The Dallas Stars have made over their top-line forward corps for the third consecutive summer. After blockbuster trades for Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza, the Stars made another big splash this year to add Patrick Sharp into their top six.
Sharp, who won three Stanley Cups in Chicago, will add a sniper's touch to goal scoring that should compliment the playmaking of Spezza quite well as well as defensively responsible work on the wing. It's something that was lacking last season that should make the second line a more consistent scoring threat.
Outside of stabilizing the second line, Sharp provides the Stars with some flexibility throughout the roster. He easily could move up to the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin if Valeri Nichushkin struggles. If there is an injury in the top six, Sharp also provides some depth on the roster as far as scoring is concerned.
His leadership off the ice and championship-riddled career should give another veteran presence to help the young leadership and core of the Stars team that is looking to become consistent contenders.
Barring any other moves that could come from general manager Jim Nill, the Stars have their forwards pretty much set for next season. What do they look like now?
The Top Line (a.k.a., The GQ Line)
Dallas should roll a top line that consists of Jamie Benn at left wing, Tyler Seguin at center and Patrick Sharp at right wing, at least according to Lindy Ruff when he joined Sportsnet 590 radio yesterday. This top line will have the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner, the guy who may have won the Art Ross had he not gotten hurt, and a veteran sniper to reap all the benefits playing with those two guys.
Chemistry will be the big question mark for this line, and how quickly they can mesh their playing styles. The good news is Dallas has a number of other guys they could play up, as needed, if Sharp doesn't find scoring chemistry with the Benn/Seguin bromance.
The Second Line
Jason Spezza will again anchor the second line, with Ales Hemsky and Valeri Nichushkin on his wings. Getting a healthy Nichushkin back should give this line more goal scoring punch. Spezza and Hemsky both are good playmakers and Nichushkin is very crafty with the puck.
A question mark on this line is Hemsky. He'll be coming off of surgery on his hips (which is all the rage these days) and is expected to have a better offensive season than last year. Hopefully the combination of health, a year of familiarity with the Stars' system and the addition of firepower in Sharp will equate to a bounce-back season from Hemsky.
The wild card on this line will be Nichushkin and how he looks with Spezza and Hemsky after missing the majority of last season after having hip surgery (told you it was all the rage). Assuming he plays like he did his rookie season with these two, this line should help take some of the pressure of providing all the offense from the top line.
The Third Line
With Ryan Garbutt going to Chicago in the Sharp deal, the "Pitbull Line" is no longer. This line centered by Cody Eakin paired with left winger Antoine Roussel will be looking for a new third musketeer on the right side. The Stars have several right wingers they could put on this line. Patrick Eaves could slot in here and add some scoring to this line. Colton Sceviour also is another option.
Brett Ritchie also could be placed here, though I would not be shocked if the Stars actually start the season with Ritchie in Texas. He would get big minutes in Cedar Park, which he isn't likely to get right away in Dallas with the top six basically set now.
The Fourth Line
Vernon Fiddler will be this year's Shawn Horcoff on the fourth line, providing veteran leadership on a line that is likely to see a rotating cast throughout the season. This line is a little bit more fluid. Any two of Travis Moen, Curtis McKenzie, Sceviour, Ritchie or Eaves are likely to make an appearance here depending on who takes the third line right side spot.
McKenzie is another player that could start the season in Texas, though he projects to be a bottom six forward and wouldn't necessarily be stunted in development playing fourth line minutes in Dallas. However, if the Stars choose to carry eight defensemen to start the season out of training camp, sending someone like McKenzie, Ritchie or Moen to Texas would free up the roster spot to do so.