The Dallas Stars’ future is looking bright after a 2nd round exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs last week.
While there are plenty of questions around the direction of the franchise, the future is bright in Dallas and the Stars should be back in the playoffs in 2020.
A Ton of Cap Space
With the salary cap increase to roughly 83 million, the Stars are looking at about 22 million USD to play with.
I believe that is enough to keep the key pieces in Dallas and go after a couple of free agents. The Stars will likely be in the market for another top 6 forward and maybe a top 4 defenseman.
Core Players Locked Up
Dallas has a lot of their core players coming back next season and they are going to be staying in Dallas for awhile. Here is a list of the core players and when they will be free agents.
Jamie Benn – July 1, 2025
Tyler Seguin – July 1, 2027
Alexander Radulov – July 1, 2022
Ben Bishop – July 1, 2023
John Klingberg – 2022
The Stars also have a lot of young talent to go along with the veterans on the team.
Most notably is defenseman Miro Heiskanen (19 yrs old) who had an amazing rookie year this season, and is expected to have an even better sophomore campaign. Another great young talent is rookie Roope Hintz (22 yrs old), who flourished in the playoffs. Lastly, the Stars also have Esa Lindell (24 yrs old). Lindell had a bumpy season, but if he can play like he did in 2017-2018 next season, he’ll be worshipped in Dallas yet again.
The biggest decision this summer will be what to do with Mats Zuccarello. It’s evident from his exit interview that he feels strongly about staying with the Stars. He was quoted saying, “This is my team now”.
The Stars also have to decide if they are holding onto Jason Spezza. He’ll be 36 in June and had a $7.5 million dollar cap hit last season. All season long, I’ve brought up that I don’t see Spezza being a long-term fit in Dallas. But, he does have a lot to offer. He’s a solid veteran leader in the locker room and can still be effective in the offensive zone. If the Stars do bring him back, my assumption is that Spezza will sign a one or two year deal.
Stars general manager Jim Nill will also have to make up his mind about Stephen Johns. Johns could land up on LITR after he suffered a nasty concussion. Unfortunately, Johns has had post concussion symptoms and hasn’t returned to the lineup.
In Montgomery We Trust
The Stars made a great hire in head coach Jim Montgomery, and I think the team has bought into his system. The defense and goaltending is great. So, if the Stars can add 1 or 2 forwards in the off-season, they should be dominant in 2019-2020.
My biggest concern is the goaltending. Goaltending hasn’t been bad, but Ben Bishop’s health has been a concern. In addition, I’m also concerned about his longevity. How long can Bishop continue to be dominant in net? He had an outstanding year last season with a 27-15-2 record, a 1.98 GAA and a .921 SV%. Additionally, Bishop now owns the longest shutout streak in franchise history (previously held by Ed Belfour). His success in 2018-19 paved the way for Bishop being named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. But, he only played in 46 of 82 games due to injury.
Perhaps, the Stars will look to secure some goaltender depth in the draft or in free agency. Or maybe the Stars feel confident that Bishop can hold down the fort until prospect Jake Oettinger is ready to step into the spotlight.
I believe Dallas has the right coach in place and the right players. If they can sign a few more pieces this summer, I believe they will be back in the playoffs and return to the glory days of the late 90’s and the early 00’s.
sources: Hockey-Reference.com, NHL.com, CapFriendly.com
featured image photo credit: Nikos Michals