Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Dallas Stars.
$26.5 million. That’s the combined salary for Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn in 2019-20.
Such big money would mean big pressure for any duo in hockey, but it could be especially tense for Seguin and Benn. After all, Seguin and Benn can’t feel too confident that the Dallas Stars have their backs if they suffer through cold streaks. Quite the opposite seems to be true, actually; Stars CEO Jim Lites memorably threw them under the bus with a profane diatribe last season, and the Seguin – Benn duo is even more expensive with Seguin’s Super Mario extension kicking in.
If one or both of them suffer from bad puck luck, guess what? Such excuses are just a [stream of expletives] to the Stars’ execs, apparently.
[MORE: 2018-19 review | X-Factor | Three questions]
You can spread the tension out to other top players, but it’s unclear if that will make things a whole lot better.
Joe Pavelski‘s first year comes at a cost of $8M, while Esa Lindell‘s asking price is especially steep for 2019-20 with a $7M salary. While Ben Bishop figures to be a bargain at $5.5M if he plays near his 2018-19 level, the overall picture is that the Stars are still a very top-heavy team.
With bigger paychecks come bigger responsibilities, leaving these top stars – particularly Benn and Seguin – under pressure.
On the bright side, the makeup of this Stars team might just relieve some of that burden.
Pavelski’s had plenty of experience at center, and can also move over to the wing, giving him the potential to line up with one or more of Seguin, Benn, and Radulov. Benn, in particular, could benefit from taking on lesser matchups against middle pairing defensemen, as Benn has slowed a bit with age, as plenty of other power forwards do once they hit age 30.
If Roope Hintz blossoms as some expect, and Corey Perry rebounds as the Stars hope, then even better.
In a sense, Lites’ comments shine a light on another element of the Stars that’s under pressure: management.
GM Jim Nill has “won” or made the Stars one of the winners of plenty of summers, with shrewd trades and bold free agent gambits, yet Dallas has stumbled as much as its made strides. Along the way, they’ve spent plenty of money, and are estimated to scrape close to the salary cap ceiling next season. It’s easy to look at young players like Hintz and Miro Heiskanen and think of a bright future, but there’s a lot of “now” pressure with a team that’s expensive, and that much heavier on pricey veteran talent after adding Pavelski.
Last season, the Stars managed a delicate balancing act thanks to brilliant goaltending, and getting enough scoring from Benn, Seguin, and Radulov. The hope is that an offseason of promising tweaks will make it easier to manage this juggling act.
Even so, it seems like this team will still lean heavily on Benn and Seguin, which could mean even more drama if they buckle under the pressure.
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
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James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.