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Chris Tanev Is the Deadline Coup the Stars Needed

The 34-year-old defenseman might be Jim Nill's savviest deadline move yet. Don't believe us? Then take it from a bunch of NHL scouts.
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Tanev will solidify Dallas' blue line at a extremely favorable price. Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

“You don’t need my opinion on this; you know it was a ridiculously good deal for Dallas.”

That’s what an NHL scout told me on Wednesday when I called to ask about what he thought of the Stars’ acquisition of defenseman Chris Tanev from Calgary in a three-way deal that also included New Jersey. (Dallas also acquired the rights to unsigned college goalie Cole Brady, who has struggled at UMass and is not considered a pro prospect.) 

The acquisition wasn’t surprising—it’s no secret the Stars have been pushing to bolster their blue line—but the cost was jaw-droppingly low for a player who was regarded as the best defender available on the trade market and brings a badly needed right-handed shot to boot. Tanev, 34, will be a free agent at the end of the season, but even if he winds up only being a rental, the short-term boost he provides over every Stars defender not named Miro Heiskanen or Thomas Harley is well worth the risk of him leaving in the offseason as Dallas continues to chase the Stanley Cup.

That’s especially true when all it cost to bring in the veteran defender was a second-round pick, a fourth-round selection, and defensive prospect Artem Grushnikov. There’s also a conditional third-round pick, but it only enters the deal if the Stars reach the Stanley Cup final—a scenario they’ll happily take. Grushnikov is C-level prospect at best; he was the 16th-ranked prospect in the Stars’ pool this season by the prospect experts at Elite Prospects and was struggling to find any consistency with the AHL’s Texas Stars. 

So the questions coming out of this deal don’t concern why general manager Jim Nill made his move. This may rank as his finest deadline steal of many. Rather, they’re about why Calgary pulled the trigger so far in advance of the March 8 trade deadline for such limited returns. 

But that’s not Dallas’ problem. Better still, the Flames and Devils are eating 75 percent of Tanev’s salary, which leaves the Stars with space and assets to potentially make another move before the deadline. 

As we like to do at D Magazine, we reached out to a handful of NHL scouts in the aftermath of the trade for a deeper outside perspective. None of these scouts work for the Stars or the Flames. 

“Jim really found a way to shut up all those fans that say he doesn’t do anything,” one NHL scout says. “There probably aren’t going to be jokes tomorrow on Twitter about how he likes where his team is at.”

Yes, all NHL executives and scouts read your tweets. They just all have burners. 

One thing scouts specifically like about the deal is how Tanev provides a blend of experience and the capability to win tough battles, particularly around his own net. One NHL scout who watched the Stars in person recently says he had been concerned about their ability to get the puck back against strong cycling teams like the defending champion Vegas Golden Knights. Tanev helps alleviate that problem in a big way.

“Pete [DeBoer] has to feel a lot better about being able to close out games now,” another scout says. 

While Tanev is primarily a shutdown defender, he’s also a better puck mover than people realize. 

“He gets up and he goes still, even at his age now,” one NHL scout says. “Whether they put him with Heiskanen or Harley, he’ll be able to keep up and read off of what they do. That’s a valuable thing.”

The timing of the deal is also valuable, and multiple scouts wondered whether it left a window open for Dallas to make another deal. 

Logan Stankoven’s recent NHL debut and success have left an impression. Stankoven is NHL-ready, and Dallas’ best lineup for the playoffs most likely will include him in it. If that’s the case, the Stars could effectively look at addition by subtraction, acting as the rare contending team that sells off a depth piece to open up room for another. 

“You’d have to think about it if you were Jim, right?” one scout says. “That kid [Stankoven] is the real deal. He’s ready. If you can make another deal that keeps him in your lineup, and maybe recoups something they sent away, it feels like a win-win.”

As for Nill, this all feels like a win-win. The Stars got better, fixed an area of weakness on the roster, and kept their flexibility to do more before the deadline if the right deal presents itself. 

Nill already had a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. On Wednesday he made a move that both solidified that stance for this season while keeping the future window wide open as well. He may have liked where his team was at before. But it’s a safe bet that he loves it even more now. 

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Sean Shapiro

Sean Shapiro

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Sean Shapiro covers the Stars for StrongSide. He is a national NHL reporter and writer who previously covered the Dallas…

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