Times have been pretty lean for the Dallas Stars franchise ever since Tom Hicks spread his (former) sports empire a little too thin. The impact of those times can be seen in the often-barren stands during games that aren’t against marquee teams like tonight’s match with the Pittsburgh Penguins (currently on NBC Sports Network).
This statement will probably raise some eyebrows considering box office woes and a playoff drought, then: the Stars have done a lot of right amid all their marketplace struggles.
With Brad Richards’ robust contract off the books, the Stars’ roster is a model of efficiency:
All-Star-caliber forward Loui Eriksson is making a bargain $4.25 million per year through 2015-16, easily on my short list of the best deals in the league.
Kari Lehtonen is one of the most leaned-upon and valuable goalies in the NHL, yet he’s making a relative pittance at $3.55 million cap hit-wise.
In a league full of expensive blueline collections, the Stars’ highest paid guys are Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley at a reasonable $3.33 million per season.
Mike Ribeiro might float here and there and Brenden Morrow hasn’t been healthy this year, but they’re still two quality forwards who are making exactly what they should be.
Joe Nieuwendyk’s off-season moves have been deft strokes of bargain basement genius.
Michael Ryder has been a fantastic fit in a straightforward sniping role. Eric Nystrom will be a villain in Pittsburgh after his hit on Kris Letang (more on that very soon), but he’s been a huge waiver wire steal. Sheldon Souray, Vernon Fiddler and even Radek Dvorak have all been useful-to-fantastic here and there.
Room to improve
Naturally, things aren’t perfect in Dallas or the team wouldn’t be in another tooth-and-nail struggle for the playoffs.
That cheap defense will get more expensive when Alex Goligoski’s $4.6 million cap hit kicks in and they need a little of everything in that area. Jamie Benn will cost a ton of cash to re-sign after a gutty, impressive All-Star season. One way or another, the Stars need to find a way to re-gain the hearts of fickle Dallas sports fans.
(My suggestion: make everyone wear Mike Modano masks!)
Keep the trigger finger from getting too itchy
Still, hopefully having a more stable ownership situation won’t equal the kind of spending sprees that GM Joe Nieuwendyk has skillfully avoided in his underrated time in Dallas.
Nieuwendyk and new owner Tom Gaglardi need only to look to Terry Pegula’s ill-fated shopping frenzy as evidence that you don’t have to spend all that new money in one place.
Capitals’ Tom Wilson has a discipline hearing today for interference
The NHL’s department of player safety announced on Saturday morning that it has scheduled a disciplinary hearing with Washington Capitals forward Tom Wilson as a result of his late hit on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas on Friday night.
It will be the first hearing for the department under the direction of its new leader, George Parros.
This particular incident happened early in the third period of the Blues’ 4-0 win on Friday night.
Here is a look at the entire sequence, including the fight that Wilson found himself in with Dmitri Jaskin in response to the hit.
It is clear that Wilson delivered his hit long after Thomas was in possession of the puck.
Even though Wilson always seems to be getting attention for some of his hits and physical play he has never been suspended in his career. His only punishment from the league has been in the form of two fines — one for diving/embellishment, and another for kneeing Pittsburgh Penguins forward Conor Sheary during the 2015-16 playoffs.
The fact that he has a hearing for his hit would seem to indicate a suspension might be on the horizon. The only question is whether or not it will just end his preseason (the Capitals still have four more games) or if it will carry over into the regular season.
Probably not the type of thing you want to see happening because that looks like a great way to break a bone (or the entire hand) and get sidelined for extended period of time. Niemi said the officials told him there will no longer be an automatic whistle for goalies losing a glove or a blocker, but that one will remain for when they lose their helmet.
Niemi said refs told him there will no longer be automatic whistles for lost blocker or glove. Tho still in place for lost helmet -SK
The Penguins signed Niemi to a one-year contract this summer as a replacement for Marc-Andre Fleury after they lost him in the expansion draft to the Vegas Golden Knights. Niemi is looking to rebound from a tough year in Dallas. He will serve as Matt Murray‘s backup for the season.
‘A good start’ — Stamkos stands out in preseason debut
Far more importantly for the Bolts this evening was the return of their all-star center Steven Stamkos, as he made his preseason debut in what was his first game in 10 months.
His 2016-17 season was abruptly ended in the middle of November because of a knee injury and subsequent surgery, making it the second time in four years his regular season had been disrupted by a major injury.
It may still take a while before Stamkos feels truly comfortable coming back from this injury.But his performance on Friday proved to be a very promising start for No. 91, the Bolts and their fans in Tampa Bay.
He didn’t score, but he assisted on two first period goals, including a nice set-up to linemate Nikita Kucherov, and the Lightning beat the Nashville Predators by a score of 3-1. Stamkos also received a healthy dose of ice time, playing more than 19 minutes, including 5:32 on the power play.
His pass to Kucherov resulted in a power play goal.
“It was exciting to get out there, I was pretty anxious about it… It was a good start, something to build on,” said Stamkos afterward, per the Lightning. “It was nice to just go through a game day, I haven’t done it in a long time… I was glad with how the first one went.”
Golden Knights assign 2017 first-round picks Glass, Suzuki to junior
The Vegas Golden Knights continue to make roster moves during their inaugural training camp.
On Friday, the expansion club assigned four players to junior. That includes 2017 first-round picks Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks and Nick Suzuki of the Owen Sound Attack.
The Golden Knights made franchise history by taking Glass with the sixth overall pick and then selected Suzuki at 13th overall. Both players appeared in two preseason games for Vegas, each recording two points in the exhibition opener versus the Vancouver Canucks.
“Nobody is going to rush (the rookies), that’s for sure,” Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant told the Las Vegas Sun following the club’s 9-4 win over Vancouver on Sunday.
“We are in a position where we want to make sure they are ready to play. They are going to be good players when they’re healthy and strong enough to play in the league.”
Vegas has all three 2017 first-round picks — Glass, Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom — signed to three-year entry-level contracts.