Why Stars fans should be more optimistic about the future

jamesneal.jpgOne of the fan bases who have had their patience tested throughout this off-season is that of the Dallas Stars. From seeing their franchise icon Mike Modano shopping his wares around the NHL, to rumors of the team being sold, to the team not being overly active in the free agent market it’s tough to blame Dallas fans if they’re feeling edgy about the team’s prospects. The Dallas Morning News’ Mike Heika wants Stars fans to know that not everything is coming up empty for the team and that there’s reason to have hope.

I’m trying to be realistic with this roster, and I have asked a few friends if you had to rank the teams based on roster and coaching staff, where would you rank the Stars. My guess is most of you would say around 20th. That’s the reality for a team on a tight budget. Now, people would have ranked the Coyotes and Predators much lower before last season, and they both made the playoffs on extremely tight budgets, so the Stars can do the same thing.

But the bottom line is Nieuwendyk and his crew are trying to improve this thing any way they can, and they believe they are taking steps forward, and that is reason for optimism. Plus, if you remember back to when Norman Green owned the team in 1995, things were falling apart everywhere. Tom Hicks bought the Stars, and they immediately started making changes and improving. Nieuwendyk has the team positioned to do that once more money is available, and that is reason for optimism.

So, will the Stars be one of the better teams in the NHL in 2010-11? I don’t think they will be. I’m amending this part. If they do get a new owner, and Nieuwendyk is freed to make a few moves, I do think they could be one of the better teams. I think they are positioned to be a good team fairly quickly now. There are still a lot of question marks, but I think they are closer to Nieuwendyk’s vision of a winning team now.

Having a general manager hamstrung by an ownership in flux is always a huge problem. You can’t spend much money because you don’t know what the new guys will say about the budget. The only thing you really can do to impress any potential buyer is to shed payroll and hope that it all works out in the end so when new ownership comes in they take the leash off to spend again.

The Stars do still have some loose ends to take care of still this off-season, the leading one being signing scoring winger James Neal to a new contract. The Stars have made their bed in goal opting to go with Kari Lehtonen as their starter and their forward lines and defense are mostly all set, whether fans agree with that or not. Perhaps Mike Ribeiro still gets traded but that talk has cooled of late. As for Stars fans eager to head for the bridges because of everything Dallas-related being in flux… Patience, friends.

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    Wild sign Dumba to two-year, $5.1M deal

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    After ongoing contract talks between the Minnesota Wild and restricted free agent defenseman Matt Dumba, the two sides have come to a deal.

    The Wild announced Thursday that they had signed Dumba to a two-year deal, worth a total value of $5.1 million.

    A breakdown of the new deal:

    — In 2016-17: $2.35 million.

    — In 2017-18: $2.75 million.

    Selected seventh overall by the Wild in 2012, Dumba had his most productive campaign this past season, with 10 goals and 26 points in 81 games.

    Known for his offensive skills — he had 20 goals and 57 points with Red Deer in the WHL in his draft year — Dumba also brings a coveted right-shot to the Wild blue line, which features four players with contracts of four or more years of term remaining.

    As per General Fanager, the Wild still have $2.168 million in projected cap space, but they have secured all their remaining restricted free agents.

    Rangers bring back forward Marek Hrivik

    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - APRIL 09:  Marek Hrivik #46 of the New York Rangers skates against the Detroit Red Wings at Madison Square Garden on April 9, 2016 in New York City. The Rangers defeated the Red Wings 3-2.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    The New York Rangers announced that they’ve re-signed Marek Hrivik to a new contract. The term and financial details of the deal were not released.

    Hrivik signed with the Rangers as an undrafted free agent in May 2012. The 24-year-old made his NHL debut in 2015-16 and ended up playing five games for the Rangers. He had one assist and a plus-3 rating during his time in the NHL.

    The young forward was an important part of New York’s AHL affiliate in Hartford. Hrivik finished his AHL campaign with 12 goals and 29 assists. He tied for the team lead in assists and finished third in points.

    If you go by Hrivik’s tweet, it appears as though he signed a one-year contract:

    Now that Hrivik is re-signed, the Rangers have no more free agents of any kind, per General Fanager.

    Report: Stone and Coyotes agree to one-year, $4M deal

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    Another day, another scheduled arbitration hearing avoided.

    According to multiple reports, defenseman Michael Stone and the Arizona Coyotes have settled on a one-year, $4 million deal, well ahead of their scheduled arbitration hearing set for Aug. 4.

    Stone, 26, was a restricted free agent coming off a three-year contract with an AAV of $1.15 million.

    Last season in Arizona, he hit new career highs in points with 36 and assists with 30. He also logged some heavy minutes, playing more than 22 minutes per game, which was second behind only Oliver Ekman-Larsson. That includes being used on both the power play and penalty kill.

    Just more work done for the Coyotes on Thursday.

    Earlier in the day, they announced they had signed defenseman Connor Murphy to a six-year contract extension, worth a total of $23.1 million.

    Related: Coyotes’ defensive makeover continues with Luke Schenn signing

    ‘Nothing’s different’: Dale Tallon says he still has final say in Panthers’ personnel decisions

    PHILADELPHIA, PA - JUNE 28: Dale Tallon, General Manager of the Florida Panthers, speaks on the phone on Day Two of the 2014 NHL Draft at the Wells Fargo Center on June 28, 2014 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Despite having a terrific season in 2015-16, the Florida Panthers made a number of changes to their front office. Some of the moves include: Tom Rowe being promoted to general manager, Dale Tallon being named the director of hockey operations and Eric Joyce and Steve Werier serving as assistant general managers.

    There’s a lot of confusion as to who gets to make the final call on player personnel decisions in Florida, but Tallon tried to clear that up during a radio interview with 560 WQAM on Thursday.

    “It allows me to focus on what I do best,” Tallon said of the front office changes. “And that’s evaluate, travel, scout and give us information on players that will help us win a championship and keep us as a top team for the next 15 years.

    “I have a lot to say. I’m a stubborn guy, I have opinions, I have strong opinions and I let them know where I stand and I let them know how I feel. That’s the way it is. The bottom line is what’s best for the team.”

    When asked if he still has the final say on personnel decisions, Tallon said: “yes, I do”.

    When pressed on the issue, Tallon said this:

    “Like I said, it’s by committee, we do it together. We’ve always done that. Nothing’s different. We’ve got great support and things are terrific. We’re really excited about our future, we’re excited about having a chance to win this year.”

    It seems curious that the Panthers made all these changes after finally having success and qualifying for the playoffs, but they appear to have strong, committed owners, who are willing to do whatever it takes to put a winning product on the ice. We’ll soon find out if the changes were for the better or not.

    To listen to the full interview, click here.