Dallas Stars: Jim Nill’s Free Agency Wishlist

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 25: General manager Jim Nill of the Dallas Stars looks on during the 2016 NHL Draft at First Niagara Center on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 25: General manager Jim Nill of the Dallas Stars looks on during the 2016 NHL Draft at First Niagara Center on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images) /

When Free Agency opens on July 1, the Dallas Stars will have a few items on their wishlist. The most glaring hole in the lineup right now is the vacancy left by Kari Lehtonen, but it isn’t the only thing to Stars need to address.

Jim Nill is probably going to be looking to add some scoring depth and a second-line center to the Dallas Stars in addition to a new backup goaltender. He’ll also likely consider a veteran presence on the blue line if neither Dan Hamhuis nor Greg Pateryn return.

Let’s take a closer look at each item that’s probably on Jim Nill’s wishlist.

Backup Goaltender

The Dallas Stars have attempted some interesting things to find a second goaltender to complement Lehtonen and fix the problems in net. The most notable among those attempts was the Kari Lehtonen/Antti Niemi experiment where both split time in the net equally, at least in theory.

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That idea worked okay but not great and led to the eventual buyout of the last remaining year on Niemi’s three-year deal after he took a reduced role in his second season. Niemi had a .900 save percentage during his time with the Stars, but Lehtonen’s .904 wasn’t much better over those two years.

Last year, Lehtonen improved to .912, but he saw a drastic reduction in starts as Ben Bishop came in and took over the starting job. Now Lehtonen’s contract is off the books and the Stars can look for a reliable replacement.

Depth Scoring

Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, and Tyler Seguin make up arguably one of the best top lines in the league, scoring 103 goals last year between them. The problem comes in when you move down the lineup and see that only four other players were in double digits and no one else cracked the 20-goal mark.

Mattias Janmark had a fantastic bounceback season last year following a problem with his knee that caused him to miss the entirety of the 2016-17 season. Radek Faksa has continued to show great improvement and even finished seventh in Selke voting. Tyler Pitlick had a solid impact on the team that came at an incredibly cheap cost.

As for the rest of the roster? They didn’t do much on the scoresheet. That’s certainly not the only way to judge a player, but it’s an obviously important metric when looking at forwards, especially when reflecting on this past season. The team was 18th in the league in goals for and their +10 was 15th in the league in goal differential. Plain and simple, they need to score more next year and they’re going to need to add depth scoring to do that.

Second Line Center

When the Stars added Jason Spezza in 2014, it was meant to give the Stars a solid top two centers in Seguin and Spezza. At that point, the roster also had players like Cody Eakin to give depth down the middle, and that worked out for them right up until last season.

In a perfect storm last year, Eakin left in the expansion draft and Spezza took a massive step back in his play. Spezza is getting older and doesn’t look like the same star he was in Ottawa or at the beginning of his tenure with the Stars. Eakin’s departure was a logical choice that shouldn’t have hurt the team as much as it did, especially with the addition of Martin Hanzal, but Hanzal missed more than half the season due to injury.

Spezza and Hanzal could very well bounce back next year, but the Stars can’t afford to take that risk if they want to make a serious run at the playoffs. The possibility of trading Spezza further complicates the matter. The team’s trio of Jims (Jim Montgomery, Jim Nill, and Jim Lites) met with John Tavares and made it to his six-team shortlist, but if that doesn’t pan out, they’ll need someone else as a back-up plan.

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Help on the Blue Line

If one or both of Hamhuis and Pateryn return, this is probably not particularly high on Nill’s list. If they both leave, Marc Methot will be the only defenseman on the team drafted before 2010. That’s not the end of the world, but veteran presence is something of a buzzword in sports.

The Stars have a log jam of young defensemen that probably isn’t going away any time soon, especially with the addition of Miro Heiskanen. They’ve moved a few players out of it with Patrik Nemeth heading to Colorado and Jamie Oleksiak going to Pittsburgh, but there’s still a bit of a mess to be sorted out. That could come in the form of a trade or two, but it could also come in the form of patience from Nill.

If Nill chooses to let the young guys play without adding another veteran to the lineup over the summer, it could be a rough year while they get experience. It could also work out perfectly fine if the other problems are addressed appropriately.

Next: 3 Reasons Dallas Must Make A Big Offseason Splash

There’s only four days until free agency starts and things could get started at any time if Nill decides to go for a trade. Until the team starts making moves, fans can only speculate on possibilities. Feel free to share your speculations or your wish list for the Stars down in the comments.