How would one rate the Dallas Stars’ free agency period? Let’s start by what they needed going in.
A SECOND LINE
Dallas were a 2-man force last season in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Sure, the likes of Valeri Nichuskin and Alex Chiasson chipped in, but primarily, it was Benn and Seguin. That all changed with the acquistion of disgruntled Ottawa Senators captain, Jason Spezza. Spezza brings not only experience, offensive class and skill, but the biggest reason is a dominant second line center. Management is confident that Cody Eakin will be that guy in the future, but right now, why not take a chance on Spezza? He has one year left on his contract, and even though it is a 7 million dollar cap hit for this season, Dallas only traded away Chiasson, 2 prospects and a 2nd rd pick in 2015, in exchange for Spezza and prospect Ludwig Karlsson. If it works, then you have a dynamite 1-2 punch in the middle, possibly only matched by the Cup-winning duo of Modano-Nieuwendyk. Adding Spezza allows players like Eakin to learn and master their craft from a leader and a star player, taking the pressure off him, if he re-signs with the Stars, after being offered an offer sheet by the Stars this off-season.
The center is solved, and Dallas finished off proceedings, by signing a former-now-current team-mate of Jason Spezza, in Ales Hemsky. Hemsky (3yrs/$12mil) played alongside Spezza in Ottawa last season, after arriving there in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers. This familiarity between the two will make the second line in Dallas, just as potent as the first, if they can gel from the beginning of the season, and keep it up until what could be a deep playoff run.
HELP FOR LEHTONEN
Kari Lehtonen, good goaltender, but the word injury-prone could not describe him better. Realizing that they don’t need an ordinary back-up and more of a mini-starter, Dallas signed Anders Lindback, formerly of the Tampa Bay Lightning, to serve as the backup for the upcoming season. Losing his starting gig to Vezina candidate Ben Bishop, Lindback brings a .904% and 2.74GAA to potentially start as many as 25-30 games next season, if Lehtonen continues his injury-riddled seasons of past.
The only other free agent signing on Day One was depth forward Patrick Eaves, leaving the D untouched as of now for the upcoming season. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the defensive crop is plentiful. Players like Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth and first-round pick Julius Honka could be a chance, and current Star RFA Brenden Dillon could be a great D man if his progress continues as much as it did this past season. One more solid defensive defensemen wouldn’t hurt, but the Stars could live without it, if some of the younger players can step up to the next level and become a solid unit led by Trevor Daley, Alex Goligoski and Sergei Gonchar.
In the past 12 months, Jim Nill has changed the Dallas Stars from that team that would always just miss the playoffs, to potentially challenging for Lord Stanley’s Cup. The future of hockey is bright in Texas, and with the Texas Stars winning the Calder Cup this past season as well, the future looks very bright. Could we see a return to the days of the late 90’s? Let’s just say, the future is in the Stars.
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