If the Dallas Stars have been known for anything during the Jim Nill era it has been their willingness to make a big splash every offseason.
Since Nill was hired as the team’s general manager in 2013 they have consistently been one of the big “winners” of the offseason.
Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, Alexander Radulov, and Ben Bishop have been just some of the notable players the Stars have acquired under Nill’s watch. They were at it again this summer when they signed free agents Corey Perry and Joe Pavelski.
The hope was that they could serve as the missing pieces for what was an incredibly top-heavy team that was one game away from the Western Conference Final a year ago.
Both players have made a significant impact in the Stanley Cup Final as the Stars attempt to pull off another stunning upset in the 2020 playoffs.
Perry was the Game 5 hero on Saturday night by scoring a pair of goals, including the game-winner in double overtime to send the series to Game 6 on Monday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, LiveStream).
Perry’s deal was always a very low-risk move because it didn’t really require the Stars to make any kind of a significant investment. It was a one year contract for $1.5 million, and if he turned out to be washed up it was not really costing them anything. He didn’t make a huge impact during the regular season, but he has been more noticeable in the playoffs, including his Game 5 heroics on Saturday.
Pavelski was the more significant addition.
As well as the bigger risk.
During his peak, Pavelski was one of the league’s top goal scorers and a cornerstone piece in San Jose. Even though he was entering his age 35 season was still coming off of an absolutely massive 38-goal performance for the Sharks a year ago and still seemed to have a little something left in the tank. Even if he did not duplicate that success — and no one should have expected him to — he still figured to add some much-needed balance to a Stars lineup that was only getting consistent offense from one of its lines a year ago.
The Stars landed him with a three-year, $21 million contract in free agency.
In the beginning, things were not working out all that well.
In his first 13 games with the Stars Pavelski had managed just two goals, an assist, and was barely averaging more than one shot on goal per game. There was almost no impact. Given the contract and the expectations, he was probably one of the most disappointing players on what had been a wildly disappointing start for the Stars.
But starting in February he really started to catch fire and play like the impact forward Dallas was hoping to acquire, finishing the regular season with six goals and 12 total points over his final 17 games.
That improved production has continued into the playoffs.
Entering Game 6 on Monday, Pavelski is tied with Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point for the postseason lead in total goals (13) and even-strength goals (10), and has been especially hot in the Stanley Cup Final. He has already scored four goals in the first five games of the series, including a massive, season-saving goal late in the third period to tie Saturday’s game and send it to overtime. That overall production, as well some of his big moments (a hat trick in the First Round, for example) have helped put him on the Conn Smythe watch list.
Maybe Pavelski won’t be a $7 million player in the third year of his contract. Maybe he’s not even one right now. But the bottom line for the Stars is this: They were a Game 7 double overtime loss away from being in the Western Conference Final a year ago despite only having one line that presented itself as a serious scoring threat. They needed somebody else to make an impact to help get them over the hump and get closer to a championship.
They paid Pavelski to make an impact in these games. And he has. Exactly when they needed him to make an impact. If he helps them get two more wins and complete an absolutely improbable postseason run to a championship, through what would be an absolutely remarkable series of teams, no one in Dallas is going to care what the salary cap hit is.