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Dallas Deals Strong Hand Heading Into Next Season

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Another off-season, another flurry of Dallas Stars deals. GM Jim Nill landed a big fish and several other pieces in a busy day, but do these deals make the Dallas Stars better? Spoiler alert: they do.

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Edmonton Oilers
Larry will probably help, but if he doesn’t, who cares?
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency opened with a bang for the Dallas Stars. Joe Pavelski, formerly of the San Jose Sharks, is a worthy heir to the likes of Ben Bishop and Alexander Radulov while Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks) and Andrej Sekera (Edmonton Oilers) represent more in the way of reclamation projects. It’s an odd trio, if we’re being completely honest, and not without warts. Age, injury, price tag, and possibly general not-being-very-goodness are in play, but also unlikely. Seriously, pump the brakes on angst, these are good moves.

We’ll start at the top of the market. Joe Pavelski scored 38 goals last season. That would have led the Stars in 2018-19. Come to think of it, 38 goals would have led the Dallas Stars in four of the previous six seasons (Tyler Seguin scored 40 goals in 2017-28, Jamie Benn scored 41 in 2015-2016). Dig deeper, and Pavelski drove possession (58.7% CF) without the benefit of extreme luck (99.1 PDO). Those are norms, by the way (58.5% CF for his career). The Seguin/Benn-era Dallas Stars simply do not produce goals at that rate. They needed Pavelski.

He will step into a roster alongside the likes of Benn, Seguin, Radulov, and the emerging Roope Hintz. Imagine, for a moment, what a player like Pavelski will do with the likes of Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg firing pucks his way. Perhaps head coach Jim Montgomery can afford to pull Jamie Benn a bit farther from the net on the Dallas power play, activating his superlative shot. Options, in other words, and if you need two more bits of petty context, excluding the lockout you have to go back to 2009-10 to find a season in which Pavelski has not exceeded Mats Zuccarello’s career-high in points.

Yes, he will be 35 years old by the time the 2019-20 season starts. That is not often an age in which performance continues to accelerate. However, there are no persistent conditions, nor causes to think next year will be the year the bottom falls out. Furthermore, three years insulates the Stars from any true disasters, as does the $7 million price tag. Seriously, who do the Stars need to re-sign? Martin Hanzal falls off the books after this season, Andrew Cogliano, Blake Comeau, and Mattias Janmark the season after. If the Stars lose significant pieces, it won’t be due to Pavelski.

Injury joins age as an issue with Sekera. The 33-year-old Czech managed a mere 24 games last season, and 36 the year before. He also lacks flash. Seriously, the answer to defensive depth is a player from the Edmonton Oilers?

Here’s the thing, what if it is?

With Sekera, context is key. Klingberg, Heiskanen and Esa Lindell are at the top of the depth chart, but consider the rest of the unit. Stars fans (and all human beings in general) want Stephen Johns to overcome a season lost to post-traumatic headaches, but asking him to recover and rejoin the top four immediately is a lot. Taylor Fedun was better than most realize, Jamie Oleksiak was not, and Roman Polak was divisive. This is not a unit bursting with obvious candidates to play meaningful roles.

There are green shoots though. Sekera was positive possession player for the Oilers last season (50.2% CF) and positive relative to his teammates the year before (1.2% CF-relative). If we go back to his last full season (2016-17), he was a not-terrible 49.8% CF. Take a deep, calming breath. Sekera will help the Stars’ defense. If he does not, he will be gone after a single season and $1.5 million. There’s simply no risk here.

Which brings us to, sigh, Corey Perry. The Stars’ final acquisition was a one-year, $1.5 million former-Hart Trophy winner. Listen, I get it. He’s Corey Perry. There’s baggage, there, and quite a lot of it. So, for the next paragraph, we’re going to talk about Corey, I mean, Larry Perry.

Larry Perry (run with the bit), labored through 31 games for a mostly miserable Anaheim Ducks squad, but go back a little further. As recently as 2017-18, Larry scored 49 points (17 goals, 32 assists). The season before it was 53 points (19 goals, 34 assists). Say it with me, context is key. Only three Stars (Seguin, Radulov, Benn) bettered 49 points last season, and only two (Seguin, Radulov) beat 53. Would you pay $1.5 million for the team’s fourth-best forward? Absolutely. Would you walk away, without regret, from a $1.5 million washout? Certainly.

Context. Is. Key.

The league’s 29th-ranked offense came within a goal of defeating the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. Could these moves nudge the Stars into the top 20? How about the top half? Pavelski, Perry, and Sekera don’t ruin the cap, won’t take roster spots from knocking-on-the-door youngsters, and carry almost nothing in the way of term. It’s all upside. Go Stars.