The Stars are certainly among the handful of NHL teams, which are going to be looked upon as intriguing stories in the early part of the season. Their glutton of Finnish goaltending could very well breed a goalie controversy before too long, the offense should be there, but will the defense be there or do they have enough depth to contend with some of the other mid-level teams in the Western Conference?
There is no reason why the Stars couldn't avoid all of these issues with the right amount of direction from behind the bench, so you could say that a lot of this will come down to Lindy Ruff and his coaching ability. There's nothing wrong with leaving it to the bench boss, as he's the one that will need to motivate and direct this crew to big wins.
Table last updated on August 9th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
Fairly solid improvements over the years, should make forward Cody Eakin into a little bit more of a useful hockey pool player in the 2016 season, even if his steps are incremental, to say the least. With talent like Shawn Horcoff heading off into the free agent market in the off-season, it was a clear indication that a player like Eakin will finally get some better minutes and it will be up to him to show the coaching staff what he is capable of. Last year, a career-best, 40 points, should be bested this year, so I'm bumping his projections up accordingly.
First Round Picks
The combination of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin will be a very bountiful duo for hockey pool points, as their scoring record is quite good. Benn, the holder of the Art Ross, and Seguin, a nifty-mitted pivot, combined for a big 2015 and assuming both players can stay healthy for the whole year, they'll give their team a chance every night from the blades of their sticks.
I think if the Stars go with a number one goalie, it will be Kari Lehtonen, as the 31-year old has yet to really steer them wrong, which means he should get the better portion of the points. I think the Stars will win games this year, making Lehtonen into a 1st rounder.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
There very well could be a Dallas movement in the drafts this year, as the top two forwards are going to generate some hype, especially with Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp following closely in the depth chart. Depending on where the balance of the opposition focus will be, the Stars have some reasonable depth behind their stars, with more stars.
Eakin, Valeri Nichushkin and Patrick Eaves will have some big roles with the club, as these three will likely get the chance to fill out the top six, in one capacity or another.
Other Pool Worthy Defense
Last season's rookie standout John Klingberg and a young veteran in Alex Goligoski are set to lead this Dallas blueline into the 2016 season. I think their numbers are a bit modest, compared to some of the other team's top two defenders, mostly because defense will be a big focus for this club, which may have the reins on them tightened a little. That may not exactly be the case, but it is a possibility. I'm also looking at Jyrki Jokipakka and Jamie Oleksiak to step up and have bigger roles in the Dallas offense this year.
The addition of Antti Niemi to the Stars' crease is quite interesting, to say the least. He should provide the Stars with a reasonable back-up, at the very least, but more likely a worthy competitor for the starting job. I'm sure the Stars would be happy either way, thinking they have two number one goalies in a 1A and 1B situation, slightly weighted to the hot hand.
Possible Entries Into the Rookie Race
As we move closer to training camps, it doesn't look like there will be too many rookies gracing the ice from the Stars organization. None of the team's youth jumped off the page to be pointed out in this context, but that isn't to say it couldn't happen. Radek Faksa and Remi Elie had their names bounce around a little in the Summer, but nothing that would suggest that their inclusion is imminent.
Team To Pick From Late?
My numbers are suggesting that past the quality that the Stars at the top of their projection list, the talent really drops off, as their bottom six are not quite fringe material, nor are the bottom pairing on the blueline. I would say the Dallas depth may be better to look at, when the mid-season Waiver Drafts come around, trying to dust off a diamond in the rubbish bin.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
The Stars were another one of those teams that were very diligent with their off-season restricted free agents, dealing with them before they became an issue. According to my list, there were only a couple of their unrestricted free agents left on the list from last season.
By my count, Dallas have a projected roster of 22 players, some leave some room for competition, but if we were to use my projections, the top 22 would be the guys going forward and their cap flexibility is still there. The Stars would still have about $4 million in cap space to use, as they saw fit through the year. That's the kind of space that would make for some good deals, if they were competitive at the trade deadline.