Offseason Analysis: DALLAS STARS

seguin and benn

DALLAS STARS: 2014-2015 By the Numbers

Overall Record: 41-31-10-92
Home Record: 17-16-8
Away Record: 24-15-2
Shootout Record: 4-3
Playoff Result: Did not make playoffs
Standings: Central Division: 6, Western Conference: 10, League: 19
Goals For: 257 (NHL rank: 2)
Goals Against: 257 (NHL rank: 4)
Power Play Percentage: 19 percent (NHL rank: 12)
Penalty Kill Percentage: 80.7 percent (NHL rank: 19)
Leading Scorer: Jamie Benn (35-52-87)–won Art Ross Trophy
 

2015-2016 Outlook:

The Dallas Stars have missed the playoffs in six of the last seven seasons. However, there is a tremendous amount of talent on the current roster, and Dallas’ offseason activity has contributed to building a solid foundation for many years to come. The acquisitions of Patrick Sharp and Johnny Oduya, both members of the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks, will provide veteran playoff experience and leadership. The Stars have a lot more going for them, though. For one thing, the team has an excellent group of top-six forwards that should be considered among the best in the league. The virtually-unstoppable duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn will most likely be joined by 30 goal-scorer Patrick Sharp, and the second line will feature a former first-line center in Jason Spezza with up-and-coming star Valeri Nichushkin as well as winger Ales Hemsky. The trio of Hemsky, Spezza and Nichushkin developed solid chemistry at the end of the regular season and will look to get off to a strong start this year. Nichushkin was limited to just eight games last year, but he is capable of scoring 20+ goals. In the 2013-2014 season he scored 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists). A healthy Nichushkin will make Dallas an even more threatening offensive team, even though Dallas already finished second in the league in goals scored last year. Even if Nichushkin ends up on the top line with Seguin and Benn, and Sharp plays with Spezza, the Stars will have a very balanced and lethal top-six crop of forwards.

But the bottom six should be relatively solid this year as well. The Stars locked up third-line center Cody Eakin to a four-year extension, which kicks in next season. Eakin finished fourth on the team in scoring last year with 40 points (19 goals, 21 assists), all career highs. Eakin spent some time on the top line with Benn and Seguin, so he is a versatile center that can move up if necessary in case of injury or if head coach Lindy Ruff wants to shake up the lines at any point in the season. Antoine Roussel, Vernon Fiddler and Patrick Eaves will most likely be three of the other five bottom-six forwards. Some combination of Colton Sceviour, Brett Richie and Travis Moen will probably fill out the rest of the roster, but that will be determined in training camp.

Dallas has also strengthened its defense corps since last season. Though Dallas lost defenseman Trevor Daley in the Patrick Sharp trade, the addition of Johnny Oduya will provide a stabilizing force on the back end, and Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers are two solid top-four defensemen. The Stars locked up rookie sensation John Klingberg on a seven-year contract at $4.25 million a year; though this may seem high, it could prove to be a steal a few years from now. The third pair will most likely be some combination of Jordie Benn, Jamie Oleksiak, Jyrki Jokipakka and Patrick Nemeth, though newly-acquired Stephen Johns could also be considered if he has an excellent camp.
 

Training Camp Information: Dallas Stars

Offseason Overview

Trades:

  • 2015 7th-round pick (193) to San Jose for G Antti Niemi
  • D Trevor Daley and F Ryan Garbutt ($900,000 salary retained) to Chicago for F Patrick Sharp and D Stephen Johns

Re-Signed:

  • D Jyrki Jokipakka (2-year deal with AAV* of $900,000)
  • D Patrik Nemeth (2-year deal with AAV* of $900,000)
  • G Jack Campbell (1-year contract at $650,000)
  • G Antti Niemi (3-year deal with AAV* of $4.5 million)
  • F Patrick Eaves (1-year contract at $1.15 million)
  • F Curtis McKenzie (2-year deal with AAV* of $675,000)
  • D Jamie Oleksiak (1-year contract at $875,000)

Free Agents Signed:

  • D Johnny Oduya (2-year deal with AAV* of $3.75 million)
  • F Mads Eller–PTO
  • D Brennan Evans–PTO
  • G John Muse–PTO
  • F Matt Mangene–PTO
  • D Jesse Blacker–PTO
  • F Brandon Magee–PTO

Draft Recap:

  • Round 1 (12) RW Denis Gurianov
  • Round 2 (49) LW Roope Hintz
  • Round 4 (103) D Chris Martenet
  • Round 5 (133) D Joseph Cecconi
  • Round 6 (163) G Markus Ruusu

Notable Extensions:

  • C Cody Eakin (4-year deal with AAV* of $3.85 million starting next season)

Free Agents Lost:

  • D Derek Meech–IF Malmo (Sweden-2)
  • G Jussi Rynnas–Ak Bars Kazan (KHL-Russia)
  • F Scott Glennie–UFA
  • F Perttu Lindgren–has been playing for HC Davos (NLA)–DAL lost NHL rights July 1
  • F Ludwig Karlsson–UFA
  • F Shawn Horcoff–Anaheim
  • D Cameron Gaunce–Florida
  • G Jhonas Enroth–Los Angeles
  • F Rich Peverly–retired

