Dallas Stars 2021-22 NHL Season Preview

Dallas Stars Preview

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)

• Free Agent Additions: Ryan Suter, Luke Glendening, Michael Raffl, Braden Holtby
• Free Agent Subtractions: Jason Dickinson (trade to Vancouver Canucks), Jamie Oleksiak (Seattle Kraken)

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.

[Related: Every free agent signing by all 32 NHL teams]

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.

Breakout Candidate

• 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.

Best-Case Scenario

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.

Worst-Case Scenario

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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    Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

    Ilya Mikheyev
    Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports

    VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

    Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

    Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

    Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

    Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

    Nick Turchiaro/USA TODAY Sports

    Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

    The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

    Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

    After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

    Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

    caufield surgery
    David Kirouac/USA TODAY Sports

    MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

    But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

    “I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

    Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

    “I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

    Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

    Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

    Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

    All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

    matty beniers
    Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports

    SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

    Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

    The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

    Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

    Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.