For the most part, NHL free agency is over with all of the big-name guys signed. When including trades along with signings, it appears the Dallas Stars might be the offseason “champions.” What will that mean for them in 2017-18?
It wasn’t that long ago that the Dallas Stars looked like the next powerhouse in the Western Conference. In the 2015-16 season, they led the conference with 109 points and were the highest-scoring team in the NHL behind the dynamic duo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. However, the Stars were upset in the conference semifinals by Coach Ken Hitchcock’s St. Louis Blues. More on him in a minute.
Heading into last season, the Stars were expected to be Western contenders again but their offense wasn’t as good (16th in goals at 2.7 per game, 20th on power play) and their goaltending a major problem (29th in goals-against per game). Dallas slipped to 79 points, sixth in the Central Division, and wasn’t close to making the playoffs. The only teams with fewer points in the West were Arizona (70), Vancouver (69) and Colorado (48).
To no surprise, Coach Lindy Ruff was fired after four seasons. He was replaced by Hitchcock, who is the Stars' seventh head coach since the franchise moved here from Minnesota in 1993 – and also the second. He coached Dallas from 1995-2002 and the Stars won their only Cup under him in 1999, beating Ruff’s Buffalo Sabres. Hitchcock, who was fired last season by the Blues and expected to retire, has improved every NHL club he has ever coached.
Four Big Additions
The final big name in free agency was signed by Dallas on Monday in former Canadiens winger Alexander Radulov. He got a five-year, $31.25 million contract, the biggest deal given to an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Radulov returned to the NHL from Russia last season and had 18 goals and 36 assists. Montreal did want him back but likely couldn’t afford that number after trading for Jonathan Drouin and giving him a big extension and then handing a monster deal to goalie Carey Price.
So the Stars add a first-line winger in Radulov to play alongside Seguin and Benn. They have added a starting goalie in Ben Bishop. He was acquired in a trade from Los Angeles for a fourth-round draft pick and then signed to a long-term deal. Bishop was 18-15-5 with a .910 save percentage and 2.54 goal against average in 39 games played last season with the Kings and Lightning. During the 2015-16 regular season, his 2.06 goals against average with Tampa Bay led the NHL, and he finished second in voting for the Vezina Trophy. He’s an upgrade on Kari Lehtonen, who will back up Bishop, and the departed Antti Niemi.
The Stars also added a gritty third-line center in free-agent Martin Hanzal and traded for a top-four defenseman in Marc Methot, who was selected by Vegas in the expansion draft from Ottawa. He cost the Stars a second-round pick in 2020. Methot was teammates with Dallas center Jason Spezza in Ottawa for two seasons, and he played for Hitchcock from 2006-10 with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
No other team has added first-line winger, third-line center, top-four defenseman and starting goalie this offseason – well, not counting Vegas, which had to build its entire roster. Bovada oddsmakers have improved the Stars’ odds to win the 2018 Stanley Cup to +1600 – behind Pittsburgh (+750), Chicago (+1200), Edmonton (+1200), Tampa Bay (+1400), Washington (+1400), Anaheim (+1400) and Nashville (+1400).
On paper, I’d call the Stars the West’s second-best team right now behind the Oilers.Bet On 2017-18 NHL Futures At SBR's Top Sportsbooks