Unfortunately, the Dallas Stars season ended sooner than fans had hoped. As the Stars were sent into an early offseason, Stars GM Jim Nill and the rest of the front office began the offseason protocol. After each season every team has a few areas where they can improve, as well as having a few moves that need to be made.
For the Dallas Stars, the main priority going into the offseason was to re-sign Esa Lindell. Lindell was an RFA who was making $2.2 million was due for a massive increase in pay. He played top minutes with the Stars this past season most notably on the penalty kill. Lindell finished 14th in the NHL in ATOI with 24:20 and finished 5th in TOI on the PK at 3:14. He also stepped up offensively posting a career-high 11 goals and 21 assists. Lindell was paid handsomely and rightfully so. On May 16th the Stars and Esa Lindell agreed to a 6-year extension worth $34.8 million for an AAV of $5.8 million.
In terms of other offseason priorities, there are really only two major ones and a handful of smaller ones. They re-signed Roman Polak to a one-year $1.75 million to more than likely be a third pairing defenseman. Mattias Janmark received a one-year deal worth $2.3 million to occupy a bottom-six role next season.
There are three other RFA’s on the NHL roster. Of those three, Jason Dickinson is in line to get the biggest raise in pay as he saw top-six minutes in the latter half of the season and into the playoffs. It would come as no surprise if the front office let Julius Honka walk. The former first-round pick has struggled with the Stars and lost the trust of the coaches throughout the season.
The final guy is a bit of a toss-up. Brett Ritchie has been with the Stars since the 2014-2015 season. In the past few seasons, he has become more of a fourth-line winger. He is third on the team in hits per game with 2.4 through 53 games this season. It is 50/50 on if Ritchie will be in Dallas next season. For the right price, I would not mind him back as a fourth liner.
After these moves, there are two major needs that need to be addressed.
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Acquire a top 6 winger (or Re-sign Zuccarello)
It is the same story as it has been for the past number of seasons. The Stars need help in the top 6. At the beginning of the year Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov were the only real scoring threats on the roster. It appears as if Roope Hintz and Jason Dickinson are starting to form a solid second line for the Stars.
The Stars added Mats Zuccarello at the trade deadline for a pair of conditional draft picks. He impacted the lineup almost immediately. While he only played a pair of regular season games with the Stars, his presence was felt mightily in the playoffs. In the playoffs, Seguin and Zuccarello tied for the team lead in points with 11 each. Zucc is a playmaker and he always knows what he is going to do with the puck when it touches his stick. Dallas already loves him and are vocal about wanting him back.
Signing Zuccarello to a multi-year deal should be priority number one right now for the Stars. If Zucc decides to test the free agent market and sign elsewhere there are still a couple of guys in free agency that would be great additions to this Dallas Stars top 6.
Acquire a Top-4 Defenseman
John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, and Miro Heiskanen are the top three defensemen currently on the roster. Lindell and Klingberg are the top pair at the moment and Miro is sitting on the second unit. For the majority of the season, his partner was Roman Polak. Polak is not a top-four defenseman and Miro was still unbelievable in his rookie season.
Finding another top defenseman to play on the right side next to Miro on the second pairing is high on the priority list. A name that seems to be a common one is Anton Stralman. There are a couple of other guys that could fit the bill but something that needs to be taken into account with signing a defenseman is that he will be exposed in the Seattle expansion draft. So does it really make sense to go after a guy like Tyler Myers who will ask for a contract of at least 4 to 5 years in length? What the Stars should do is sign a veteran who is good at moving the puck that would pair nicely with Miro on a short term deal.
If these needs are addressed then the Stars will put themselves in a good position heading into next season.
Cover photo credit: Chris Bugajsky covers the Dallas Stars, the NHL and the NHL Draft for Full Press Coverage. Follow Chris on twitter @CBugajsky14.