STARS MAILBAG: Let’s talk about expansion

For the Dallas Star there weren’t many surprises when the NHL revealed expansion protection lists this morning at 9:00, er, 9:30 a.m.

And Jim Nill handled his assets the same way I would have in this situation.

We have to remember the expansion draft is all bout asset management, and the Stars protected their most valuable assets (Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, John Klingberg) and those that have potential to become their most valuable assets in the future (Radek Faksa, Stephen Johns, Valeri Nichushkin).

With such a historical day, I thought it would be fitting to put together a special edition of the mailbag centered around expansion.

So let’s get started…

Nothing is certain, so I won’t say 100 percent. But I would bet good money that Valeri Nichushkin will play for the Dallas Stars again.

That may not be this season. But the Russian forward will be part of the future in Texas.

Sorry, can’t do that. There are too many factors in play.

I do feel confident that Nichushkin will be part of the Stars during the 2018-19 season. The 2017-18 season, however, is still too murky for me to risk credibility on a straight yes or no answer.

The Stars have until June 30 to buyout Antti Niemi. They just can’t do it during this roster freeze, so that announcement could come as soon as Thursday this week.

He could, and he very well might. But it’s going to come at a cost.

The New York Islanders are reportedly going to part with a first-round pick to make sure the Golden Knights don’t select an exposed forward.

I was a little surprised, but not overly shocked.

NHL general managers once again proved they can be an overly cautious group. No one wants to make the first move and end up looking foolish.

Playing around with the expansion draft tool I made a team within expansion draft rules that drafted 23 skaters and seven goalies.

That list of goalies included:

Malcolm Subban
Linus Ulmark
Calvin Pickard
Petr Mrazek
Marc-Andre Fleury
Antti Raanta
Louis Domingue

With this group I would want to keep Fleury and Mrazek as my tandem in the NHL, while I would like to keep Subban and Ulmark as my AHL goaltenders. That would set up the ideal line of succession in the Vegas crease from Fleury to Mrazek and then to Subban or Ulmark, whichever one ultimately wins the job.

I would then work on flipping Pickard, Raanta, and Domingue to teams looking for help in goal and add more assets to my portfolio of draft picks.

I didn’t take Philipp Grubauer, who I really like, and I’ll explain why in a moment.

With the other goalies I’m taking in my hypothetical situation, I couldn’t pass up taking Nate Schmidt.

I think he’ll be a very good fit in Vegas and he could be part of the long-term future on the blue line. The Golden Knights also have a ton of cap space and could sign the 25-year-old to a favorable long-term deal.

I find it hard to believe that Matt Dumba won’t be part of the Vegas Golden Knights on opening night. He’s a 22-year-old right-handed defender and his development arc works well with Vegas’ realistic plan to compete within four seasons.

The Minnesota Wild could try and make a side deal with Vegas to protect Dumba, but without a first-round pick to trade it’s going to be difficult for the Wild.

There are good chances of that happening. In the regularly scheduled mailbag on Friday we discussed how Dan Hamhuis could be a viable asset in expansion for Vegas — not necessarily as a roster player, but as a veteran defender to be flipped at the trade deadline in 2018.

It really depends on how George McPhee views Cody Eakin. Is he a player that can bounce back? Or was last season an accurate snapshot of how he’ll play next season?

I don’t think the Stars have a side deal worked out with Vegas at this moment (I’m writing this at lunch time on Sunday). The feeling I got is that Jim Nill was waiting to see what other players are exposed from other teams and then looking to see if a deal could be swung to potentially land a player that way — possibly a defender.

At first glance it would probably take a third-round pick, or at least that’s the value I would assign to it.

It could cost a bit more if another team calls Vegas and shows any interest in Hamhuis.

Throughout the season people close to the organization maintained that Cody Eakin had trade value, and if they wanted to move him they easily could of.

The fact he’s exposed tells me they were greatly mistaken and Eakin didn’t hold the value they expected. Yes, there are media types calling for him to be traded to Edmonton, and the Stars would have liked to move him for something of value, but a trade just wasn’t in the cards.

People in Edmonton are greatly undervaluing Jordan Eberle and overvaluing Cody Eakin. If such a trade was to happen it would be a steal for Dallas.

Everything has a price, but I think any chance of Jonas Brodin coming to Dallas has sailed. From my understanding the Stars were one of the teams to inquire about the defender and ultimately balked at the price.

Brodin is now on Minnesota’s protection list and they don’t have any plans of parting with him. If they do it will come at a price higher than the Stars are willing to pay.

Marc Methot could be a nice fit on the left side with John Klingberg. He’s used to playing with Erik Karlsson, and Klingberg has a similar base skillset to the best defender on the planet.

That’s a good fit in theory, but we also have to remember that Klingberg isn’t Karlsson. Karlsson is an all-around defender. He plays in all situations and he’s proven he can put up 70-plus points a year while still blocking 200-plus shots in the same season.

The Stars have visions of Klinberg hitting that level, but it’s still a stretch at best for this season and he has to take major strides defensively.

Will Methot be as effective with Klingberg when he has to serve as a defensive anchor?

We also have to remember the cost will be high and that Methot is 31 years old. It might behoove the Stars to find a younger player that would be a better long-term option at a similar cost.

Nate Schmidt would be on my wishlist. That could be the reliable younger left-handed defenseman the Stars are looking for.

They’ll try, hopefully for Schmidt, but the Stars may have missed a key opportunity by not working out a deal for Brodin before expansion draft.

I was very surprised that with what the Islanders did in protecting five defenders. However, I will reserve final judgement until I see what type of side deal they made with Vegas.

I don’t understand why the St. Louis Blue protected Ryan Reaves.

It would check the box as a top-six winger, which the Stars have been looking for. I’m still in favor of signing Alexander Radulov for that spot.

First I would give RFAs Radek Faksa and Esa Lindell raises. Then I would sign free agent winger Alexander Radulov for my top-six and defender Brendan Smith for depth on the blue line to play on my third pairing.

I also make sure I’ve got cap space open in case Nichushkin is a late defection back to the NHL.

Overall I’m making sure I’m smart with my money and so I’m not handcuffing myself when Tyler Seguin is due a raise after the 2018-19 season.

Radek Faksa and Esa Lindell should each be in the $2 to $3 million per season range, while Brett Ritchie could be in the $1.5 to $2 million range.

Patrik Nemeth and Jamie Oleksiak should be in the $1 million range if they are back with the Stars next season.

In a more recent conversation I had with Ken Hitchcock he was very complimentary of Stephen Johns. He likes the potential and some of the tools Johns brings to the game.

The fact he was protected in the expansion draft speaks volumes that the Stars believe he is part of their future.

They have to do that. The Stars can’t carry eight defenders again and they need to learn from the past mistakes with that system.

Bryan Rust could be an option, but I have a hard time seeing Vegas passing on the opportunity to select Marc-Andre Fleury.

I believe the Ducks may have a deal in place with Vegas. They don’t have a first-round pick this year (it actually belongs to Dallas), but they could trade a future first rounder or present another package to Vegas to make sure they get to keep their choice of Vatanen or Manson.

I’d set the over/under at 155.5 combined points for Benn and Seguin next season. And that’s if you can guarantee both play 82 games.

No news is good news on Mattias Janmark right now. We probably won’t have a full answer on how well he’ll recover until preseason games in October against live NHL competition.

He showed that last season in a limited sample size. Let’s see if he can build off that foundation this season.

Close to zero chance. The Ducks and Eaves are reportedly already working on a contract.

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