In trading Gonchar, Stars GM says young d-men have ‘earned the opportunity’ to play

The Dallas Stars traded 40-year-old defenseman Sergei Gonchar to Montreal today, and they didn’t get a defenseman back (they got forward Travis Moen.)

While Stars GM Jim Nill wouldn’t completely dismiss the possibility of adding a blue-liner in a future trade, the plan for now is to see what the club has “internally.”

Nill said today on a conference call that young defenseman like recent AHL call-up John Klingberg have “earned the opportunity” to compete for a spot on the NHL team’s roster.

Nill also named 18-year-old Julius Honka — the 14th overall pick in the 2014 draft — as well as Jyrki Jokipakka, 23, and Cameron Gaunce, 24, as potential call-up candidates.

The Stars went into the season with high hopes, but also major question marks on their back end, which features neither an elite defenseman nor a ton of collective experience.

It’s been a tough start. Heading into tonight’s game in Arizona, Dallas (4-6-4) has lost seven straight and owns the second-worst goals-against average in the league, at 3.50.

Despite it all, Nill sounded as upbeat today about his collection of young defenders as he did in the summer when he said this: “I’m excited about our defense. We’ve got three or four young kids that are knocking on the door from the Calder Cup championship down in Texas. We think we’ve got lots of different options. We know they’re all going to get better. We think we’re going to be just fine.”

Related: Need a d-man? Here are five potential trade targets

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