Now that Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff has joined the “Kari Lehtonen Is Driving Us All Nuts” club, the NHL’s most disappointing team can address the elephant on skates in the room - the trade deadline.
There is no decision to be made. The white flag should be raised over the green and gold of the Dallas Stars.
The NHL deadline is March 2, and the Stars are nine points behind the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Time to shoot Old Yeller. Unlike this point last season, there is no sign this team has enough to make a hard run to the eighth seed in standings. Losing six of seven before their game on Sunday night against the Ducks killed their faint playoff chances.
This will be six out of the last seven years of missing the playoffs ... which does wonders for those responsible selling tickets.
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Beyond the obvious of trading veteran winger Erik Cole, it’s time for Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill to dump what else he can, namely the veteran core of average: Kari Lehtonen, Alex Goligoski, Trevor Daley. Unlikely? Yes. Bad on the Stars’ cap? That, too. But Nill has to ask what they have done, and this team’s future with them.
This trio is at the center of this inexcusable run of no postseason. They are not bad players, and each has value, but together their production is not there.
If Nill is somehow able to trade goalie Kari Lehtonen, throw him a parade. Lehtonen is arguably one of the worst starting goalies in the NHL, and he is signed through the 2017-’18 season at a cool $5.9 million per year. It will forever remain former Stars’ GM Joe Nieuwendyk’s worst contract. Lehtonen has never been this bad before, and perhaps a change of address would help. This guy has been good before.
Speaking of good before with bad contracts ... Alex Goligoski he has one more year remaining on his contract at $4.6 million. Daley has two more years remaining on his contract.
Lehtonen, Goligoski and Daley all represent the nucleus of a team that has not been good enough. What they do is tease. What they do is create the impression they are good enough when the results say otherwise.
The Stars were supposed to challenge this season for something more than the playoffs, but that has not happened nor will it. In the West, they are only slightly better than the Coyotes and Oilers. The Stars defense never caught up to their offense, and their goalie is not good enough to clean up the considerable messes left in front of him.
The trade deadline is here and the Stars should not bother kidding themselves about their status - sell.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7760