Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill had a few items on his summer to-do list.
- Hire a new coach
- Upgrade the goalie position
- Acquire a top pair defenseman
- Bring in help along the wing
After a busy week or so, Nill can now put a check next to all the boxes.
He started early this offseason and acquired goalie Ben Bishop from Tampa Bay.
Before that, Dallas made a splash by bringing back Ken Hitchcock as head coach. More recently, Marc Methot, formerly of the Ottawa Senators and (very) briefly the Vegas Golden Knights, was brought in to stabilize the defense.
Those changes were predictable, if happily available. However, Nill’s upgrades to the forward position have been a bit more surprising.
Day One of free agency began with a surprise, as Dallas signed center Martin Hanzal to a three-year, $14.3 million deal. Hanzal will be a big presence (literally and figuratively) as he stands 6-foot-5 and 218 pounds, and his ability to play multiple positions and succeed on special teams will add even more stability and versatility down the middle of the ice.
After days of back-and-forth talks between Dallas and Montreal, the Stars were able to land highly-targeted winger Alexander Radulov on a five-year, $31.25 million contract. The additions of Radulov and Hanzal bolsters an already dangerous forward group.
Here’s a look at Dallas’s top-six forwards and their production last season, with their recent additions included (with the knowledge that production was down for both Seguin and Benn for a variety of reasons):
Jamie Benn - 26 goals
Tyler Seguin - 26 goals
Martin Hanzal - 20 goals
Alexander Radulov - 18 goals
Brett Ritchie - 16 goals
Jason Spezza - 15 goals
That’s not taking into account Devin Shore’s 13 goals, Radek Faksa and Antoine Roussel’s 12 goals, and even John Klingberg’s 13 goals from the blue line.
Also, add in the hopefully healthy Mattias Janmark and, possibly, a bigger role for Adam Cracknell who netted 10 goals last season, this forward group has been reformed in a different image.
It could be argued that the Stars, at times last season, lacked the physicality and toughness, especially in front of the net. Adding Hanzal and Radulov to this lineup can inject some grit, size and toughness to a roster that has skill from the top line to the fourth line.
Their additions will also help a power play that was inconsistent, and ineffective, most of last season.
Radulov posted six power play goals (16 total points) and Hanzal netted five power play goals (9 power play points) between his time with Arizona and Minnesota.
Those totals would have added needed depth to the Stars power play last season. Benn led Dallas with 12 power play goals, and was followed by Seguin and Patrick Eaves with 11.
Nill most likely isn’t finished dealing this offseason. The Stars currently have three too many defensemen, and one, or two, could be on the move. Of course, there were rumblings they wanted to go to training camp with nine NHL defensemen this time and let things play out. So who knows.
After a 50-plus win season in 2015-16, injuries and poor play doomed Dallas from the start of last year, and the team finished with just 34 wins.
The addition of Hitchcock sent one message. The acquisition of Bishop and Methot sent another message.
But the additions of Hanzal and Radulov sent a different message: Dallas isn’t rebuilding, it’s reloading.