For a general manager, the playoff bubble is the worst place to be this time of year. If you're near the top of the conference, you know you're in a position to buy and go for the Stanley Cup. If you're at the bottom, you know it's time for an everything-must-go yard sale as you try to get a return for whatever you have of value.
But for teams on the bubble? Good luck.
You don't want to give up something of long-term value for a rental to maybe get you into the playoffs, only to be done after one round. You also don't want to punt on a season where you might have a chance to make the playoffs, selling off players that can help get you there.
Full Deadline Coverage
Full Deadline Coverage
Mediocrity really is the worst. And that brings us to the 2013-14 Dallas Stars.
What is general manager Jim Nill supposed to do? Maybe a little buying, maybe a little strategic selling.
An offer to be made for Ryan Kesler?
If it's true that Ryan Kesler wants out of Vancouver, and if it's true that the Canucks are listening to offers for him, the Stars seem like the type of team that could really use what he brings. It's not a pure rental because he still has two years left on his contract at $5 million per year, so even if the Stars were to fall short of the playoffs this season it wouldn't be a total loss for the future.
And while the Stars have a dynamic top line with Seguin-Benn-Nichushkin, they could really use a No. 2 center like Kesler on their roster to take some of the load off of the first line. Cody Eakin and Rich Peverley are fine players, but they're not the type of players a championship team can have centering a second line.
Sometimes even playoff teams can become sellers (the Sharks last year dealt guys like Michal Handzus and Douglas Murray as part of an in-season rebuild) and not hurt their on-ice performance. For the Stars, Ray Whitney hasn't really seemed to fit in under Lindy Ruff's system and his production has fallen off of a cliff this season. He's in the final year of his contract and would clearly be a rental for another team, but it could clear up some cap space for the Stars and maybe bring an asset back in return.
A similar question could be asked of Sergei Gonchar on the blue line, though it might be a little harder to find a partner for him in trade talks. At 39, the two-year, $10 million contract he signed in free agency seemed like a bit of a gamble, and it has not worked out in Dallas' favor over the first five months of the deal. He has just 18 points in 52 games which probably isn't what you're looking for from a $5 million defenseman whose primary skill and value is helping produce offense. He can still be a useful (and very expensive) power play specialist.