We continue our trek through the Central Division with the Dallas Stars:
Last season: 43-32-7, 93 points, 4th place, lost to St. Louis in conference semifinals
Key losses: F Ryan Hartman, F Tyler Pitlick, F Mats Zuccarello, D Ben Lovejoy
Key additions: F Joe Pavelski, F Corey Perry, assistant coach John Stevens
The Stars, who missed the playoffs the previous two seasons, qualified in their first year under head coach Jim Montgomery’s tutelage. Dallas dispatched the Predators in six games then fell to the eventual champion Blues in crushing fashion in double overtime in Game 7 of the second round.
Stars general manager Jim Nill wasn’t able to re-sign Zuccarello after acquiring him at the trade deadline, so he signed forwards Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry on the first day of free agency. While both players are on the other side of 30 years old, they still can produce with Pavelski carrying much more weight among the two in that department. He had 38 goals last season, including 12 on the power play. Perry’s contract was bought out by Anaheim after he was limited to only 10 points in 31 games last season due to season-ending surgery to repair a torn meniscus and MCL.
Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov return as Dallas’ top line. Pavelski could play up top or on the second unit with Roope Hintz and Jason Dickinson. Perry will miss two weeks at the start of the season with a small fracture in his foot.
On the back end, Nill re-signed top-four defenseman Esa Lindell to a six-year extension. Lindell could return to his role with John Klingberg, but Miro Heiskanen is already trending toward being a No. 1 role after his strong rookie season. If Montgomery breaks Heiskanen away from Roman Polak, the Finnish blue liner could thrive even more with another puck mover like Klingberg. If Andrej Sekera performs well he could end up in the top four and drop Polak down to the third pairing with Jamie Oleksiak.
Ben Bishop was the star on Dallas’ team last season with a .934 save percentage in 46 outings. His play down the stretch was huge in pushing the team into the playoffs, and finished as the Vezina Trophy runner-up. But he’ll be 33 in November and there are some injury concerns there. Anton Khudobin, however, had a .923 save percentage and a reliable backup for Dallas.
The Stars a top-heavy team at forward and defense, but they lack a strong supporting cast. They should make back-to-back trips to the playoffs for the first time since 2008, but being a legitimate championship contender seems out of reach until they have more depth.