Not unlike another D/FW team, the Stars are currently dealing with a real conundrum.
They're a middle-of-the-road team in the Pacific Division, but after last year's miracle run by their bunk mates, the Los Angeles Kings, one might figure that anything is possible in the NHL's Western Conference.
So, not unlike the Arlington football team which occupies a monument to their owner's overly-large wallet, the Stars have a choice to make. Do they stick with what brought them to the dance, and hope they play up? Or do they sell off the short term pieces, those over thirty or about to become free agents, and net young prospects that will be more beneficial to the long-term product?
The Stars began to answer that question on Sunday, dealing forward Brenden Morrow and a third-round pick in next year's draft to the Pittsburgh Penguins for prospect defenseman Joe Morrow (no relation) and a fifth-round pick.
This was done with Morrow's approval, as he waived his full no trade clause for the move. Rumors persisted after the initial Pittsburgh deal was announced that the Boston Bruins had re-entered the frame of discussion, and were willing to up their offer. It was for naught, as the Pens ended up with Morrow's services.
The goal of a trade in any sport is to benefit both parties in some way, and there's no doubt that both teams came away winners on paper. Reality is simple: Pittsburgh has a chance to play for a Stanley Cup, whereas Dallas' odds are not good. Morrow realized that too, so waiving his no trade to go play for a strong contender was an easy call.
Anyone who has seen Morrow's career in Dallas has seen the ultimate team guy. The team's captain since 2006, this is the ultimate reward for a guy who is regarded very highly and deserved better than to miss out on another tournament.
Some will compare this deal to the one made involving former Texas Ranger Michael Young. The difference is Morrow never had the black cloud of feuding with management hanging above his head. He never raised a stink about changes to his playing time, or what line he played on. Morrow was ever the consummate professional, and he will ride into the sunset with that reputation firmly intact.
With all due respect to Morrow, we now must worry about those who are here instead of those who aren't. Oddly enough, we replace one Morrow with another. Joe Morrow is a 20-year-old former first-round pick in 2011 by Pittsburgh, and was one of the top prospects in their system. He hasn't skated in the NHL yet, but during his time in the Western Hockey League he has increased his point totals the last three seasons. During the 2011-2012 season, he dished 47 assists and 17 goals. Most pre-season prospect rankings had him among the top 50 league-wide.
Essentially, Dallas has picked up a higher-ceiling, blue line version of current center Cody Eakin. A kid who is young, has produced in the minors, but lacks top-league ice time. It's no secret that even with youngsters Brenden Dillon and Jamie Oleksiak, the defensive future of the Stars was still bleak. Morrow bolsters the depth of that unit, and gives the team another top-four blue line blue chipper.
Mentioning Michael Young above was not a mere coincidence. Not unlike when he was dealt by the Rangers this offseason, the backlash that will come from dealing the Stars captain will be fast and furious. It has already begun, as some fans claim Pittsburgh has once again taken advantage of the Stars (dating back to the James Neal-Alex Goligoski swap), and that Joe Nieuwendyk has made yet another bad deal and needs to go.
To be frank, it's just not true.
This is the move of a team that realizes its long term is way more valuable than its short term. While other Dallas teams are content shifting around money on players to maintain mediocrity, the Stars front office is willing to risk now for later. They're willing to move forward into a bright future, rather than live in a lackluster present. Nieuwy and company are making choices to win hockey games, not public relations battles. The status quo for this team is middle of the pack, and a move this significant shows that the status quo isn't good enough.
The trade deadline is less than two weeks away, and this move in the books sends a clear signal that Dallas is going to reboot. A good nucleus featuring Jamie Benn, Loui Erikkson, Kari Lehtonen, and others is being supplemented. Let's not forget that forward Michael Ryder was already dealt to Montreal for fellow forward Erik Cole, who is under contract for another year, while Ryder will hit the market this offseason.
Center Derek Roy, a free agent this summer, has rumors circling all around him. Winger Jaromir Jagr has been a hot hand, and could be another chip that brings back value. If teams are calling, Nieuwy is listening and that's a good thing. This team needs to keep moving forward and injecting it with young, inexpensive talent is the future. If any other course of action is taken... well, I'm sure there's an office open at Valley Ranch somewhere.