The Dallas Stars are looking to build on what was a surprisingly good season. They didn’t have the finish they wanted and wasted away a good chance at the Pacific Division, but they’ll have the cap space to add impact players and bolster their depth.

Guaranteed Contracts:

Forwards:

Mike Ribeiro - C – 1 year, $5 million
Steve Ott – C – 2 years, $2.95 million
Vernon Fiddler – C – 2 years, $1.8 million
Michael Ryder – RW – 1 year, $3.5 million
Loui Eriksson – LW – 4 years, $4.25 million
Brenden Morrow – LW – 1 year, $4.1 million
Eric Nystrom – LW – 1 year, $1.4 million
Tomas Vincour – LW – 1 year, $800,000

Defensemen:

Stephane Robidas – 2 years, $3.3 million
Trevor Daley – 6 years, $3.3 million
Adam Pardy – 1 year, $2 million
Alex Goligoski – 5 years, $4.6 million

Goalies:

Kari Lehtonen – 1 year, $3.5 million

Free Agents & Restricted Free Agents:

Forwards:

Radek Dvorak - RW (Unrestricted)
Adam Burish – RW (Unrestricted)
Jamie Benn  - LW (Restricted)
Jake Dowell – C (Unrestricted)
Toby Petersen – RW (Unrestricted)

Defensemen:

Mark Fistric (Restricted)
Philip Larsen (Restricted)
Sheldon Souray (Unrestricted)

Goalies:

Richard Bachman – (Restricted)

Not much was expected out of Dallas heading in the 2011-2012 season. Their ownership situation still wasn’t settled, they hired a coach with zero NHL head coaching experience, and the roster had some parts, but wasn’t close to being a complete team. Fast forward to the end of the season: Tom Gagliardi is the Stars owner (and has money to spend – the Stars have over $20 million in cap space), Glen Gulutzan proved to be a more than worthy head coach, and the Stars roster has more to work with than it first appeared.

Lets start between the pipes. There’s no question that Kari Lehtonen will be the man for them next season. The Finnish goalie posted a 32-22-4 record with a 2.33 goals against average, a .922 save percentage, and 4 shutouts. General Manager Joe Nieuwendyk should look to extend Lehtonen past this season. He’s only 28, is a big guy (6′ 4″) that takes up space, and seems to have some quality seasons ahead of him. The Stars looked comfortable and confident in front of Lehtonen, and Lehtonen looked comfortable in his 2nd season as starter (his GAA, save percentage, and shutout numbers all improved from the previous season).

As for Lehtonen’s back-up, look for them to work something out with Richard Bachman. He went a respectable 8-5-1 with a 2.77 GAA, .911 save percentage, and one shutout. Normally you’d want a young goalie like Bachman to get more work in down in the AHL level. But with former 1st rounder Jack Campbell waiting in the wings, the Stars want to see what they have in Campbell and give him a regular workload. If they can’t work something out with Bachman, they can find a cheap veteran like Chris Mason or Dan Ellis to be the #2 goalie.

On the blue line, the Stars have a good group returning, but will need to add a true bruiser to the group. Someone like Carolina’s Bryan Allen (6’5″ 225 lbs) would fit the bill nicely. There has also been talks about them making a play for Predators D-man Ryan Suter (the top defenseman available on the market). There will be a ton of team’s bidding for his services, but Dallas has the money to spend and he would help out their power play a ton. Alex Goligoski has the ability to be a puck mover, but they’d like to see a little more than 30 points (9G 21A) and 9 power play points (2G 7A) out of him.

It remains to be seen whether Sheldon Souray comes back or not, but he had a good bounce back season and his cannon of a shot is welcome on any blueline. He’s due for a raise, it’s just a question of how much of a raise (at 35, it might be an affordable bump). Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas are reliable, all-around defensemen and Adam Pardy is a good depth guy. Dallas finished in the middle of the pack in goals against and need some help to get themselves closer to the top 10.

The biggest problem in Big D was their lack of offense. The Stars ranked 22nd in goals scored and were dead last on the power play (13.5%). The first order of business will be to get Jamie Benn locked up long-term. The 23 year old finished up the year with 26 goals and 37 assists and it looks like those numbers will only go up next season. They have the play-making Mike Ribeiro and 35 goal scorer Michael Ryder back for one more year. Winger Loui Eriksson lead the team in points with 71 (26G 45A) and will be a fixture for the next few seasons.

Despite all the trade rumors at the deadline, Steve Ott gives them grit down the middle and tallied 39 points. But the cupboard is pretty bare offensively after that. Brenden Morrow seems to be on the decline, only registering 26 points in 57 games (he missed 25 games due to injury). The 3rd line of Fiddler-Nystrom-Dvorak produced a paltry 63 points. The Stars need a big scorer and more depth. They’ll make a big run at Parise and have the financial wherewithal to pay the big contract he will get. They could also take a chance with a short-term deal on Alexander Semin, who will surely come cheaper than the $6.7 million he’s earning this year. RW David Jones, who has had two straight 20 goal seasons with Colorado, will also be available and could provide more depth offensively.

There’s no reason the Stars can’t be a competitive team in the 2012-13 season. The Kings look to be the class of the Pacific heading in to next year, but it’s wide open after that. Anaheim will probably bounce back and have a better season, but there’s a good chance San Jose will gut the roster and who knows where Phoenix will be with their ownership situation still unresolved. The Stars were leading the Pacific Division until a mid-March slump and were in the playoff race until the last week of the season. With a weak Northwest Division and the Pacific being so tight, the Stars should find themselves within the top 8 in the West with the right moves this off-season.

Written by NHLTR Contributor Adam Bernard – Pucking Thoughts (@PuckingThoughts)


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