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02/21/2012

The Stars should protect four names at the NHL trade deadline

Cor_nieuwendyk_joeDALLAS – Stars coach Glen Gulutzan says the morale of his team is quite good, that spirits are up and that hope remains. He has a good group of professionals, so that much is believable.

What is harder to believe is the hope, as one player told me, that this team can just put together a five-game winning streak will actually be realized. A 10-point string would change everything.

The logic is technically solid. The Stars are three points back of eighth-place Calgary for the eighth spot in the Western Conference. There is time for a run, and it would indeed change everything.

But the Stars have to know what they have is not working. Despite the changes made by new owner Tom Gaglardi, the on-ice product looks the same, which is not good enough. This team simply can't score, and is relying on Kari Lehtonen to do more than most goalies.

The team is losing more than they its winning, and in the position of requiring countless variables to break right to make the playoffs.

The last time the Stars won five straight was Oct. 10 through Oct. 21.  They had a three-game winning streak in early December. Since then, however, it’s been more multi-game losing streaks than winning streaks, which has the team looking like it will be playoff-less again.

Stars GM Joe Nieuwendy's goal is to make the playoffs, but at what cost? His recent trade of defenseman Nick Grossman to the Flyers for some draft picks is not a white flag, but Joe is at a delicate point. The trade deadline is Monday, Feb. 27.

To deal anybody else of note would be to acknowledge the season is gone, which those inside the dressing room know they are merely playing out the string and it's over. But to deal anybody else of note may pose a serious problem of keeping the team above the NHL's salary floor. The Stars have the NHL's lowest payroll at the moment; there will be no salary dump. 

"I know that stuff gets talked about but guys don't worry about because there is nothing anybody can do," Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski said last week.

What is Joe to do? Deal.

The face of this franchise is Jamie Benn. Joe can deal anybody else but Benn, Goligoski, Loui Eriksson and Kari Lehtonen. 

Brenden Morrow (if healthy), Steve Ott, Stephane Robidas, Richard Bachman and maybe Michael Ryder and Sheldon Souray will get you something. 

“I hear this stuff all the time. I don’t want to be traded,” winger Steve Ott said. “I believe in this team. I believe in these guys. I believe in this franchise. This is the only team I’ve ever known. I don’t want to go anywhere. But it’s out of my control. If it happens, it happens.”

@MacEngelProf
tengel@star-telegram.com
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