• Last year’s record:  50-23-9  109 points, 1st in the Central
    • Eliminated in the second round
  • Key losses:  Alex Goligoski
  • Key additions:  Dan Hamhuis, Jiri Hudler

Outlook:  The Dallas Stars finished atop the loaded Central Division last season edging out the St. Louis Blues by a mere two points.  The loss of Alex Goligoski on the blue line appeared to be quite the blow to a team already thin in that area, but Jim Nill did a great job in filling Goligoski’s role with the signing of Dan Hamhuis.  Hamhuis, who spent the last six seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, is a trustworthy veteran defenseman who should improve Dallas’ blue line.  I believe the Stars got one of the steals of free agency when they signed Jiri Hudler.  Hudler, who had sixteen goals and thirty assists last season, can play up and down the line-up, but should be in a top six role with the Stars.  Many believe that Hudler’s age has caught up with him since his production dipped last season, but at thirty-two years old Hudler should bring more firepower to an already potent Dallas line-up.

It’s no secret that Dallas has one of the best offenses in the league.  In fact, the Stars lead the entire NHL in goals scored last season with 265, you can see the complete list here, courtesy of Yahoo Sports.  That’s all candies and nuts, but when it came to giving up goals, the Stars where in the lower half of the league with 228 goals against.  This off-season, Jim Nill and the Stars didn’t do much to fix that.  It appears they will look to within the organization for some improved defense.

Leading the group of young D-men in the Stars organization is Esa Lindell, a twenty-two year old defenseman from Finland.  Lindell had a brief appearance with the Stars last season, but should find himself a consistent role in the line-up this time around.  Another Fin, Julius Honka, could also see some significant playing time this season.  Honka, who played with the Texas Stars last season, registered eleven goals and thirty-three assists last season in his first pro season.  These two should both get a look at one point or another on the Stars blue line this season, or maybe they could be trade bait.

Outside of their blue line troubles the Stars need to find themselves a consistent, elite NHL goalie.  That’s not exactly easy to come by in today’s NHL, especially with the salary cap, but it’s not impossible.  Ben Bishop should be at the top of Jim Nill’s wish list.  Bishop, who is heading into the last year of his contract, is likely finished in Tampa Bay.  The Salary Cap situation in Tampa is one of the worst in the league.  With Nikita Kucherov still unsigned for this season and Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and Bishop all needing new contracts next season, somebody is going to be headed out of Tampa sooner or later.  Tampa General Manager Steve Yzerman is saying that they could in fact keep Bishop for the entire season and the lose him for absolutely nothing next off-season.  Good plan Steve.  Now’s the time for Jim Nill to swoop in and go for the kill, just like he did with Stan Bowman in Chicago when he poached Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns from the Hawks.  Nill could send Niemi(with some salary retained), a prospect like Honka or possibly Oleksiak, and a first round pick.  Yeah, it may seem like a steep price, but having a goalie like Bishop could really be the difference maker for the Stars.

Without a solid goalie the Stars will not win a Stanley Cup.  Yes, they will light up the score sheet and clinch a playoff spot and possibly even win the Central again, but without a goalie the Stars are in trouble.  If Nill can pry Bishop away from Tampa, the Stanley Cup may be on its way to the Lone Star state.

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