Late in the summer is an excellent time to sit back and ponder what an NHL team’s roster might look like in that upcoming fall. There’s little hockey to watch live, and most of a team’s roster moves have already been made.
But why stop at just thinking about that upcoming fall? With so much time between puck drops, why not think ahead even further?
After all, NHL teams aren’t built all at once (well, except for expansion teams, I suppose). They’re built piece by piece over the span of years, usually with both the short-term and the long-term kept in focused consideration.
For the Dallas Stars, there’s been plenty of talk about the short-term this summer. Coming off the heels of an excruciatingly close loss to the eventual Stanley Cup-champion St. Louis Blues in the second round of the playoffs, the Stars showed their intention to go deep in next year’s playoffs with the free agency additions of veterans Joe Pavelski, Corey Perry, and Andrej Sekera.
Today, however, let’s take some time to look beyond this upcoming season and focus on the long-term. To be more specific, I’m going to try to envision (as close as possible, anyways) what the Stars’ roster might look like five years from now.
For this exercise, I’m going to follow a few simple guidelines for which players I include:
- Players currently on the Stars’ NHL roster who will still be under contract in five years and/or currently have restricted free agent status (with one notable exception, as you’ll see below)
- Prospects in the organization who project the most to play in the NHL by 2023-24
I’ve also tried my best to sort the players into lines and defense pairings to help provide a better idea of what sort of roles they could play in the future. I’ve also included additional “notable” players who could carve out long-term spots on the team.
Disclaimer: Obviously, a lot is going to change between now and 2023-24. Some players listed could get traded or suffer career-altering injuries, while the team is certain to bring in other names via trade or free agency. Additionally, some prospects who will be drafted between now and then could potentially force their way onto the Stars’ roster by 2023-24. This exercise is more to get an idea of what the team’s roster foundation could look like in the future, with any future changes being mostly supplemental to this core.
Let’s take a closer look.
|Jamie Benn||Tyler Seguin||Jason Robertson|
|Roope Hintz||Ty Dellandrea||Denis Gurianov|
|Jason Dickinson||Radek Faksa||Albin Eriksson|
|Riley Tufte||Oskar Back||Joel L'Esperance|
|Adam Mascherin||Riley Damiani|
Other notable forwards: Nicholas Caamano, Rhett Gardner, Tye Felhaber, Joel Kiviranta, Jacob Peterson
|Esa Lindell||John Klingberg*|
|Thomas Harley||Miro Heiskanen|
|Ben Gleason||Jakob Stenqvist|
Other notable defensemen: Gavin Bayreuther, Dawson Barteaux, Emil Djuse, Dillon Heatherington
Other notable goalies: Landon Bow
What Looks Promising
- Overall, the Stars have done a pretty good job of balancing out how their organization is built for the future. There’s depth and talent at all positions, enough so that some guys (such as Riley Tufte) could find themselves playing lower in the lineup despite being good enough to play one line up.
- I put an asterisk next to John Klingberg’s name because his current contract expires in 2022, making him an unrestricted free agent, but it’s hard to fathom him not staying with Dallas past that point. Pavelski and Alexander Radulov will also become UFAs in the summer of 2022, so the Stars should have plenty of available cap space to fairly compensate Klingberg, one of their most important players.
- Beyond Klingberg, there’s a lot to like about the future of the Stars’ blue line. Miro Heiskanen hasn’t hit his prime yet, Esa Lindell is locked up long-term, and Thomas Harley has loads of potential. A top four like that could be hard to top in the NHL, not just five years from now, but maybe even a few beyond that as well.
- It’s difficult to project what the NHL’s salary cap will be in 2023-24, but with the hypothetical roster above, would the Stars be in a cap crunch? Probably not. Heiskanen will definitely be making a lot more money by then, and Roope Hintz, Radek Faksa, and Jason Dickinson will all get nice raises, but a lot of the players above will still be young, with many of them on just their second or third contracts.
- That is one big roster. There are 12 players who are 6-foot-3 or taller, while the only two players below six feet in height would be Adam Mascherin and Riley Damiani. Guys like Jason Dickinson and Oskar Back would be, hilariously, below average in terms of height. When it comes to using long sticks to break up plays by opposing teams, the Stars could be quite a frustrating team to play against.
What Looks Iffy
- As I’ve been writing about here on Defending Big D for more than three years now, the Stars’ system has a notable lack of creative, playmaking forwards (think someone like Mitch Marner or Patrick Kane at the high end). Sure, there are guys here who can set up plays for their linemates (Roope Hintz, Ty Dellandrea, and Jason Robertson all come to mind), but there’s a certain dynamic element that’s missing. It would be nice if the team had a truly elite playmaker who could dangerously manage a power play from the wall, the way that someone like Nikita Kucherov does.
So, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov are pretty good at hockey.— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) December 4, 2018
With this assist, Kucherov has 5 goals, 17 assists for 22 points in his last 10.
With the snipe, Point has 11 goals, 6 assists for 17 points in that same stretch.
: Bucci Manepic.twitter.com/OJjK6EMsw3
- Ben Bishop’s contract expires in the summer of 2023, and he’ll be 36 by then. Seems pretty safe to assume that he won’t be back after that. Unless the Stars pick up another young netminder somewhere along the way, the crease will probably belong to Jake Oettinger next. By 2023-24 he will, hopefully, have been serving as Bishop’s backup for a few seasons. But will he be ready by then to be an NHL starter? And if so, will he be good enough as a starter to help lead Dallas on playoff runs? For a guy who is still unproven at the NHL level, the Stars are seemingly banking a lot on Oettinger developing according to plan.
- Speaking of unproven, there’s actually a lot of that on the roster above, especially at forward. The Stars have traditionally performed pretty poorly at the draft, although their past three classes have looked more promising so far. Once Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are well past the prime years of their careers, will guys like Dellandrea, Hintz, Robertson and Denis Gurianov be ready to lead the forward core to the point of competitiveness? It’s not a guarantee at this point.