Winners of the early summer
By: Michael DiStefano
The Dallas stars have had a tremendous summer so far. After becoming the regular season western conference champions in 2015-2016, the Stars endured a steep 30-point drop off last season.
With NHL superstars like Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn in the lineup on a nightly basis goals should be a frequent occurrence, but goaltending, however, has been rather dreadful for the past two seasons with Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi manning the crease.
Knowing the team needed an upgrade in goal, the Stars kicked off their offseason by acquiring the rights to Ben Bishop and locking him up long term. Bishop has a 2.32 goals-against average and a .919 save percentage over his eight year NHL career. The 30-year-old net minder is just one season removed from an All-Star worthy season two seasons removed from a Stanley Cup Finals as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. His presence in net should stabilize the goalie carousel that has hindered Dallas for years and allow them to compete for a playoff run in the west.
Dallas lost Cody Eakin to the expansion draft, bought out Niemi, and let Ales Hemsky and Patrick Sharp walk in free agency; four guys who were not impact players last season. The weapons that the Stars added in front of Bishop to replace the trio of players they lost is why they are the winners of the early part of summer.
The Stars latest singing is 30-year-old winger Alexader Radulov, who signed for five years with an annual cap hit of $6.25 million. Radulov is a dynamic playmaker and was arguably the biggest fish in free agency this year and will certainly bolster Dallas’s offensive depth. Radulov spent last season in Montreal after returning from the KHL and was able to put up 54 points for les habitants, despite an eight-year absence from the NHL game. A top line of Seguin, Benn and Radulov will be a highly dynamic line and should do damage in the west.
Another smart addition was the 6-foot-6 Czech centreman, Martin Hanzal. Hanzal didn’t quite have the best transition after being traded at the deadline from Arizona to Minnesota. Hanzal only scored four goals after the trade, and only had a single point in the playoffs where the Wild was eliminated in the first round. But the large centreman will not be asked to play a big role in Dallas, rather he should be expected to play more of a complimentary piece in the middle six of the lineup and help improve the penalty kill.
A player than Bishop will love playing with next season is newly acquired Marc Methot. Methot was chosen by Vegas in the expansion draft but was traded to Dallas four days later for a 2020 second round draft pick and goaltending prospect Dylan Ferguson. Methot plays a more stay-at-home style of game which allows for his partner to be more fluid with the puck and jump into rushes, a la Erik Karlsson, his old defensive partner. Perhaps he finds himself on a pairing with another Swedish puck moving defenseman John Klingberg. Regardless of who Methot will play with, he is a solid addition to a weak defensive group.
Dallas may have also made the most underrated signing of the summer. Right winger Tyler Pitlick signed three years at $1 Million per year to play for the Stars. Pitlick was starting to have a breakout campaign last season as an Oilers when he had eight goals through 31 games. He should provide good scoring depth and is capable of playing up and down the lineup for the Stars next season.
Expectations in July do not always equate to winter success, but assuming all goes well this season in Dallas, the Stars should be closer to a Stanley Cup final than a lottery pick next June.