With the trade deadline looming nearer every day, the focus in the hockey world inevitably turns to any and all trade rumors being spread out there. While many of these rumors begin and are propagated by those who have no real inside sources, occasionally well-known, respected reporters make statements that cause us to turn our heads. And, similar to last year, the Stars again find themselves at the heart of one of these rumors.
This year, there has been debate back and forth as to whether the 2011-2012 Dallas Stars are looking to be “buyers” or “sellers” at the trade deadline. I tend to agree with those who think the terms “buyer” and “seller” when referring to NHL trades is a misnomer, however the point being made with these titles is understood. The “buyer” is the team looking to add that final puzzle piece to a team looking to make a deep playoff run, while the “seller” is the team who would still love to make the playoffs this year, but has decided their focus should be on the future of franchise. GM Joe has previously stated that the Stars will be neither a seller nor a buyer this year, but rather simply said that the Stars would be “active” at the trade deadline, listening to all offers.
Of course another thing to remember when discussing any trade talk pertaining to the Dallas Stars is the fact that they are dangerously close to the salary cap floor. When the trade deadline hits, the Stars will be $6 million dollars above the salary cap floor. What this means is that if the Stars do decide to become “sellers” at the trade deadline, there is only so much contract that they can offload in order to remain about the cap floor. This will prevent the Stars from “selling” too many of their veteran players if they do in fact decide to go that route.
The two players whose names have been thrown around the most as trade bait for the Stars the past few weeks have been Mike Ribeiro and Steve Ott. I can certainly see Mike Ribeiro netting significant returns for the Stars in a trade this week, but I would like to focus specifically on the possibility of Ott being traded here.
Darren Dreger of the Canadian sports network TSN said on the “NHL on TSN Quiz” on Wednesday evening that he believes that Steve will be the most sought-after role player at this year’s trade deadline. He also said via his twitter account that the Kings, Canadiens, Blues, and Leafs are interested in acquiring the 29 year old center from the Stars.
The key thing to realize here is that all of the reports that have been coming out pertaining to Steve Ott have been reports of teams being interested in acquiring Ott, NOT that Joe Nieuwendyk has been shopping him around. This leads me to believe that, as any good GM must, Nieuwendyk is listening to all offers being presented to him for Steve Ott but that he is not inclined to move the fan favorite unless the perfect deal comes along.
So, what would the price have to be to lure Steve away from Nieuwendyk and the Dallas Stars? In my opinion, the price would have to be ludicrously high. I’ll be the first to admit that Ott is by no means the most talented player; however he has many other intangible qualities that have been and will still be vital to this team moving forward. It is clear that the Stars are looking to rebuild this team for the future by injecting it with young talent and letting some of the older veterans move on. This could mean that many of the current leaders on the team could disappear this summer to free agency. Aside from Brenden Morrow, I think it is safe to say that Otter is the #1 leader on this team. He is a very powerful voice in the locker room and an incredible leader both on and off the ice. Plus, he is turning 30 this year. This means he has had time to develop as a player and become a leader for the younger guys on the team, but it also means that he has plenty of good years left in front of him.
Steve is a very unique personality in this league. Almost every team has an “enforcer”; a guy whose main job it is to agitate the opposing players as well as fire up his own team. However, Steve has performed this role while also managing to put up 20+ points 6 times in his 9 season NHL career (208 points in 546 games).
Otter works his tail off night in and night out, and is truly the spark plug for this team. He is truly the fan favorite in this city, and while that should never be a reason for choosing to not trade a player away, I believe that has to be taken into strong consideration in this situation. Dallas is a city that is used to winners. Since the Stars moved to Dallas from Minnesota they have been predominately a very successful team, nearly always in the hunt for Lord Stanley’s Cup. However, the past four years have been tough as we have seen the ownership crumble around us and the franchise has missed the postseason dance three years running. As one could imagine, this has driven a large portion of the fan-base away. While I believe that the fans will begin to return quite quickly as Tom Gaglardi infuses some money and youth into this team, one thing this team cannot afford is another drastic loss in the fan base, and I’m afraid that is exactly what trading Steve Ott away would cause.
But perhaps the best reason to keep Steve Ott here is so that you don’t have to play against Steve Ott. The fact that nearly every team in the league with the exception of one (Dallas) loathes Steve Ott, yet also nearly every team in the league would love to have Steve Ott speaks volumes about his qualities and positive attributes. He is a guy that teammates love to have around, and that opponents despise going up against. He is a leader both on and off the ice, and has the talent and ability to contribute both offensively and defensively to this team. He is one-of-a-kind and I for one hope to see Steve Ott the Pepper Pot in the green and gold for many more years to come.