, Gurianov, Dickinson, Ritchie…), and plenty of prospects with some amount of upside (Robertson, Dellandrea, Oettinger, Point, L'Esperance, Caamano, Gleason…). So, in the traditional sense, you have exactly what it takes to get a big-name rental. Now, the question is always what do you give up, and that's what makes a shrewd negotiator in the NHL.

In retrospect, giving up Loui Eriksson, Matt Fraser, Reilly Smith and Joe Morrow for Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley and Ryan Button seems like a pretty good deal. Likewise, surrendering Alex Chiasson, Nick Paul, Alex Guptill and a second round pick for Jason Spezza was worth it. So you can talk yourself into giving up some of these young players when you understand the risk-reward in whether they are going to pan out or not.

I definitely think the Stars can be in these talks if they feel the time to win is now and they don't mind losing a little bit of future potential.


Hey Mike, any chance the Stars pursue some help on offense by the trade deadline? Maybe Matt Duchene or Artemi Panarin? -- @aaronschickWX

Heika: I don't think Panarin is the right fit because of price and potential to re-sign, but Duchene might be a second-line center they look at who could really help the team long-term.

Again, price of trade and price of player to re-sign could be too high on Duchene, as well, but I think he would be a more realistic discussion than Panarin. But I definitely think the Stars should ask on every possible player, just like they asked about John Tavares and Erik Karlsson in the summer.


I miss Antoine Roussel. I guess that isn't a question. -- @BurdenOrAGift

Heika: I feel you, but when I was watching the Coyotes the other day, I also felt that I missed Alex Goligoski. Then, you go back and remember the negotiations and see their contracts and I think there was not much arguing at the time. Roussel signed a four-year deal that averaged $3 million. Goligoski signed a five-year deal that averages $5.475 million, and the Stars felt they had more affordable replacements at the time and that they needed the money for players like Tyler Seguin, Ben Bishop and Alexander Radulov.

It's easy to be critical of the front office when you're sitting at home, but letting go of Goligoski and Roussel seemed pretty logical.


I think Chris Kreider would be a great target. Also -- can you tell me when this team will change its development (or lack there of) culture? Hard for young players to thrive when they're never trusted & play on 4th line, or get healthy scratched constantly. -- @cbarnard82

Heika: I don't think the Rangers want to give up Chris Kreider at this time, but the Stars could be in the market for a player like Mats Zuccarello or Kevin Hayes, who are each pending UFAs. They all fit into the great juggling act that is the NHL trade deadline and they will all be mentioned by teams trying to add.

As for development culture, the Stars are actually having some success in development with players like Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell, Roope Hintz, Jason Dickinson and Radek Faksa. You can even throw in John Klingberg from a few years back. You hear it time and time again that the players have to force themselves into the lineup and show they can help the team win right now. We can have all sorts of arguments on how this is done, but I think we sometimes get caught up too much in the prospects that struggle and don't see the prospects who succeed.

It's frustrating for fans, but the Stars are not alone in trying to win every game, and that makes it tough to develop every single prospect.


Mike who do you think the Stars had the highest hopes for from the forward group that just isn't getting it done? -- @realdoug21

Heika: I think that has to be Valeri Nichushkin.

The big winger is 23 and is in his sixth season of pro hockey. I think he had every opportunity to walk in and grab a top six forward spot, and he just didn't force his way into the lineup. In his first three NHL season, he had 64 points (23 goals, 41 assists) in 166 games.

If he had 25-30 points right now, most people would be pleased, but he has no goals and seven assists. That's a huge disappointment.


Do you know when Stephen Johns was first hurt? For that matter do the Stars? Who's he gonna be, Sidney Crosby (just playing) who came back after 10 Months or Adam Deadmarsh who never did!?! -- @noomMJJ

Heika: I believe it happened at some point during training camp. Because he has lingering issues with his brain and head, it's a difficult injury to pin down.

Likewise, it's almost impossible to predict the future on what is going to happen with him. The Stars are going to do everything to help him get better and continue his NHL career. The best thing they can do is be patient and help any way they can.


I've heard about Nill's apprehension to part ways with a 1st rd pick. Do you think he'll be willing to spend to find a legitimate top six option? -- @TaylorMylar

Heika: I do, yes. I understand the desire to build long-term, but the hope is the Stars will be climbing the standings in the coming years, and that this could be a pick that is in the bottom half of the draft.


Joel L'Esperance is tearing it up down in Austin, is he the next call up. Would help the scoring or is his talents limited to AHL play? -- @StarsPotter214

Heika: This is a tricky one, because I've wondered it myself.

As we have watched players like Jason Dickinson and Roope Hintz and Devin Shore and Brett Ritchie and even Curtis McKenzie score in buckets at the AHL level and then have trouble scoring in the NHL, there is some trepidation to calling up L'Esperance at this juncture and putting that kind of pressure on at this point in the season. The Stars have a full roster and like how they have managed their players so far, so they are willing to work with the forwards they currently have and allow L'Esperance, 23, to continue to develop in the AHL.

He is just now becoming a consistent scorer after scoring 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) in 44 games at Michigan Tech last season, so he still has some growth to do at the AHL level. Plus, he is not only helping himself get better, but helping his Texas Stars teammates get better.

I really believe patience is the best option in this case, and I also believe the Stars will be a different looking team after the trade deadline.


Do you think we have any chance of landing Panarin? -- @xfog_

Heika: No, I don't think he's the right target for this team right now.


If the Stars do in fact face the Preds in the first round, what are the chances we see all four goalies making at least one start in the series? Will there be Goalie Drama? -- @JL_Intramural

Heika: I think it's a great debate. One, they would start the series in Nashville and I think the Stars would have to at least discuss starting Khudobin, who has been fantastic in that arena. Two, Rinne hasn't been great against Dallas in recent seasons, so Nashville could ponder Saros at some point. The NHL has become more of a two goaltender league even in the playoffs, so I think that would be a fantastic fan element in a series between the Stars and the Predators.


Why is Nichuskin still getting starts even though he has zero goals? Its baffling to me. -- @caotk

Heika: He is a talented forward who is doing good things defensively, so he is going to get chances. Plus, Denis Gurianov hit a bit of a wall in Arizona, so it made sense to try Nichushkin in Florida.

That said, coaches are making tough choices now, so Nichushkin will have to battle for the ice time going forward.


I saw that Detroit may be in talks with Dallas regarding Honka: What would he bring in return? -- @BGR316

Heika: The guess is that the Red Wings might deal 29-year-old winger Gustav Nyquist, who is a pending UFA. Nyquist has 47 points (14 goals, 33 assists) in 57 games this season, and can play either left wing or right wing, so he would fit what the Stars need.

Honka could be a part of a trade if both sides decide to look at this option.


Why did we bring back Olekisak to play mins. Honka or Carrick could have used? -- @starsf9

Heika: It seems pretty obvious that the Stars wanted another option and they like what Oleksiak has done. He adds a completely different element on defense and helps give some of the physicality and size that was lost in injuries to Methot and Johns.

When you consider that the Stars have not had both Johns and Methot for almost the entire season, that is a massive change on what they could be doing on defense right now. Oleksiak helps fill that gap.


Any talks at all about Lindell's next contract, or Honka being in play at the deadline? -- @geoffboldgloom

Heika: I have not heard a word. Lindell can become an RFA in the summer, so the Stars would retain his rights and there's no real hurry at this time to get an extension done. He will be playing for the Stars next season.

Also, if you're his agent, you might want to wait to see just how good this season is and just where contracts go for a player like Lindell to maximize your negotiating stance.

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.

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