Buyouts:
None

Organizational Changes:

  • Named Jeff Reese goaltending coach
  • Reassigned goaltending coach Mike Valley to director of goaltending development
  • Announced renewed affiliation with Idaho (ECHL) for 2015-2016 season

 
*AAV=Average Annual Value (cap hit)
 

Significant Moves

Here are the most significant moves the Stars have made this offseason, and how they will affect this upcoming season:

  1. The Patrick Sharp trade:
  2. Sharp

    G.J. McCarthy-The Dallas Morning News


    It was well-advertised that Chicago was interested in moving Patrick Sharp in the offseason. Jim Nill, the general manager of the Dallas Stars, jumped on the opportunity and acquired a four-time 30+-goal scorer and three-time Stanley Cup Champion in Patrick Sharp. It was a little surprising that Sharp was traded within the Central Division, but it must have been the most appealing deal for Chicago. Though Sharp has not been as effective recently as he has been over the years (he scored 43 points in 68 games last year), he still possesses a tremendous skill-set and has extensive postseason experience. Sharp has surpassed the 60-point mark five times in his career. He put up 15 points in 23 games of last year’s playoffs, including five goals and 10 assists.

    stephen johns

    Bill Smith-Chicago Blackhawks


    The Stars also received defensive prospect Stephen Johns as part of the trade for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt. Johns may not be ready to make the jump to the NHL this season, but he is close. It is possible he could make the team out of camp, especially since he is a right-handed defenseman (coach Lindy Ruff prefers to have a right-handed dman and a left-handed dman in each defense pair). There are other defensive prospects fighting for a spot, including defenseman Julias Honka, but Johns’ 6’4″ frame, physical defensive play and excellent skating ability could give him the advantage.
     

  3. Acquiring Antti Niemi:
  4. goalies

    Getty Images


    The Stars’ acquisition of Sharks’ goalie Antti Niemi was a little unusual and unexpected since the Stars already had a number one goalie in Kari Lehtonen. In 61 games with the Sharks last season, Niemi went 31-23 with a .914 save percentage and a 2.59 GAA. Lehtonen went 34-17 in 65 games with a .903 save percentage and a 2.94 GAA. Niemi’s stats were marginally better, but Dallas finished fourth in goals against, which is a reflection of Lehtonen’s play but is also a reflection of the team in front of him. The two Finns will maintain a healthy competition and will jointly provide reliable and steady goaltending to a crease that has seen its ups and downs over the past few seasons. Both starting goalies will have their fair share of starts, and coach Lindy Ruff will be able to ride the hot hand much like Blues’ head coach Ken Hitchcock often does with St. Louis’ two goalies.
     

  5. Signing Oduya:
  6. oduya

    Nam Y. Huh-AP Photo


    The Stars lost top-four defenseman Trevor Daley in the Patrick Sharp trade, so the team was in need of a suitable replacement. However, adding a defenseman of Johnny Oduya’s stature will not only fill that top-four spot but will also inject a sense of optimism and calm into the Dallas locker room. Oduya finished third on the Blackhawks in blocks (123) and finished fourth in average time on ice (20:17). Oduya helped the Blackhawks win the team’s third Stanley Cup in five years, though Oduya was not on the team for the first Stanley Cup win in 2010. Oduya finished last year’s playoffs with five assists and 63 blocked shots in 23 games. He averaged 24:45 of time on ice in the playoffs.

    Of the signing, Stars’ general manager Jim Nill said, “Johnny is a steady, veteran presence on the blueline and he’ll complement our group nicely. … He has achieved a great deal of success, winning the Stanley Cup twice, and his championship-mentality will be valuable in our room.”

    Oduya has 152 points (31 goals, 121 assists) in 664 career NHL games with the Blackhawks, Jets, Thrashers and Devils.

 

Possible Line Combinations

No one knows how the lines will shape up after training camp and the preseason. That being said, here is one possible set of line combinations for the Stars in 2015-2016:
 

Forwards
Benn-Seguin-Sharp
Hemsky-Spezza-Nichushkin
Roussel-Eakin-Eaves
Moen-Fiddler-Sceviour

Defensemen
Goligoski-Klingberg
Oduya-Demers
Benn-Jokipakka

Goalies
Lehtonen
Niemi
 

Disagree?

Explain in the comments below!
 

Final Thoughts

All in all the Stars have done an excellent job this offseason of upgrading the talent and depth at every position while keeping the core of the team intact. Dallas is now very strong up the middle, which is absolutely crucial to be competitive in this league, especially in the Central Division. Dallas will have a solid lineup and will have enough secondary scoring to alleviate some of the burden on Benn and Seguin. The Central Division will be very competitive this season, but with more insurance up front, on the back end and in net, the Stars should be capable of putting together a much better overall season this year. The Stars will most likely either squeeze in to a playoff spot or miss the playoffs by a point or two. Dallas is definitely headed in the right direction, though.
 

Stay tuned for offseason overviews of all 30 NHL teams.
 
Featured image via todaysslapshot.com