FRISCO, Texas -- Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk is spending part of the two-week Olympic break in meetings with his scouts and front-office staff in preparation for the March 3 NHL trade deadline. Nieuwendyk wants to be sure he's ready for any trade possibility that may come up.
He sat down with ESPNDallas.com to discuss all things Stars, including the goaltending situation and his overall vision for the team.
Q: Has Marty Turco's play in the past six games made it a tougher decision as to whether to trade him before the deadline?
A: I think it's a good problem to have, first of all. One thing I know now is that there will be teams calling, whereas before I wasn't sure there would be teams calling. They'll be calling now for Marty's services. I think that's a reflection of his play. We're getting consistent, solid goaltending right now.
Q: Talk about your goalie options.
A: There are options. I don't want to carry three goaltenders. I think that makes it difficult because there's a guy standing around who would rather be playing. That makes it challenging. My options are to move Marty Turco, keep Turco, move Alex Auld, keep Auld. What's best for our team? What gives us the best chance going forward in March and challenging for the playoffs? Those are questions we're asking.
Q: Talk about your overall vision for this team long-term.
A: I think some of the teams I've been successful with are hard to play against, have two scoring threat offensive lines and a third line that is capable of chipping in big goals, but is more oriented to a checking role. I like a fast, physical, tough fourth line that changes complexion of games and are plus players. A team that's physical and hard to play against. We have some work to do in some of those areas. A lot of those pieces are already in place.
Q: How do you build that?
A: It's in the works. Some of the kids we have coming that people here in Texas wouldn't know about. A kid at Boston University, Alex Chiasson [right wing, second-round pick in 2009], fits that mold. Curtis McKenzie [left wing], who plays at Miami of Ohio, is another guy with high upside. Our scouts have done a tremendous job over the years of drafting players that keep that mentality of guys difficult to play against. You think back to Jamie Benn and James Neal and how important they are now to this team. If you can find a Benn in the fifth round, you know our guys are doing a terrific job.
Q: Is the GM job in Dallas what you expected?
A: I think it is. Maybe I underestimated the magnitude of everything as far as the day-to-day stuff. You don't anticipate all the curveballs you get thrown on a daily basis when you take the job. There are a lot of things involved. You have to keep your eye on the big picture and I try to do that. Sometimes you get caught up in day-to-day stuff. I believe in what our coaching staff is doing and that our players are starting to buy into it. We've gone through some growing pains. But even as early as this week, you see a team that believes in themselves.
Q: Can you achieve the goals you want within the tight budget you are under now?
A: I think so. I'm never going to complain about what I have or don't have. I know within this budget, we have to make this work. If you have players believe that you can do it, you'll do it. Spending to the cap and having access to more money doesn't necessarily equate to success. Teams struggle with that on a yearly basis. It's about developing a culture and developing an attitude, and you insert people in and out. You bring players into the fold, and it starts at the minor league level. That's not about spending to the cap. Sure, if you can add a player here and there, but I'm not going to complain about not spending to the cap.
Q: To improve your defense, do you think you'll have to make some wholesale changes because of the budget?
A: I don't think so. You go through our defense. Who don't you like? [Nicklas] Grossman and [Stephane] Robidas are fixtures. I like what Trevor Daley brings for us. Would you like to see 20-plus goals from Daley? Absolutely. It's probably not there. But he brings 22, 23 minutes every night and has great skating ability and is a great defender. We could probably use somebody back there that can add a little more offensively and that's an area to work on. But our defense, we kind of like them all.
We've had growing pains with [Matt] Niskanen, but after Robidas, he's probably our best puck-moving defenseman and he's young. Look at the improvement of Mark Fistric. Patience is an important part of it. Who doesn't like Karlis Skrastins for what he does every night? He puts his body on the line and doesn't complain. Our defensemen get a bad rap when we say we have to improve our defense. We have to look at that area, but it's overrated about the wholesale changes people think we need.
Q: Do you have an "untouchables" list? Who is on it?
