NHL Opening Night is Wednesday, and while that doesn't really matter for Stars fans who eschew anything sans that Verdant Victory shade, the Stars have some choices to make before their own opener against Anaheim on Thursday. Specifically, they will have to choose which players to put on the NHL roster, which means also choosing which ones to not put on the NHL roster. They've already starting doing so over the weekend, as Julius Honka and Gemel Smithwere assigned to Texas, as expected.
Dallas will need to be at the limit of 23 players by Tuesday, and that means some tough decisions will need to be made. Here's where things stand right now:
Here is updated roster: 13 healthy forwards right now (Dickinson, Eakin, Janmark hurt) pic.twitter.com/kAsETksA51— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) October 9, 2016
That's 27 names for all you folks starting to remove your socks in order to count 'em up, but hold on, because there are some particulars. Mattias Janmark, Cody Eakin and Jason Dickinson should all start the season on IR, which takes that overall number back down to 24, leaving the team with 13 forwards (more on that later), two goaltenders, and nine defensemen.
So, the Stars only "have" to send one defenseman to Texas to make the 23-man limit, and Esa Lindell seems a prime candidate for such an assignment, being able to bypass waivers and all. There was some thought earlier in the offseason that Lindell might force himself into the lineup to start the season, but his "just fine" World Cup and preseason along with the lack of any subtractions from the Stars' pool of young blueliners make his re-assignment a logical choice for now.
That would put Dallas at the 23-man limit with "only" eight defensemen, but there are reasons to think that might not be the entirety of how things shake out.
First, Ales Hemsky appears to have had a setback in recovering from his groin injury, so you could see Gemel Smith, say, called back up for opening night as the 13th forward while Adam Cracknell or Brett Ritchie plays on the third line in Hemsky's place. That would leave McKenzie, Shore and one of Cracknell/Ritchie on the fourth line, which isn't too shabby at all.
In addition to that, you could also see Mattias Backman sent through waivers in order to make some room on the blue line. The end of training camp is generally seen as the easiest time to slip players through waivers, as most teams have already finalized their rosters, and as an older (he's 24) prospect without NHL experience who slots behind Nemeth and Oleksiak, odds are good (though nothing is a sure thing) that Backman would clear.
That would leave Dallas with seven defensemen, with Jordie Benn, Oleksiak and Nemeth bringing up the rear.Patrik Nemeth has had a good training camp by all accounts (including a two goal outburst in Las Vegas on Friday), and it wouldn't be shocking to see Dallas give him the sort of look they gave Jyrki Jokipakka during their fantastic start to the season last year.
The sticking point there is that Dallas really doesn't have to send Backman down right away, as they could start the season with 13 forwards (if Smith or someone else is recalled) and eight defensemen to make the 23-man limit. But given that Dallas would surely prefer not to carry eight defensemen again, it wouldn't shock me to see them try to sneak Backman down this week when its as safe to do so as it's ever going to be. That would give Backman more minutes in Texas, and it would also give the Stars more flexibility at forward while Hemsky, Dickinson and (later on) Eakin get healthy.
We should know more before long, but as a measured-but-wild guess, I could see this sort of roster on Thursday (again, assuming Seguin really is ready, which I'm still not sold on. Don't worry, it's probably nothing.):
Scratches: Oleksiak, Smith, Dowling/TBA
We'll find out what Dallas's plan is soon enough. Until then, happy hockey week, friends.