It is no surprise that the Dallas Stars are in need of goal scoring as the July 1 free agency period rapidly approaches. The Stars finished 29th in goal scoring during the regular season, with depth scoring being a large issue for the majority of the season. Even with the addition of Mats Zuccarello, the Stars lacked the offensive punch to pair with their Vezina-level goaltending and Jennings-level defense. In a perfect world the Stars would re-sign Zuccarello, but with the reports that the winger is due to test the market, his returning to Dallas is very much a question mark.
This question mark is further emphasized by the fact that the free agent market in 2019 is rather thin. There are some good players out there like Matt Duchene, Joe Pavelski, and the belle of the ball Artemi Panarin. While the Stars might be in the conversation for each of these players, the team must look at some other options to find goal scoring in 2019-20.
With the stage now set and time running out before the July free agency frenzy, let’s introduce the three candidates who could fill a scoring role for the Stars next season.
Marcus Johansson is an interesting player that the Stars should consider giving a look during the free agency period. Marcus spent the first half of the season with the New Jersey Devils, before being traded to the Boston Bruins at the deadline, where he reached the Stanley Cup Final. His stat line is a bit unimpressive when looking at the overall numbers, but that doesn’t tell the entire story. In an injury-filled season that saw him sidelined on two separate occasions, Johansson posted 13 goals and 17 assists for 30 points in 58 games. The majority of his offensive output occurred with the Devils, where he scored 12 of his 13 goal and posted 27 of his 30 points. However, his time with Boston was impacted by a lung contusion suffered in March, and he only dressed in 10 regular season games with the Bruins.
*It should be noted that Johansson did have an impact when in the Boston lineup during the playoffs. In 22 playoff games, he put up four goals and seven assists for 11 points.
Overall, Johansson would be a very encouraging add for the Stars in free agency. He has a good sized body at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, and he moves around the ice extremely well. He also has very good playmaking skills, with nearly elite vision and a very good shot when he can get it. He also has the ability to burn defenders wide, and has very good hands in tight around the net. It is of some concern that he has been limited to only 87 games in the past two seasons, and some of those injuries had to deal with concussions. He was healthy in the playoffs, but a full, healthy NHL season will go a long way in calming some of these injury concerns.
Johansson does have a nose for the net, achieving the 20-goal mark twice with the Washington Capitals, and just missing the mark in 2015-16, when he recorded 17 goals in 74 games. He is also a player that has proven that he can put up a healthy point total when playing with effective linemates. His full 8- game campaign of 2016-17 saw him hit a career-high 58 points, before injuries derailed his climb in 2017-18.
Stars fans should be quite familiar with Colin Wilson by now, given that he has played the majority of his career in the Central Division, first with the Nashville Predators and then the Colorado Avalanche. The 29-year-old left winger stands at 6-foot-1 and is a brick wall at 221 pounds, which he is not afraid to use all over the ice. In the past season with the Avalanche, Wilson dressed in 65 games, scoring 12 goals and assisting on 15 for a point total of 27. His numbers are not going to dazzle anyone, he has only scored 20 goals once and his second highest total in a season was 16.
With Wilson, the Stars will be filling a bottom-six role, looking to inject some depth goal-scoring. Wilson does skate well and he moves around the ice smartly, using his body to shield the puck. Wilson is also hard to move off of the puck and can lend himself as useful to a grinding type of style that the Stars wilted under in the second round of the playoffs. His shot is deceptive at the NHL level, but it wouldn’t be categorized as elite. Wilson does have power play experience, using his big body to play a net-front role.
And don’t forget that time he outfoxed Connor McDavid with some McDavid-like speed and precision turning:
Overall, Wilson would be a bottom-six forward for the Stars who could add a little pop down the lineup. Given that he will turn 30 in the first month of the season, the Stars could be looking for a younger player with greater offensive upside. Wilson is a good player, but it feels like the Stars could fill his intended role internally.
Ryan Dzingel is the youngest player on this list, with the most offensive upside going forward. The 27-year-old from Wheaton, Illinois is listed at 6-foot and 190 pounds, and was drafted by the Ottawa Senators in 2011, and he made his debut with the team in 2015. Dzingel played his first four years with the Senators, helping them reach the Eastern Conference Final in 2017, before the bottom fell out of the franchise in 2018. Dzingel was traded at the deadline this season to the Columbus Blue Jackets, where he played the final 21 games of a 78-game campaign. Dzingel had a productive year by all accounts, recording 26 goals and 30 assists for 56 points. Dzingel also recorded career highs in every major offensive category, and made himself into a back-to-back 20-plus goal scorer.
Dzingel did struggle a bit in Columbus, only recording four goals and eight assists for 12 points in 21 games. However this was in part due to the reduction in his ice time, as he saw a full three-minute decrease in his total time on ice per game. The Jackets also had a surplus of talented forwards on their roster, which meant Dzingel had to take on more of a depth role as the season and playoffs progressed.
Dzingel is a very good skater who can move around the ice at ease, and his on-ice vision allows him to find the quiet areas on the ice. Dzingel could also be blossoming into a 30-goal scorer, who can score from nearly anywhere on the ice with his lethal snap shot.
Just see for yourself.
His release is quick and when he leans into the shot the velocity is there to beat goaltenders in a shooting match. On many of those goals, it is evident that Dzingel has elite playmaking ability, and is able to move off of the puck to open himself up for an offensive chance. He scores a lot of goals from the top of the circle, and his hands in tight are very high-level. It isn’t out of the realm of possibilities that Dzingel, in a consistent top-six role, could flourish into a 60-plus point player in the years to come.
In a perfect world, the Stars sign Zuccarello to their desired contract, and this piece is rendered useless. However, the signs are pointing to Zuccarello testing the market and anything goes from there. Therefore, the Stars need to be thinking short-term and long-term, and the logical choice there is Ryan Dzingel.
Dzingel is young, hasn’t dealt with a significant injury, and has increased his output each year that he has been in the league. He was a really good player on a really awful team in Ottawa, and was asked to reduce his role in Columbus. In Dallas, he could slot in on the second line, and provide the quickness and offense that the team is looking for.
When it comes to term, that is really anyone’s guess. The Stars do not want to overpay for an aging Zuccarello, but would they pay for a younger player with offensive upside? The Stars need the help in the scoring department and Dzingel fits the bill. If they can somehow pull off a cost-effective deal for Dzingel, the off-season might just be a win.