Things are looking up for the Dallas Stars.
After a 93-point 2018-19 campaign that saw the team make the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2016, Dallas exceeded postseason expectations by beating 2017 Western Conference Champion Nashville in six games in the first round.
They followed that up by taking eventual Stanley Cup Champion St. Louis Blues to seven games. Moreover, the emergence of young talent like Roope Hintz and Miro Heiskanen was encouraging for Dallas fans that have seen developmental projects in the organization progress backwards or downright bust in recent years.
Dallas doubled down on its current core in the offseason with heavy spending in free agency. In case you missed it, here’s a breakdown of those moves, what they do to the Stars’ salary cap situtation, and grades for each:
C Joe Pavelski | 3-year, $21 million contract via free agency
Dallas made one of the more splashy moves in July when it inked ‘Captain America’ to a contract. The Stars decided they wanted to spend whatever it took to shore up an offense and power play unit that struggled mightily late in the season and in the playoffs.
His production has been on a steady decline since the Sharks’ run to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final, but could see an uptick playing with Tyler Seguin and or captain Jamie Benn. There’s no question about the kind of leader he is on and off the ice- Pavelski was adored in his 13 years with San Jose, and is one of the most respected players in the league. He will be the next Stars fan favorite in Big D. If he’s any form of the player he’s been the last three seasons, $7 million annually is worth it for Dallas. This is a home run signing.
RW Corey Perry | 1-year, $1.5 million contract via free agency
This one will take a while for Stars fans to get used to. He was a thorn in Dallas’ side when the two met in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and is known for ongoing beef with and dirty hits on Benn. But there’s no denying his productivity.
Perry starred in Anaheim, recording 776 points in his 14-year run with the Ducks which included a Stanley Cup. At such a small cap hit, if he puts together any semblance of the player he once was, this is another great signing for Dallas.
D Andrej Sekera | 1-year, $1.5 million contract via free agency
Sekera has flown under the radar playing in Edmonton the past few seasons, but the veteran put together a solid 35-point campaign as recently as 2017 and gives Dallas more experience along the blue line. At the same price for Perry, the Stars could have another bargain if he can stay healthy and contribute anything offensively.
C Tanner Kero | 2-year, 2-way contract via free agency
Kero last played for the Vancouver Canucks, and adds NHL experience and depth to the Stars’ roster. Expect him to play most of 2019-20 in Cedar Park with the AHL Texas Stars.
Re-signings: C Jason Dickinson, D Dillon Heatherington, F Gavin Bayreuther, D Reece Scarlett, G Landon Bow, D Taylor Fedun, D Roman Polak.
Extensions: D Roope Hintz- 6 years through 2024-25.
LW Mats Zuccarello | Signed with Minnesota via free agency.
It looked like the Stars were the frontrunners to bring Zuccarrello back early on in free agency, but the rival Wild swept in with a better offer.
He’ll be remembered as a shooting star in Dallas- the team traded for him in February, but he missed most of the remaining regular season with an arm injury, only to return and provide 11 huge points and a much-needed offensive spark in the playoffs.
He became something of a cult legend in Dallas and a fan favorite in 16 games altogether with the team, and it always stinks to see a fan favorite go. But it seems like it was him or Pavelski in the end- Dallas couldn’t have gone wrong either way, but I’m still incredibly high on bringing Pavelski in. Here’s to hoping Zuccarello doesn’t come back and burn Dallas four times a year with Minnesota.
As for the trade? It was a home run. Even if they didn’t get a lot of mileage out of him, he gave Dallas exactly what it needed in the playoffs.
Grade on his tenure: A.
RW Brett Ritchie | Signed with Boston via free agency.
Ritchie was productive along the third and fourth lines in five years with Dallas, peaking at 24 points in 2017. He fell out of favor with Dallas in the final year of his contract, only playing in one playoff game last year. Dallas might miss his enforcing and willingness to drop the mitts, but other than that, best of luck to him with the Eastern Conference champions.
C Jason Spezza | Signed with Toronto via free agency.
Spezza is a fan favorite who will be missed. After a 2014 trade with Ottawa, he was productive for three seasons before a sharp drop in 2018. He was a healthy scratch for most of the playoffs last year, but came on late in the St. Louis series to finish he on a strong note with Dallas.
He now returns to his hometown Toronto on a one-year deal for what could be the swan song for his NHL career. Good for him, but I just have a weird feeling that he’s gonna score a huge goal when the Maple Leafs come for their one visit to Dallas next year.
Grade on his tenure: A.
RW Valeri Nichuskin | Bought out, $1,110,000 to be paid over next two seasons.
Frankly? Good riddance. Nichuskin seemed like a fine person off the ice, but he was a plain bust for the Stars on it. He returned to the team after a brief stint in the KHL in Russia. Even so, the one-time top prospect failed to score a single goal for Dallas in 2018-19, and was a healthy scratch for most of the playoffs. It’s best for both sides to move on.
Unsigned: D Marc Methot, D Ben Jovejoy, D Chris Martinett
I don’t want to come off too slanted toward Dallas here, but frankly, I can’t think of anything that the Stars could’ve done that they didn’t. The huge problem for this team late last year was offensive production, especially on the power play. The solution? Sign Pavelski and Perry. Dallas had an elite defense, and shored it up. Ben Bishop finished second in Vezina Trophy voting, and is back next year.
Overall Grade: A-
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