Where the Dallas Stars stand heading into training camp

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

As we near the start of training camp on September 23, the Dallas Stars are in a good position. They added players in free agency, will have key players back from injury, and have plenty of options on their roster.

There are many things that still need to be finalized and questions to be answered before the puck drops in October but they surely have gained momentum this offseason.

Dallas Stars head into training camp with momentum

Here is a look at where they stand and what to expect heading into camp…

Too Many Goalies

Earlier this summer, we discussed the overcrowded goalie room for the Stars. Since then, things have only gotten messier. On the first day of free agency, Dallas surprised the hockey world, signing veteran goaltender Braden Holtby to a one-year contract. With Ben Bishop, Anton Khudobin, and Jake Oettinger already on the roster, this was an unexpected move to say the least. While nothing is set in stone yet, this does seem to tell us that the health of Bishop is a concern heading into camp. He has not played since the second round of the 2020 playoffs and is still recovering from knee surgery.

Dallas expected him to return during the 2020-21 season but due to complications in his recovery, he did not play a single game. If he is ready to go this fall, he will be the starting goaltender and Dallas will need to trade one of their other goalies. If he is not fully healthy at the start of the season, it is likely that they will move him to the Long-Term Injured Reserved list, effectively removing his $4.92 million salary-cap hit. With Dallas currently sitting above the salary cap, this seems more likely as we get closer to camp.

"“There is no definite timeframe,” Nill said when asked about Ben Bishop’s status. “Is he going to be ready to go? He may be. He may not be. And that’s why we had to make sure we covered ourselves.”"

Following this move, Dallas would be left with Khudobin, Holtby, and Oettinger, battling for two spots on the NHL roster. Khudobin recently led the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final in 2020 and has had a solid career serving mostly as a backup. However, he struggled last season as a starter and seemingly lost the job to young Oettinger.

Holtby was among the NHL elite just a few years ago winning the Stanley Cup in 2018 and the Vezina Trophy for best goaltender in 2016 with the Washington Capitals. Unfortunately, he is also coming off the two worst seasons of his career between Washington and the Vancouver Canucks.

Oettinger was thrown into the NHL earlier than expected due to injuries and shined as a rookie last season. He is the only goalie that would not require waivers and therefore can be sent down to the American Hockey League as often as needed. Much of this situation will be decided with the fate of Bishop but even after that, there is still work to be done.

New Faces Looking to Fit In

Stars’ General Manager Jim Nill was surprisingly active on the first day of NHL free agency. After securing their top-four defenseman in Ryan Suter, he also added defenseman Jani Hakanpaa, Holtby, and defensive forwards Luke Glendening and Michael Raffl. While Hakanpaa, Holtby, and Raffl have moved around over the years, Suter and Glendening have spent most or all of their careers with one team. Suter spent the last nine seasons with the Minnesota Wild after spending his first seven with the Nashville Predators.

"“Ryan has been one of the top defensemen in the NHL for many years,” Nill said. “That’s a great veteran who has a great presence. He reminds me a lot of Chris Chelios when I was in Detroit. He’s one of those guys that doesn’t seem to age. He’s a heavy body, he’s got iron lungs and he’s a great skater. When we lost Oleksiak, that’s a big hole to fill. We’re fortunate to be able to find a player of Ryan’s caliber.”"

Glendening has been a Detroit Red Wing for his entire eight-year career. As we saw when Joe Pavelski left San Jose for the first time, it can take time for players to adjust after spending so much of their lives in one city. Both of these additions are veterans in the league but moving to a new city with a family is a big deal and it may take them a few months to hit their stride.

The other question with all of these new players is where they will fit in. We spoke about the goaltending situation above and it seems obvious that Suter will slot in the top four alongside either John Klingberg or Miro Heiskanen. That leaves Glendening, Raffl, and Hakpanaa to find their spots within the lineup. We will be diving more into what the lineup may look like in the coming weeks.

Offense From Within

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If you have watched the Stars over the past few seasons, one thing has been very obvious. They have significant trouble putting the puck in the net. Finishing near the top of the league in most defensive categories, they have set themselves up for success only to consistently play in one-goal games due to their lack of scoring on the other end. Last season, this was at the forefront as key offensive players Tyler Seguin, Roope Hintz, Alexander Radulov, and Joel Kiviranta all missed significant time due to injury.

Heading into the summer, many believed that Dallas would find help in free agency to boost their scoring production. However, Nill decided to only add more defensive players, showing that he believes in the faces currently in their dressing room.

With all of the above players expected to be ready at the start of training camp, the organization believes that their return will be enough to improve their offense.

While this is a valid point, it is still a risk as Dallas has seen their lack of offensive depth hurt them in the past. There is still time in the offseason for moves to be made and there may be a trade in the future if Bishop is able to play but it seems likely that Dallas will begin the season with the offense they have. If things do not start well, Nill will likely be on the hot seat to bring in some scoring help early on.

We are just over three weeks from the start of training camp and things seem to be falling into place. It should be a quiet three weeks for the Dallas Stars as any of their moves will likely follow decisions made during camp. It is an important season with many players returning from injury, big contracts coming to an end, and the core group getting older, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.

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Are you ready Stars fans?

  • Published on 08/30/2021 at 11:30 AM
  • Last updated at 08/30/2021 at 12:08 PM