Dallas and Jim Nill seemingly are done with their off-season moves by re-signing Esa Lindell, Roman Polak, Mattias Janmark and Jason Dickinson, signing new additions in Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry, and finding a more than suitable replacement for Stu Barnes in John Stevens.
Going into free agency, the Stars were looking for players to help address their anemic offense of last season and ensure they did not lose any of their own to free agency. The expansion draft fast approaching makes contracts incredibly tricky so as to avoid being in the precarious position of being forced to protect an older player thus surrendering a younger one to Seattle. Despite all the challenges, Dallas executed their plan and made the team better, raising expectations for the team.
The first domino to fall in the off-season for Dallas was the re-signing of Esa Lindell which will keep the key defensemen with the team for the next 6 years. Lindell was the staple for the Stars on the defensive end of the ice for the Stars and rarely ever left the ice in the playoffs as he was a member of the second power-play unit and the penalty kill. Combined with his discipline in not taking penalties and his developing ability to score goals. Despite Klingberg going down for a month, Esa and Miro combined to help navigate the season to help the Stars stay above water. Lindell is entering his prime years and is bound to only get better in the goal-scoring department. This transaction gets an A- for now, simply because the AAV of $5.8 million is a little steep, but if the cap continues to increase the deal will only get better.
Retaining the services of Mattias Janmark and Jason Dickinson were two major goals of the off-season for Jim Nill and he managed to retain both players on fair, team-friendly deals that will allow both players to receive a fair amount, while also giving the team flexibility in not being stuck with an albatross type of contract. Dickinson had a fantastic season in 2018 and his development for the upcoming season will be crucial in the success of the Stars. Mattias Janmark, who it is still a miracle he is able to play after that gruesome injury, only got the one year deal so it will be interesting to see if he can play well enough to get consistent playing time this season. His speed is lethal, but his lack of finishing is what made some wonder what could have been. Jim Nill and the Stars deserve an A for avoiding overpaying for either player and maintaining cap flexibility.
Jim Nill also re-signed Roman Polak to a one year deal which will help give time to some of the young defensemen in the AHL in case they are not ready. How the defensive pairs shake out next season will be interesting as Monty began pairing Klingberg and Miro together, meaning Esa Lindell will need a partner who is at this point to be determined. Jamie Oleksiak and Stephen Johns, hopefully, returning for next season will lead to some interesting experimentation with pairs for the Stars. It is likely the pairs will be fluid for the first part of the season though while Montgomery tries to sort it out.
The offensive woes of the Dallas Stars were well documented this past season and addressing the scoring depth was the other major goal to accomplish for Jim Nill. Bringing in a player who can take face-offs or play out on the wing in Joe Pavelski went a long way in addressing that problem for the team. Pavelski brings leadership along with his versatility which means he will fit well in Monty’s system as it is well known how Montgomery likes to shuffle his lines and move players around. Additionally, Pavelski’s contract only has a no-movement clause for the first two seasons meaning Dallas will not be forced to protect him when the expansion draft begins which is absolutely crucial given the young talent Dallas will want to keep. Signing Joe Pavelski certainly earns Jim Nill an A+ grade
The less popular move, due to his antics against the Stars, is Corey Perry who, when healthy, has the potential to have a 20 goal season and bring some needed toughness to a Stars team who was bullied in the second round. Corey Perry has excellent chemistry with Jamie Benn, evidenced by them helping Canada win gold in the Olympics, but the injury history of Perry certainly is of great concern. The contract is a one year deal, however, so Dallas will not be stuck with a huge contract for an injury-riddled player like they are with Hanzal for one more season. If this move works out, hindsight will lead the grade for this move being an A+ due to the low expectations and the value Dallas will get out of the contract. For now, though, it is fair to grade the move at a B because there is something to be said about adding a player hated so much by the fan base and who has committed some atrocities against your organization.
The most recent move by the Stars relates to their coaching staff. Dallas and Stu Barnes have parted ways while John Stevens, former LA Kings head coach, joins the staff with his former teammate Jim Montgomery. Stevens and Montgomery have a long history together which means the chemistry on the coaching staff will not be a concern for the team. Chemistry not just among the players, but the coaches as well, is one of the most important factors in team success. The long-standing relationship between Stevens and Montgomery will be a great boon for the team as their ability to provide a consistent message and communicate will be crucial in team preparation, an area where it seemed the Stars struggled with during parts of the regular season. Adding Stevens to the coaching staff, although Stu will be missed, is worthy of an A+ in the grading department primarily because of his experience with the LA Kings in winning the cup in 2012 and 2014.
It has been a successful off-season for the Stars on paper. Jim Nill and the Stars set out to make the team better while also making sure to keep their own and they accomplished their mission. The first step to a great season is having a successful off-season and Dallas accomplished that with their re-signings of their own players and the additions they made from outside the organization.
Jim Montgomery and his staff now have to take the pieces and make them fit to help bring the Cup back to Dallas. The one thing on all Stars fans minds right now is. “Is it October yet?”.
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