Offseason Roundup: Dallas Stars
Over the next month, theScore's NHL editors will review all the offseason moves for each team around the league.
If all goes to plan, the Dallas Stars will follow up on last season's giant leap forward by contending for a second consecutive playoff berth and the title of "most entertaining team in the NHL."
The Stars really need to succeed this season if they hope to shine brightly in the crowded Dallas professional sports marketplace. At least for now it would seem that the Texas-sized helping of optimism currently surrounding the club is reflected in their season sales this summer, good news for an organization that ranked dead last in the NHL in the percentage of seats sold per home date in 2013-14.
Stars Offseason Overview
Forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are key as Dallas tries to attract fans and take the team to the next level. Not since Mike Modano's prime have the Stars boasted a premier top-line – until now.
This offseason, the club added additional scoring punch and balance up front by acquiring Jason Spezza from the Ottawa Senators in a blockbuster trade. It also further bolstered its attack by signing Spezza's post trade-deadline running mate Ales Hemsky.
The addition of Hemsky and Spezza to a group led by Seguin, Benn and improving 19-year-old winger Valeri Nichushkin is almost unfair. Surely these Stars will rank among the NHL's most dangerous offensive clubs.
Not to be overlooked, Dallas' depth forwards – players like Ryan Garbutt, Erik Cole, Colton Sceviour and Cody Eakin – are also a threat to score. Even the club's go-to enforcer Antoine Roussel, wisely locked up long-term this summer, regularly finds the back of the net – he hit the 10-fight, 10-goal plateau last season.
Outspoken Stars general manager Jim Nill didn't need much time to construct a formidable team in the heart of Texas, but his club remains flawed and thin on the back end. Dallas will likely start the year with zero right-handed shooters on its blue line, an issue compounded by the defensive corps' relative lack of talent.
Nill reportedly failed to trade veteran Sergei Gonchar and exercised a compliance buyout on the outsized contract of Aaron Rome, but other than that, the Stars will return much of the same blue-line group that proved to be their Achilles heel in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
In net, starter Kari Lehtonen is reliably solid (and occasionally excellent), but he's a safe bet to miss some games every season. The Stars signed below-average backup Anders Lindback this summer, but Lindback doesn't seem like much of an insurance policy after struggling mightily in relief of Ben Bishop with the Tampa Bay Lightning this past spring.
The Stars have two key restricted free agents in Eakin and Brenden Dillon still to sign, so Nill's offseason work isn't done yet. Dillon is the Stars' best defensive defender, while Eakin has emerged as a bonafide two-way ace. The club will need both players at training camp and ready to go in October.
It remains unclear whether or not forward Rich Peverley, who sustained a cardiac event in-game this past March, will be cleared to return to action at some point this season.
F Jason Spezza
F Ales Hemsky
F Patrick Eaves
G Anders Lindback
F Alex Chiasson
F Ray Whitney
D Aaron Rome
G Tim Thomas
AHL Coach Willie Desjardins
In defiance of the heavens, the Stars are rising in the West.
Offensively, the 2014-15 Stars will be like a constant explosion (bound together by its own mass), but the club is critically thin at defense and in net. Dallas will push for an outright playoff spot, but may have to settle for a wild-card slot in the toughest division in hockey.