The 2021-22 NHL season is coming and it’s time to take a look at all 32 teams. Over the next month we’ll be examining best- and worst-case scenarios, looking at the biggest questions, breakout candidates, and more for each franchise. Today, we preview the Dallas Stars.
2020-21 Season Review
• Record: 23-19-14 (60 points); fifth place in Central Division
• Postseason: Did not qualify for playoffs; drafted Wyatt Johnson in first round of draft
• Offensive leader: Joe Pavelski (56 games, 25 goals, 26 assists, 51 points)
Biggest question facing the Dallas Stars?
• How much of a difference will a healthy Tyler Seguin make?
Not to mention a healthy Alexander Radulov as well. The biggest issue for the 2020-21 Stars was the fact their two most dangerous offensive players — Seguin and Radulov — were limited to just 14 total man games for the entire season. Radulov played 11 games, Seguin played three games, and they played exactly zero games together.
Over the three years prior to that those two were by far the most productive players in the Stars’ lineup and a major part of their offense. Take them away and what was an already thin offense gets even thinner.
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There should be little doubt that those injuries kept the Stars out of a playoff spot. They fell just four points shy while losing 14(!) games in overtime or a shootout, the most in the NHL. Given how good Seguin and Radulov are, and how good they have been in overtime for the Stars in recent years, it is not a stretch to think that their presence could have made a difference in a handful of those games. Not to mention any other game over the course of the season.
What’s the salary cap situation?
It is extremely tight, and while they do have a lot of money coming off the books after this season there are a lot of players they are almost certainly going to want to re-sign. That includes Radulov, Joe Pavelski, and defenseman John Klingberg.
Pavelski’s age (he will be 38 next season) might push him out the door which could clear $7 million in cap space, but you have to figure Klingberg and Radulov will be priorities given their production and importance to the lineup. The Stars have three NHL caliber goalies under contract with Holtby, Ben Bishop, and Anton Khudobin, with the latter two signed through the end of next season at a combined salary cap hit of over $7 million each year. With the presence of Jake Oettinger in the system it stands to reason that one of those two could be traded to create even more space.
Along with the unrestricted free agents, they also will have to deal with significant raises for Jason Robertson and Denis Gurianov after this season. They have a lot of significant contracts to take care of over the next year and limited salary cap space to make it work.
• Denis Gurianov
Maybe you want to say that his breakout season already happened (he did score 20 goals as a rookie and has been one of the more efficient 5-on-5 goal scorers in the league so far in his career) but there still seems to be another level he can reach. Whenever he is on the ice good things seem to happen for the Stars and he always seems to be at the center of it. The Stars’ top players are starting to get older, but with Gurianov, Roope Hintz, Miro Heiskanen, and Jason Robertson they do have another wave of potential impact players coming along.
The best-case scenario is that the return of a healthy Seguin and Radulov make a significant difference in all of those one goal games, Robertson repeats his great rookie season, and players like Gurianov, Hintz, and Heiskanen all take big steps forward. If that happens, combined with the level of goaltending they should be able to get behind what should be a strong defense, this could be a playoff team and one that could do some damage when it gets there. Between 2018-19 and 2019-20 the Stars won more playoff games than any team in the NHL and were knocking on the door of the Stanley Cup. Injuries derailed their chances a year ago and held them back.
The worst-case scenario would be that a lot of the players they are counting on start to show their age, slow down, and do not make the type of impact that is expected. Pavelski, Radulov, Jamie Benn, Ryan Suter, and the goalies are all over the age of 32, while the roster itself has 12 players over the age of 30 (and a couple of 29 year olds as well). Eventually those players will start to slow down. It is an older team overall and while it is a group that has had recent success, it is not a roster that has much margin for error. A mediocre offense and any kind of a slip up in goal could lead to a repeat of the 2020-21 season instead of the 2019-20 season.
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