“Watch out for the Dallas Stars this season” is a sentence you have probably heard — or maybe even said! — once or twice every summer for the past five years.
It is because if there is one thing the Jim Nill era has been known for in Dallas since he took over as the team’s general manager, it is big, franchise altering, blockbuster moves pretty much every offseason.
The list is an extensive one.
In 2013 it was Tyler Seguin in what has turned out to be a laughably one-sided trade with the Boston Bruins and the hiring of coach Lindy Ruff.
In 2014 it was Jason Spezza (in another laughably one-sided trade in Dallas’ favor) and Ales Hemsky.
In 2015 it was Patrick Sharp (another steal), Johnny Oduya and Antti Niemi.
Coming off of a 50-win season he took last summer off in the blockbuster moves department but has jumped right back in this summer by getting pretty much every major free agent and available player under the sun. So far he has acquired Alexander Radulov, Ben Bishop, Martin Hanzal and Marc Methot with Ken Hitchcock returning to run the show behind the bench.
They have, once again, created more buzz for what might be coming this season.
They are not shying away from that buzz, either.
As nice as all of that sounds, there is definitely cause for some skepticism here because in previous years the results on the ice have not always matched the preseason hype that comes with all of their major moves.
They have made the playoffs twice in the past four years, topped 92 points in the standings just one time during that stretch, and have managed to win just a single playoff round.
Will this current group of additions produce a different ending and actually justify all of the praise and hype?
For Nill’s sake, it better because there is going to come a point where simply winning every trade and topping the summer’s “winners” list isn’t going to be enough.
The Stars have two more years of Spezza before his contract expires, two more years of Seguin at a below market rate before he really cashes in with a mega contract and they just invested $75 million over the next seven years in three players (Radulov, Bishop, Hanzal) that are all already 30 years old.
Given all of that you have to think these next couple of years are the window for the Stars to make some noise.
The ingredients, for the most part, are there.
Seguin and Benn are as good of an offensive duo as there is in the league and the type of cornerstone players a team needs to win, and one of them is still signed at a bargain rate. Plus just added Radulov into that mix.
There is no doubt injuries and goaltending played havoc on their season a year ago, so simply having a healthier season with some fresh blood might help. And if they get the Vezina Trophy finalist version of Bishop that will certainly help fix the goaltending mess that has plagued this team for a few years now.
It’s understandable that there is hype and excitement after so many big additions and a new direction behind the bench.
But we have seen this movie before, and it’s not like all of these moves are completely foolproof. Given the season Bishop had last season and his recent injury history there has to be some concern as to what he is going to be capable of this season. Hanzal is a nice player and Radulov was the best forward on the open market, but again, they are all on the wrong side of 30 and that always brings a risk with long-term contracts.
What I am trying to say here is: The best way to approach this Stars team should be with cautious optimism. There is reason to believe they can re-write the script this season, but until they actually do it there should still be a little doubt as to how good they will actually be.