Grading the Central Division: How Does the Dallas Stars Offseason Compare?

The Stars have been quiet this offseason. Let's take a peek inside the division and see what everyone else is up to.

The Dallas Stars have had a quiet offseason so far. Other than the trade for the rights to negotiate with (and sign) Antti Niemi, the team looks largely the same as it did when the season ended. General manager Jim Nill has continued to preach patience and belief in the Stars prospect cupboard, but fans have become anxious at the apparent lack of activity.

For better or worse, the Stars Central Division foes have not been quiet this offseason. The division housing the Stanley Cup champion and 5 playoffs teams will have a fresh feel in the upcoming season. In a 2-part series posting today and Friday, we will take a look at the Central Division activity this offseason.


Colorado Avalanche

2014-2015 regular season: 39 Wins, 31 Regulation Losses, and 12 Overtime Losses (90 Points)

  • Prior to the NHL Draft, the Avalanche were able to trade Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn to the Buffalo Sabres for Nikita Zadorov (defense), Mikhail Grigorenko (forward), JT Compher (forward), and a 2nd round pick. Considering O'Reilly's disposition toward the Avalanche and their chances of re-signing him, the Avs did well. Colorado managed to turn a guy that was probably not re-signing and a checking line forward into two great prospects, a nominal one, and a 2nd round pick. The highlight of this package is Zadorov, a giant mobile defenseman with a mean streak. For what it's worth, there is a cult following of Grigorenko believing he still has great potential.
  • The Avalanche signed Carl Soderberg last month for a $4.75 million AAV, 5-year deal. While some say this was a harsh overpay, Soderberg does give the Avalanche a solid option at center down the lineup.
  • Colorado drafted Marian Hossa, I mean, Mikko Rantanen with the 10th overall selection in the draft. Rantanen has a real chance to make the squad out of training camp, but whether it is this year or the next, he will be a meaningful player on the roster going forward.
  • Francois Beauchemin and Blake Comeau were signed out of free agency. Comeau is coming off of an impressive showing in Pittsburgh, and Beauchemin is a solid defensive addition. The term of the Beauchemin contract (3 years) is cause for concern, but it is the going rate for veteran help. While two ears might be more appropriate, if you really want to get your man the third year is the cost of doing business.
  • Erik Johnson, the Avalanche All-Star defenseman, missed the second half of the season last year with injury. His return will be an improvement in and of itself, but the addition of Beauchemin should allow him to be aggressive offensively.

Overall: The Avs addressed needs with veterans, turned a distressed but talented asset and Jamie McGinn into three prospects and a second round pick, drafted a guy that can help this season, and will get an All-Star defenseman back from injury. Colorado did well and will be looking for a bounce back year from Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene.


Winnipeg Jets

2014-2015 regular season: 43 Wins, 26 Regulation Losses, and 13 Overtime Losses (99 Points)

  • Winnipeg was able to retain the services of Drew Stafford (acquired in the bounty for Evander Kane). At a reasonable price tag of $4.35 million for two years, this move is a low-risk transaction. The Jets were able to secure a short term on a player that produced for them, giving them to freedom to easily move the contract if performance does not satisfy management. The Jets will have several big contracts to give out next summer, and perhaps they want Stafford to earn his place on the team. Stafford is a good not great player on the edge of his prime.
  • Michael Frolik signed with the Calgary Flames. Frolik, a promising forward entering his prime, was passed on by Jets' management. Arctic Ice Hockey was not too pleased with these deals coming on back-to-back days, even citing that Frolik signed for less AAV and longer term than Stafford. No matter your opinion of Stafford, the decision raised a few eyebrows. This was neither a cap-clearing move or a look to the future. There are probably other forces at play in this saga, but Stafford for two years and no more Frolik is likely a net loss for the Jets.
  • Kyle Connor. Kyle Connor. And they also drafted Kyle Connor. Because Russia and the Bruins, Kyle Connor fell to the jubilant Jets at 17 in the first round, and they gladly took the American. Connor will likely be a 2-3 year project, but he had an incredible year (34G 46A in 56GP) in the USHL for the Youngstown Phantoms. He has been recruited by the University of Michigan, and will likely start in the NCAA.
  • With their second pick in the first round at 23, the Jets took another center Jack Roslovic. The 18 year old played for the United States in the 2015 U18 World Junior Championships, tallying 11 points (6G 5A) in 7 games. The Jets nailed the first round, getting excellent value for 17 and 23. Roslovic, like Connor, is likely a few years from playing in the NHL but his long term forecast looks very promising.
  • It is worth noting briefly that the Jets stole Janson Harkins in the second round with the 47th pick. He is also a center. It looks like the Jets entered the draft and said to themselves, "always take the best player available" and came out sparkling. Rather than draft for need, the Jets stuck to the chalk and ended up with a stable at center for years to come.

Overall: Quiet on the trade market and free agency, but the Jets absolutely crushed the draft. While this offseason likely doesn't mean much for the 2015-2016 season, the Jets got better. Of their first three draft picks, at least two of them could be haunting Dallas eight years from now. Solid offseason for the Jets, but minimal immediate impact.

Minnesota Wild

2014-2015 regular season: 46 Wins, 28 Regulation Losses, and 8 Overtime Losses (100 Points)

  • The draft came and went without any real fireworks. The Wild joined the list of teams that passed on Travis Konecny, instead choosing 2-way forward Joel Eriksson Ek. Ignoring all of the jokes that are possible, Eriksson Ek was a solid pick. He has work to do on the faceoff dot and needs to add some NHL bulk, but he is a reasonable prospect. He is an 18-year-old Swede, and probably won't score on the Stars for at least two more years, of not longer.
  • The Wild rounded out the draft restocking their forward cupboard (that was running on fumes), and taking a flier on a goalie. The Wild had an unremarkable draft. Not good, not bad. Certainly no one that will hurt the Stars next season.
  • Minnesota came to an agreement with their savior, Devan Dubnyk. The goalie agreed to a 6-year deal with $4 million per year. Stop me if you heard this before, "reasonable cap hit, but 6 years?" The Wild had to get Dubnyk signed, and they did that. At $4 million per season, the cap hit is not unreasonable, even if he comes crashing back to league average.
  • The Wild won the war for Mike Reilly. Most people thought the free-agent-but-has-never-played-an-NHL-game defenseman would sign with his hometown Blackhawks. Reilly spurned the Columbus Blue Jackets who selected him in the 4th round in 2011. Reilly played four years at the University of Minnesota where his stock rose considerably. Columbus draft rights expired on June 15, 2015, and Reilly entered free agency where he ultimately decided on the Wild. This puck-moving left-handed defenseman could prove to be a valuable signing, as he appears to be ready to break into the NHL roster out of training camp.

Overall: The Wild had an acceptable draft, did what they had to do with Dubnyk, and signed a young defenseman full of potential. They re-signed Mikael Granlund, assuring that the 2014-2015 team will return largely untouched. Given the fact that they had the best record in the league post-Dubnyk trade, standing pat was probably the right idea.

Check back on Friday for a review of the Chicago Blackhawks, Nashville Predators, and St. Louis Blues.

All images courtesy of Getty and USA Today-Sports