Whether you like the moves he’s made since becoming Dallas Stars GM or not, you really can’t accuse Jim Nill of being lazy.
Every summer, the Stars seem to be one of the “winners” of the off-season, yet they’re still searching for their first playoff series win since that surprisingly deep run in 2007-08.
The 2014-15 season might just be the last one where they were able to play the “scrappy upstart” role, even if they seem to carry somewhat similar strengths and weaknesses into next season. Broadly speaking, at least.
Expectations are rising each year, and with good reason.
The Stars nabbed Antti Niemi’s rights from the San Jose Sharks and then handed him a three-year, $13.5 million contract. Backup goaltending – and let’s be honest, goaltending in general – was a big sore spot for Dallas last season. Now Nill is spending $10.4 million on “two No. 1 goalies.”
That was a big enough change in itself, yet Nill had another trick up his sleeve, sending Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt to the Chicago Blackhawks for Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns.
Each summer, the Stars have landed a big-name forward in a trade:
2013: Tyler Seguin
2014: Jason Spezza
You can’t do that forever and also retain a ton of cap space, even with bargains for Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, so now Dallas is close to the ceiling. Especially after blowing much of their remaining budget on Johnny Oduya.
There weren’t many subtractions beyond assets handed over in trades and the departure of Shawn Horcoff, so the Stars look imposing on paper. Now it’s up to Lindy Ruff to make it all work.
PHT Morning Skate: Seguin says it was ‘real tough’ to ‘keep my mouth shut’ after Boston trade
PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.
“I think the real tough thing was being able to keep my mouth shut. That was real difficult after the trade happened, seeing all the things that were going on.” That’s Tyler Seguin, talking about the days following his blockbuster move out of Boston two years ago. He said watching Behind the B was especially rough. (TSN 1050)
Remember ex-NHLer Chris Kontos? Well, someone tried to steal his Olympic silver medal, won while representing Canada at the 1994 Winter Games in Lillehammer. (CTV)
Marcus Kruger and Johnny Oduya gave the ‘Hawks some international flair by bringing the Stanley Cup to Sweden. Of course, the former is still without a contract… and the latter now plays for Dallas. (ESPN)
Jets captain Andrew Ladd is back skating after offseason sports hernia surgery. (Winnipeg Free Press)
Coyotes prospect Max Domi speaks about playing hockey with diabetes. (Howlin’ Hockey)
Kruger wants to sign with Chicago, but isn’t panicking (yet)
The Chicago Blackhawks have agreed to terms with defenseman Nolan Valleau on a two-year contract, the club announced today.
From the press release:
Valleau, 22, recorded 19 points (2G, 17A) in 39 regular-season games with Bowling Green of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association during his freshman campaign; he shared the team lead in assists and seventh among league defensemen in scoring. The Novi, Mich., native shared second on the team with seven power-play points (7A) and registered 37 blocked shots and a +3 plus/minus rating. He was named to the 2014-15 WCHA All-Rookie team.
As noted by CSN Chicago, Valleau will add “organizational depth” to the Blackhawks’ “blue line after trading away prospects Klas Dahlbeck and Stephen Johns.”
According to ESPN, Valleau was “among the unsigned invitees who caught people’s eyes” at Blackhawks prospect camp.
With the signing of Nolan Valleau, Chicago now has 21 (!) Americans in their farm system. 12 Canadians, 10 Swedes.
Standing still can be better than the alternative. While any improvement the Tampa Bay Lightning see will have to come from within after their quiet summer, they also haven’t endured any major losses.
Chicago was the oddsmaker’s favorites to repeat in mid-June, but since then the Blackhawks have parted ways with Patrick Sharp, Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, Brandon Saad, and Johnny Oduya. To be fair, Chicago has also gotten some noteworthy additions like Artem Anisimov and they have some promising youngsters that might help fill the gaps like Artemy Panarin and Marko Dano.
Still, that doesn’t change the fact that the Blackhawks have made some considerable sacrifices this summer in the name of cap compliance and that’s without talking about the elephant in the room.
Tampa Bay finished two wins shy of Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final, so has the uncertainty created by Chicago’s turnover at least made the Blackhawks not quite as good of a bet as the Lightning?
Of course, even if you’re inclined to say that Tampa Bay is now in a better position than Chicago, that’s not the end of the debate. The New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens have strong teams led by elite goaltenders and either one is capable of having a standout season. Then there’s the Anaheim Ducks, which came closer to eliminating Chicago than Tampa Bay and the St. Louis Blues, which has fielded a great team for years, but hasn’t been able to put it all together once the playoffs start — yet.
You could bet on a Los Angeles Kings comeback or the Pittsburgh Penguins’ overwhelming squads with Phil Kessel joining Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Even then we haven’t covered all the teams that can legitimately claim to be serious contenders going into the season.
But this isn’t about who could win the Cup, it’s who has the best chance of doing so, even if it is by a narrow margin in a large field. Is Tampa Bay that team?