The Dallas Stars are coming off another disappointing season. They missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and polished off 2016-2017 with a 34-37-11 record. As a result, they let Lindy Ruff go and hired Ken Hitchcock back into the fold as head coach.
The Stars also traded for goalie Ben Bishop and acquired defenceman Marc Methot from the Vegas Golden Knights. They tapped unrestricted free agents Alexander Radulov, Martin Hanzal and Tyler Pitlick.
Patrick Sharp and Ales Hemsky were lost to free agency, while goalie Antti Niemi had his contract bought out. Also, Cody Eakin was snapped up by the Golden Knights in the expansion draft.
Jamie Benn had a substandard season in 2016-2017, squeezing in his lowest point totals since 2011-2012. He scored just 69 points in 77 games, finishing with a minus-9 rating and generating 201 shots on goal. The 28-year-old scored 20 more points in 2015-2016, just to put things in perspective. He should benefit from the Stars’ offseason moves, which should mean his statistics bounce back in 2017-2018.
Brampton’s Tyler Seguin had 72 points in 82 games in 2016-2017, including 26 goals and 46 assists. He’s had at least 72 points in each of his last four seasons and is fifth overall in points in that period. He had 11 power play goals last season and averaged 18:27 of ice time a game. He also cracked off 301 shots on goal.
Radulov is a nice fit at the top of Dallas’ depth chart. The Russian forward returned to the NHL last season and scored 54 points with the Habs. He should be a good fit on the Stars, especially beside Benn and Seguin. Most forecasters have him in the range of 60 points and that shouldn’t be a stretch, particularly if he sees more power play time.
Jason Spezza has been statistically reliable in Dallas – for the most part. He fell off a little in 2016-2017, scoring just 15 goals. That was his lowest goal output since his rookie season. Word around the campfire is that Spezza is in line to switch from centre to wing, which could boost his production.
John Klingberg had a good year in a bad situation and that says a lot. The Swedish defenceman had 49 points in 80 games, including 13 goals. He managed 124 shots on goal and averaged 23:21 of ice time a game. The 25-year-old is capable of playing a complete game and can carry the play from his own end, plus he excels on the power play. Look for more from him in 2017-2018.
Methot brings the Stars a veteran presence on the blueline. The 32-year-old had a dozen points in 2016-2017 and plays a stay-at-home game that won’t generate many big-time statistics. He’s a top-tier leader and plays a mistake-free game, but he doesn’t shoot the puck often.
Rookie Julius Honka has more offensive upside. He looks ready to emerge in Dallas and had five points in 16 games last season. He had 34 shots on goal and averaged 16:52 of ice time a game, so you could say he was rather productive. Injuries shut things down, however, and 2016-2017 became a case of what might have been.
The acquisition of Bishop finally gives the Stars a number one goaltender they can trust. He’s been a Vezina finalist twice and played stellar hockey with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The 30-year-old went 18-15-5 last season, with a 2.54 goals against average and a .910 save percentage. He’s a fluid, large goaltender and he’ll give Dallas a shot to win every night.
Kari Lehtonen is the backup. He went 22-25-7 last season and posted a 2.85 goals against average with a .902 save percentage. The Finnish netminder handles the puck well and can boost the attack from his own zone, plus he’s confident. The knock is that his better days are behind him, which could mean his time in Texas is coming to an end.