The Dallas Stars were considered to be one of the contenders when the regular season of the 2016/17 NHL campaign started several months ago. However, Friday's news in the NHL shows that Dallas are basically waving the white flag on their current season. The Stars shipped Patrick Eaves to the Anaheim Ducks, according to a recent report at NHL.com: "Forward Patrick Eaves was traded to the Anaheim Ducks by the Dallas Stars on Friday for a second-round pick in the 2017 NHL Draft" (February 24th).

The trade comes at a time when Dallas sit sixth in the Central Division with 56 points on the season. They are by no means mathematically eliminated from getting into the postseason and we've seen some teams surge in the standings of late.

For instance, the Florida Panthers have played strong over the last couple of weeks and are right back into the thick of things in the NHL's Atlantic Division. However, where some teams have battled to get back into contention of late, Dallas have struggled.

The trade of Eaves follows a particularly poor stretch of play where Dallas have gone just 3-7-0 in their last ten games. Entering Friday, the Stars were ten points back of the 2nd Wild Card position, a spot currently held by the Calgary Flames. In trading a key player for a draft pick, it's clear that Dallas are now looking to future seasons as opposed to trying to do some damage in the balance of the current one.

Eaves enjoying a career year

Eaves is a proven scorer who has 21 goals already on the season, a total that puts him 30th in the NHL heading into Friday. This season has been his personal best for goal-scoring touch in his career. You have to go all the way back to 2005/06 to find a season when he did something comparable.

At the age of 32 years old, Eaves does have plenty of playoff experience having appeared in 76 games, many of which came with the Detroit Red Wings.

Edmonton, San Jose to respond?

Anaheim acquiring Eaves may start an arms race in the NHL's Pacific Division. Currently the Ducks, the San Jose Sharks, and the Edmonton Oilers are grouped together at the top of that division.

Those teams appear to be safe for the time being when it comes to getting a playoff spot. However, each can entertain ambitions of winning the division outright. The implication with wining the division is hosting two rounds of the NHL's playoffs and standing an above-average chance of making it to the conference finals.

Anaheim acquiring Eaves may force both Edmonton and San Jose to make a move of their own. The trade deadline is March 1st so there is still plenty of time for teams to make moves. If both the Oilers and Sharks stand pat, they risk allowed the Ducks to have the advantage for the balance of the regular season and in the upcoming playoffs.

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