As the Dallas Stars prepare to have their roster in compliance (cap and roster size) by tomorrow’s deadline, they’ve made several moves that indicate what the opening night roster could look like.
Remi Elie appears to not have made the cut this season after playing in all but 10 games for the Dallas Stars last season. Throughout training camp and the preseason, Elie never really separated himself from others that were vying for bottom six forward roles. Combined with others making the coaching staff and front office take notice of them, Elie finds himself on the waiver list today. If he clears, he’s likely to be assigned to the Texas Stars in the AHL. It’s fairly likely he will clear waivers, as most teams have enough of their own guys to fill any bottom six forward roles that could be open as the season approaches.
Justin Dowling and Joel Hanley were also placed on waivers, an expected move for the Stars. Dowling will be the veteran forward for the AHL team as in seasons past, and Hanley was never really expected to push for a roster spot in the NHL with the log jam of personnel in front of him on the Stars depth chart. He’ll add to the depth for the Texas Stars squad.
These moves today indicate that Roope Hintz and Gemel Smith will make the NHL roster.
Hintz really took advantage of the preseason to set himself apart from some of the other forwards competing for the bottom six in new head coach Jim Montgomery’s pacey, puck possession system.
Some have wondered how both Hintz and Smith could make the final roster. Here’s the thing: teams don’t generally carry eight defensemen, something Dallas has done for seemingly ever (at least the last three seasons, so it checks out). That means that with a 23-man roster, two of which are goaltenders and seven of whom are blueliners, 14 forward spots are available.
Martin Hanzal will start the season on the injured reserve list after undergoing spinal fusion surgery this offseason, and that move will allow both Hintz and Smith to be on the opening roster for Dallas. Once Hanzal returns, barring other injuries to the forward corps, that will be when difficult decisions will have to be made on who is sent through the waiver process.
Luckily, that’s likely a can that gets kicked two-plus months down the road.
The expected forward group for the Stars on opening night should look something like this:
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Jason Spezza - Valeri Nichushkin
Blake Comeau - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Gemel Smith - Roope Hintz/Jason Dickinson - Brett Ritchie/Devin Shore
With Stephen Johns currently injured and not playing in preseason games or practicing for the past week, the right-handed defensive depth for the Stars has been put into a precarious position for opening night. Gavin Bayreuther has had a lot of looks in Johns’ absence, and he had a few tough shifts his last two games that led to goals against.
Bayreuther was the likely candidate to fill in on Johns’ spot on the third pairing for opening night, but it seems that the Stars believe Bayreuther could use some more development time in the AHL. They announced they traded a conditional 7th round draft pick in 2019 for 24-year-old Connor Carrick from the Toronto Maple Leafs. (The conditional pick becomes a 6th rounder if Carrick plays in 50 or more NHL games this season.) Carrick was expected to be placed on waivers to be sent down to the AHL Toronto Marlies but was not on this morning’s list as the two teams worked out a deal.
This move likely indicates that Johns will not be ready to play opening night, and that Roman Polak may not be the player Montgomery wants to fill in on that third pairing. The blueline could look something like this for the season:
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Marc Methot - Julius Honka
Miro Heiskanen - Stephen Johns/Connor Carrick
In order to put Carrick on the roster, Stephen Johns is likely to start out on the IR with Hanzal. We’ll likely know more tomorrow how long he’ll be out for, as the team is off today. If it’s a short-term injury, Dallas will have to make a decision on whether Carrick or Polak are placed on waivers to clear room for Johns’ return to the lineup sooner rather than later.
As for goaltending, the Stars returned both Colton Point and Landon Bow to the AHL, indicating that the mild muscle strains Ben Bishop and Antoin Khudobin had at the end of the preseason are not going to keep either from starting the season.
The roster is coming into focus. Opening night is three days away.
Hockey season is really upon us.