One year after winning 50 games, finishing first in the Western Conference and leading the NHL in goals, the Dallas Stars found themselves back out of the playoffs in 2016-17.
It was a massive disappointment for the Stars, who were tied for 16th in goal scoring last year, seeing their goals for per game drop from 3.23 to 2.71 in one short year. To make matters worse, the Stars gave up the second most goals (3.17 GA/PG) thanks to a league-low .893 SV%.
To try and rectify the situation and get back to the postseason General Manager Jim Nill was busy this summer. It started back in May when they acquired the rights to goaltender Ben Bishop and signed him to a six-year deal worth $29.6M ($4,916,667M AAV). Bishop had a down-year in 2016-17, but in the three years prior he was tied for first in the NHL in wins (112), tied for fifth in SV% (.922) and sixth in GAA (2.20). That’s the goaltender that the Stars hope they got this offseason and are hopeful that he will shore up what has been a bugaboo for them for a number of years. Veteran Kari Lehtonen remains in the picture as Dallas’ No.2—over the last three seasons, the 33-year-old has not posted a SV% above .906.
The moves continued shortly after the draft when they acquired defenseman Marc Methot from the Vegas Golden Knights. Four days later when free agency opened up, Nill signed mammoth centre Martin Hanzal to a three-year contract and Russian winger Alexander Radulov two days later. Methot doesn’t add a tonne, especially in terms of fantasy value, but will help stabilize their blueline. Hanzal and Radulov should make substantial impacts and help get the Stars back above the 3.00 goals per game plateau. Hanzal will replace Cody Eakin, who was picked up by Vegas. Hanzal plays a sound two-way game and has averaged 19 goals and 31 assists per 82 games over the last four seasons. However, he has missed 91 games over that stretch and durability has become a real concern. After returning to the NHL on a one-year deal, Radulov moved to Texas on a five-year pact worth $31.25M. The mercurial forward is a gifted playmaker and picked up 18 goals and 36 assists in his return to the NHL. Entering his first season in Dallas, Radulov is expected to play on the top line with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn—a line that would likely dominate the Western Conference, making Radulov a 20-goal, 40-assist candidate. Last season was another strong year for the Seguin, who is fifth in the NHL in points (306), eighth in goals (133) and tied for 12th in assists (173) since joining the Stars in 2013-14. After posting point-per-game numbers in the two years prior to 2016-17, Benn finished tied for 20th in the NHL in points (69) last year. Look for Seguin and Benn to each be around 35 goals and 50 assists this season.
The rest of the forward group will benefit from the return of Mattias Janmark, who missed all of last year after undergoing knee surgery in September. He’ll likely join the top-6 that also features Jason Spezza, who has recorded at least 30 assists in each of the last four seasons—ranking 25th in the NHL with 153 over that span.
On the back-end, Dallas is led by fourth-year rearguard John Klingberg. Since cracking the NHL in 2014-15, the 25-year-old defenseman is eighth among defensemen in points (147), ninth in assists (113) and 14th in goals (34). Klingberg is expected to play most of this season next to his fellow countryman Esa Lindell. The 23-year-old Finnish blueliner has good size (6-foot-3 / 215 lbs) and a great point-shot. Look for him to log big minutes and build off of his 18 points (6G / 12A) from his rookie campaign. The sleeper on this unit is Julius Honka, who is expected to play his first full season in 2017-18. The 21-year-old is a great skater and puck-mover and should see time on the power-play thanks to a strong point-shot. In three years in the AHL, Honka has produced at a 10-goal, 32-assist per 76-game pace.
The Stars should score at a higher rate in 2017-18 and their goaltending should be as strong as it has been since 2006-07 when Marty Turco and Mike Smith were in town and had the third lowest team GAA in the NHL. Look for them to challenge for the Central Division crown again.
Fantasy Rankings (Top 350)
- Tyler Seguin-#7 (#4 C)
- Jamie Benn-#12 (#2 LW)
- Ben Bishop-#44 (#10 G)
- John Klingberg-#83 (#17 D)
- Alexander Radulov-#90 (#16 RW)
- Jason Spezza-#121 (#34 C)
- Martin Hanzal-#255 (#58 C)
- Esa Lindell-#332 (#85 D)
- Devin Shore-#348 (#81 C)
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