Stars coach Lindy Ruff is already thinking about how he’ll use Dallas’ latest additions and there’s no shortage of possibilities.
Dallas recently acquired Patrick Sharp from the Blackhawks and then inked unrestricted free agent and former Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya to a two-year, $7.5 million deal. Combined with the earlier signing of goalie Antti Niemi and the Stars have added plenty of playoff experience.
“It’s really important for us to take that next step. These guys have been winners and know how to win. They should help us get there,” Ruff told the team’s website. “Ownership has really stepped up and said we can make this team better. I’ve got to give Tom [Gaglardi] and his family a lot of credit for making this team better with the last couple of pieces here. It’s been tremendous.”
Ruff could see Sharp being paired up with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin on the top line, but he’s also considering going with more of a one-two punch with a top line that features Benn and Seguin followed by a second unit that includes Sharp and Jason Spezza.
Whichever route he decides to take, the potential is certainly there for the Stars to have two significantly more balanced lines than they did last season. Spezza meshed well with Benn and Seguin when the trio played together, but whenever Ruff opted to employ that star studded line, it came at the expense of the team’s offensive depth. That trio were the only Dallas players to record more than 40 points last season while just Benn and Seguin surpassed the 20-goal mark. The addition of Sharp could expand both of those lists.
As for Oduya, Ruff would like to see him play alongside Jason Demers, which would keep the John Klingberg and Alex Goligoski pairing from last season intact.
Dallas fell just short of making the playoffs last season, but even before these additions, there were reasons to believe that the Stars could do better in 2015-16. It certainly didn’t hurt that they finished with a 14-5-0 run.
Related: Lehtonen, Niemi see benefit in splitting goalie duties
The Dallas Stars continued to make waves by signing Johnny Oduya, and from the sound of things, GM Jim Nill is convinced that they now have the makings of a winner.
And not just “winners of the offseason.”
Nill goes as far as to call the 33-year-old the “missing piece” of the Stars’ defense: a steady hand, puck-mover and fitness fanatic who could be a good influence for the many young blueliners in Dallas:
Indeed, on paper, the Stars look awfully scary.
They’ve added Patrick Sharp to an offensive mix that includes Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza. Nill didn’t flinch in spending on goaltending, as the Antti Niemi – Kari Lehtonen combo costs a whopping $10.4 million. Now their blueline adds some experience to a group that’s heavier on potential.
Of course, there’s another reason Nill believes that the picture is near-complete: Dallas doesn’t have much money left.
With Oduya’s (quite reasonable) $3.75 million cap hit in mind, the Stars only have about $2.3 million in space remaining, according to General Fanager. For a team that plays in a somewhat erratic hockey market and missed the playoffs entirely in 2014-15, the pressure is on.
At least Oduya is used to big-time pressure though, right?
From Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News:
Everyone knows that Johnny Oduya’s first choice is to remain with the Chicago Blackhawks. But the 33-year-old defenseman can’t wait around forever for GM Stan Bowman to clear the cap space.
If it’s not the ‘Hawks, the Stars — with a young, inexperienced defense that doesn’t have veteran Trevor Daley anymore — may make sense. Dallas has a ton of talent up front, and after GM Jim Nill signed Antti Niemi to address the goaltending, the blue line is the one area that could perhaps be improved.
The Buffalo Sabres are another team that’s interested in signing Oduya. There are undoubtedly a few others.
For those teams that lose out on Oduya, other UFA d-men include Cody Franson and Christian Ehrhoff.
Related: Ehrhoff will take another one-year contract
The Pacific Division continued to get tougher on Friday in the wake of Milan Lucic’s arrival in Los Angeles.
The Anaheim Ducks signed Brian McGrattan while the Arizona Coyotes added tough guy John Scott on a one-year deal.
Scott spent the 2014-15 season with the San Jose Sharks scoring career-high three goals and four points to go along with 87 penalty minutes in 38 games. The 32-year-old has a history with Coyotes’ assistant GM Darcy Regier as the two were together in Buffalo.
According to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie, Scott’s deal is a one-way contract worth $575,000.
Arizona also signed Steve Downie to a one-year deal on July 1.
The Canucks added Brandon Prust in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens.
“L.A. got tougher in bringing in Lucic. Other teams got tougher,” Canucks GM Jim Benning said on Thursday when discussing the Prust acquisition. “I don’t want our younger players getting picked on this year. I want them to go out, be able to play and feel comfortable.
“With (Derek) Dorsett and Prust in the lineup, they’re going to create a safe working environment for our young players.”
Dorsett (17) and Prust (16) were second and third in fighting majors last season, according to Hockeyfights.com. Colorado’s Cody McLeod led the league with 19.
Downie was 14th in fighting majors last season with eight.
The Boston Bruins have added some depth on defense, in the form of Matt Irwin.
Irwin, 27, signed a one-year, $800,000 deal with the Bruins on Friday, the club announced. He arrives in Boston having played 53 games for the Sharks last year, racking up an impressive eight goals — trailing only Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic among San Jose d-men — and 19 points, while averaging 17:01 TOI per night.
An undrafted free agent out of UMass Amherst, Irwin has spent his entire professional career with the Sharks organization. He had two very solid years to start his tenure — during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign, he had 12 points in 38 games as a rookie; in ’13-14, he scored a career-high 20 points.
Last year, though, seemed to be something of a setback. Injuries and healthy scratches kept him from playing as big a role on the Sharks’ defense, and GM Doug Wilson allowed Irwin to walk in free agency.