There's no doubt that while they have missed the playoffs in each of the last five seasons, the Dallas Stars have added considerably to their prospect pool. As shown in the recent prospect rankings, there are multiple prospects in the system who all have claims to at least one of those spots, whether they made the final list or not.
This is essential to the success of any franchise moving forward. If you look at the successful teams of the past few years - let's take the Kings, Blackhawks, Penguins, and Bruins for this example - one common trend shows through. They each became successful first with their homegrown talent, adding veterans and specific players later on in order to put them over the top for cup runs.
The Stars have done a lot of work to develop the early stages of a homegrown pool that grows together and that will hopefully graduate a solid amount of players to the NHL ranks, where they can continue to grow and produce together.
One concern has kept popping into my head over the last few years, however. With the youth movement and the constant mantra of the future being ever so bright for the Dallas Stars, one had to wonder if players were going to be forced into NHL service, in big minutes for that matter, before they were completely ready. Reilly Smith comes to mind when you think about this; he should have stayed in the AHL for at least another year.
There was a ton of organizational pressure on all of the prospects in the Stars system, as after that magical post-season run every single area seemed to be a big weakness at one point or other. In recent months, before Jim Nill worked his magic, I became concerned that guys like Devin Shore, Mike Winther, Brett Ritchie, Jack Campbell, and others might be forced into action too early.
When you have an organization with such tremendous depth, but constant struggles on the ice, teams can lapse into the overuse of young prospects in a way that is damaging to their potential as future stars (look up Nino Niederreiterand Alex Burmistrov).
So, beyond helping the team immediately and making this upcoming season look a lot brighter than the last five. Nill's moves have done away with any need for these prospects arising too soon.
At the forward positions he got Tyler Seguin, Shawn Horcoff, Rich Peverley, and Valeri Nichushkin. All of whom will contribute to this next season (highly likely but not a given for Nichushkin). This allows the forwards in the Stars system to continue maturing their games in leagues that lign up with their skill level. They don't have to feel the pressure of needing to become the next big thing immediately.
Similarly, Nill's signing of Dan Ellis to a two year contract is tremendous and tremendously underrated. Not only does it give the Stars a solid, reliable back-up, which they haven't had since Mike Smith, it allows Jack Campbell to continue his development without all the pressure that was on him as late as the recent draft in New Jersey.
Jack Campbell is still incredibly promising. He's a competitive, skilled goaltender, who showed a lot of poise and maturity after a rough start last year, when he helped carry the team while Nilstorp was in Dallas. However, he was put on a bit of a fast track because of the lack of depth at the goaltender position and it became likely, especially given the Stars' struggles with back-ups last year that he might be forced into the position too soon. Having Ellis on the Stars for the next two years means Campbell can continue to mature and focus on his game, not what is going on with the Dallas Stars for the next couple of years while he fine tunes himself to the rigors and skill of the pro game.
Jim Nill has already done great things for this franchise. He's brought a level of respect, quick thinking, and pro-activeness which any organization needs to become successful. One of the perhaps over-looked yet major benefits of his moves so far is that the body of prospects in the organization can move along and mature at a normal pace and get their full development in before being needed in the NHL. This bodes very well for the future, as prospects who are given time to become true professionals are less likely to end up as busts and the NHL team will see an infusion of completely NHL-ready talent when it needs it in the next few years.