A: I don't know that I have a list. I can tell you that a lot of people call about Jamie Benn. I don't have a list, though.
Q: Do you listen to any and all offers, no matter which players they are talking about?
A: I think so. Names come up in conversations. You have to listen. I know from experience it's important to have a core group of players and those are the base. You have to have interchangeable parts. You have to develop that core. It doesn't mean they are fixtures. It's clear we have a number of young players that have an impact and you know who they are. Loui Eriksson, Benn, Tom Wandell, James Neal and others. They are all in the same age group.
Q: Which players would you like to see take on more of a leadership role for this team going forward?
A: I think there are guys that are good leaders like Stephane Robidas. He has the good core values we like to see in our players. I'm sure he sees some things he's probably not in agreement with as far as stuff that happens. He has an awful lot of respect in that locker room. Now that we've made a long-term commitment, he has to express himself. Some of the best leaders I played with didn't say anything. I think Toby Petersen is a good leader. How he handles himself is great. Jere Lehtinen has always been a terrific leader and he doesn't say 10 words.
Steve Ott is a leader and with him and Brenden [Morrow] and Brad Richards, you have a core group there that can help the young kids. You look at the Red Wings, that's what they do. They pass the torch along and it keeps going.
Q: Do you need more vocal leaders on this team?
A: I've been told that it's an extremely quiet locker room. I'm not in there every day. Those are areas you look at for sure. It's in your mind for sure. I've thought about that. I think when you make a commitment to guys like Eriksson and Robidas, if they have something on their mind, they should say it.
Q: Critique the job coach Marc Crawford has done so far this season.
A: I've been really impressed. When you have growing pains of young players, I've been on teams where those young players have a hard time establishing themselves. The coach has a tendency not to use them. Marc has lived with the growing pains and continues to play them. I like his energy. I like his passion. You're never going to be able to please everybody as the head coach. I've been fortunate to be on three Stanley Cup winners and the coach wasn't a real popular guy. I only care that we're growing toward the type of team and type of play we want to have.
Q: Do you think this is Mike Modano's final season?
A: I don't know. I think Mike has been such an important part of his franchise for over two decades that I think it's natural and will be natural for him to start to think about his future and what he wants to do. He and I will sit down and talk about those things when it's time. I don't know that it is. A lot depends on what Mike wants to do.
Q: What players have surprised you the most this season?
A: For me, Stephane Robidas is a guy that surprised me. I didn't realize he is as good as he is. I had heard he's a warrior. But when you see him every day and see his commitment, it's impressive. Loui Eriksson is another guy I didn't know a whole lot about. I'm impressed by how good he is. I've been impressed with the emergence of our young players like Tom Wandell and Jamie Benn. We had them penciled in to be in Austin and they wowed us in training camp and never missed a beat.
That's a credit to Marc Crawford. He's been able to develop and let our young players reach the potential they get to. The other guy I'll say is Brad Richards. Not only has he had a great season, but I think he's very comfortable in what we're trying to do here with the coach and the changes. He's a single guy that lots of the young guys gravitate to. He's really bought into trying to become an all-around player. He's always put up offensive numbers and played a lot of minutes, but in the past couple of months, I've seen him really work on his game like the back pressure and defensive play.
Q: What are the chances of re-signing Steve Ott?
A: I'd like to think they're good. Steve Ott is a guy we identified as a core player you move forward with. We have to be realistic with what his expectations are and what ours are. That's where it comes to a critical time here the next 10 days to two weeks. I like him and have kept good communication with his agents and I'm hopeful we can get him signed.
Q: What impact has Cedar Park had, having your AHL team so close to Dallas?
A: It's been a huge impact. We're in constant communication because of their close proximity. To me, the type of team we're trying to build here to me it starts at that level. We do a good job of drafting and it's important for our player development and minor league players that we establish the values we have down there. That way they learn some things they need to be solid NHL players when the get here. I go down there quite often. It's two-hour [and] 45-minute drive. I try to go down once every 3½ weeks.