After two years of hearing the Dallas Stars’ name thrown around in trade rumors on trade deadline day with nothing coming to fruition, it was rather exciting to see “the Dallas Stars trade…” scroll across the bottom of the screen on Friday night during the 2012 NHL draft.  Only a few picks into the draft it was announced that the Stars had sent center Mike Ribeiro to the Washington Capitals in return for 21-year old center Cody Eakin and their second-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. 

While there were fairly immediate reactions to the trade from Stars fans, both good and bad, I am of the opinion that this trade cannot be viewed as an isolated move, but must rather be viewed as part of a collective group of moves that will comprise this off season.  Stars General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk has said for quite some time that he wants to build the team around a young core so that it may be competitive for many years to come, not just next year.  Ribeiro was going to become a UFA at the end of the upcoming season, and it is pretty apparent that the Stars were not interested in re-signing the center upon the expiration of his current contract.  As such, Nieuwendyk made the decision to free up roughly $4M in Cap space, along with acquiring a promising 21-year old center and a 2nd round draft pick for the 32 year old Ribeiro.

Later that evening, the Stars would take center Radek Faksa with the 13th overall pick in the draft.  Over the next 6 rounds of the draft, the Stars would end up drafting another 3 centers for a total of 4 for the weekend.  While the Stars did indeed draft a number of players at a position of weakness for them, it must be kept in mind that many of the players drafted may never see the NHL, and those that do don’t make it to the big club for at least 2-3 years after being drafted.

And this is what should have every Stars fan salivating for July 1st to get here.  While dealing Ribeiro to the Capitals was definitely a move for the future, it also nearly guarantees that the Stars will make a number of splashes when free agency strikes this summer.  Dallas already needed a top 6 forward before they dealt away Ribeiro, so it could be argued now that the Stars realistically need two top 6 forwards to become competitive again.  While there is no guarantee that the Stars will get both of those spots filled this year, one would certainly think that they will do whatever it takes to at least add a #1 or #2 center to fill the void left by Ribeiro.  Additionally, depending on how the Stars want to use Jamie Benn, the Stars could conceivably be looking for both a new #1 and #2 center in addition to a top 6 winger for their squad (if the Stars were to move Benn back to a wing).  On top of this, the Stars desperately need a #1 defenseman to add to their back-end.  In all fairness to the efforts of Stephane Robidas, this is a piece the Stars have been missing for quite some time.

There are a few players hitting free agency this summer that fit the bill for the Stars.  Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils is the most notable forward available this summer, and Ryan Suter and Justin Schultz are going to be the big names of the defensive market.  However, I don’t believe the Stars realistically have a chance of landing any one of those players.  As such, it will be interesting to see how Nieuwendyk and company add to the Stars roster this year, and it is very possible that there are a few more trades looming on the horizon.

While the Stars made a number of signings and moves last year, none of them (with the exception of the Ryder signing) were for big name, top 6 forwards or top 2 defensemen.  Most signings were for depth players that were dearly needed, but in all honesty these moves are not as exciting to the casual fan base.  This summer promises to be just the opposite in Dallas as the Stars have plenty of cap room, and a new shiny owner with money to spend.

The phones will be ringing on July 1st.