Dallas Stars’ best case scenarios this summer

(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

There is a lot of talk about the importance of this summer for the Dallas Stars. After a disappointing 2021 season, the Stars are hopeful to put all of the pieces together and have arguably their best chance to make a run in 2021-22. In order for that to happen though, they need to tread carefully and tactically in the time leading up to puck drop in October. There are many factors that can affect how the roster will look this fall. If the organization takes the right steps, this team will have high expectations. However, we have seen how easy it is for those expectations to disappear.

From the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft, to free agency, expiring contracts, solving a goalie logjam, and the injury recovery of their key players, the list of priorities this summer for the Dallas Stars is a long one. Some of these factors are in the control of the organization while others are not. While it is likely that some things will fall their way while others do not, let’s dive into what the best-case scenario would look like for the club.

What the best-case-scenario offseason looks like for the Dallas Stars

First and foremost for this team, is injury recovery. Many of their key players are recovering from injury after the condensed 56-game sprint that was the 2021 season. The most important of these are the players recovering from surgeries. Ben Bishop is still recovering from his knee surgery that held him out all season, Alexander Radulov underwent core surgery during the season after only playing in 11 games, Tyler Seguin returned for three games after offseason hip and knee surgeries but was not yet at 100 percent, and Roope Hintz recently had successful groin surgery to repair an injury that he played through all season. These are four huge players on the Stars’ roster and it is vital that they, along with the rest of the team, are at full health when training camp comes around.

Not only is it important for the full team to practice together and begin the season with their full arsenal but it is key to the mental state of the players as well. The Stars have been hit with constant adversity since the firing of Jim Montgomery in 2019. They have arguably faced the worst injury situation, played the most condensed schedule in 2021, and have not been at their full potential since the COVID-19 stoppage in 2020. If they are faced with another delayed recovery or key player suffering an injury early on, it could put a damper on the season before it even begins.

The second factor is that the Stars re-sign Miro Heiskanen to an extension and do so in a timely manner. Heiskanen is set to become a restricted free agent this summer and is due for a rather large raise. While many defensemen in his position have signed long-term deals of seven or eight years, it is in the Stars’ best interest to sign him to a shorter bridge deal. This would most likely fall in the three-year range and would give the organization some much-needed cash flow to deal with. It may also work out best for Heiskanen as he would most likely receive a larger amount if he signed his long-term deal in a few years when the salary cap has hopefully returned to normal. 

Next up, scoring depth. It was clear this season that Dallas can struggle to find the back of the net. While the organization believes that much of that depth will come from within with the return of Radulov, Seguin, and a fully healthy Hintz, they could use some more security. The team was in a position this year where they allowed injuries to ruin their season. Jim Nill decided not to make any big moves in the offseason or at this years’ trade deadline and the Stars paid for it. I do not believe that they will make that mistake again.

Adding one player that can score goals is not only important for this team but is essential. If some of the expected scorers have an underachieving year (think Jamie Benn and Denis Gurianov this year), they need to have plenty of depth to back them up. This will probably not come in a huge blockbuster move as the team likes where they stand and simply does not have the funds to do so.

However, there are plenty of mid-level players that would help bring a more offensive approach to their bottom-six forwards. One name that comes to mind is Blake Coleman from the Tampa Bay Lightning. He scored 14 goals this season and has multiple 20-goal seasons under his belt. He is also a solid two-way forward and would fit in nicely with the Stars’ defensive-minded system. Whoever it is though, Dallas needs to find at least one player that can boost their scoring.

The last two situations are not entirely in the Stars’ control. Jamie Oleksiak is going to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and will be free to test the market. Oleksiak has found success in his second stint in Dallas and is considered a valuable top-four defenseman playing alongside Heiskanen. Defense is what separates the Stars from other teams in the league and has been the driving force for all of their success in the past few years. The team has stated how important Oleksiak is to the team and said that they will do what they can to bring him back.

The key here is that they will not likely sign him before the Expansion Draft in July. If they did, he would become a top target for Seattle to select. With the possibility of him signing somewhere else in free agency, it is unlikely that the Kraken would take a chance on picking him. This would leave Dallas a one-week window to re-sign him before he becomes a free agent. If Dallas can go into next season with Oleksiak back on the roster, they will have one of the top defense cores in the entire NHL.

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Lastly, let us visit the Expansion Draft one more time. Dallas seemed content to let Seattle select Anton Khudobin to make way for the anticipated duo of Ben Bishop and Jake Oettinger. After the season that Oettinger had in 2021, this option has become even more attractive to them. The problem is, Khudobin did not make this situation easy. After a mediocre season where he played possibly the worst hockey of his career, it seems likely that better options for Seattle will be on the goalie market. While he is still coming off of the recent run to the Stanley Cup Final, he is also 34 years old and comes with a $3.3 million cap hit.

If they do not select him, the Stars would likely lose a player that means more to the organization such as Jason Dickinson or Joe Pavelski. There are other options that the Kraken could select so I will make this a broader best-case scenario. The Stars would be thrilled if Seattle chose to select either Khudobin or a prospect like Joel L’Esperance. This would allow them to keep their leading goal scorer in Pavelski and their most versatile forward in Dickinson going into a huge season for the franchise.

Next. Dallas Stars: Expansion Draft Projections. dark

Related Story. Dallas Stars: 2021 Free Agency. light

As stated above, it is unlikely that all of these best-case scenarios will fall into place, but they can dream, can’t they?