Given it’s only July 5, talk of who will play on what lines next year is a tad premature.
That said, it’s also kind of exciting.
Especially in Dallas, where head coach Ken Hitchcock suddenly has a wealth of options at his disposal following the acquisitions of forwards Tyler Pitlick, Brian Flynn, Martin Hanzal and Alexander Radulov.
With all apologies to the first three, the real excitement in Texas is for Radulov, who came aboard on Monday courtesy a five-year, $31.5 million pact. Hitchcock doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself, but has already envisioned Radulov playing on the club’s top line next to Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.
“I’ve coached against Radulov both in the NHL and internationally, and he brings an intensity to the game,” Hitchcock said, per the Dallas Morning-News. “You notice him and you have to account for him. Now, put Jamie Benn on the other wing, and you have the same thing. You know he’s there, and you know you have to account for him. Same with Seguin.
“I just think they will all feed off of each other if that’s the line we come up with.”
Riding shotgun with Benn and Seguin has been beneficial for a number of guys over the years. Last season, Patrick Eaves enjoyed a terrific offensive campaign while serving partial duty on the line. Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp and a flurry of others have also received minutes alongside the dynamic duo, and produced well.
Radulov brings some interesting attributes to the line. He, along with Benn, are both left-handed shots, which will give the Stars some unique looks in the offensive zone. There’s also his style of play. Despite not being overly large — listed at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds — he plays a big man’s game. The 31-year-old has terrific upper-body strength, is effective in winning board battles and knows how to leverage his body to protect pucks.
As an example, this wonder goal against the Rangers in the playoffs:
Between Radulov and Hanzal alone, the Stars will be a “heavier” team — at least stylistically — than they’ve been in previous years. It’ll be fascinating to see how that plays out with Seguin and Benn, and under Hitch’s watchful eye.