Sport How Dallas Stars built their Stanley Cup-contending roster
Free-agent focus: Tampa Bay Lightning
GM Julien BriseBois will have his work cut out for him when Tampa Bay's series against Dallas comes to an end. Subscribe to Yardbarker's Morning Bark, the most comprehensive newsletter in sports. Customize your email to get the latest news on your favorite sports, teams and schools. Emailed daily.
As we await Game 1 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC;), let’s reflect on how the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning put together playoff rosters.
Much like how they play, the Stars and Lightning got to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final building in different ways. Maybe that’s a message to teams trying to figure out how to copy their Stanley Cup blueprints?
Let’s start with the Dallas Stars, built byr .
Jimmy Howard expects to play elsewhere, not ready to retire
While admitting that his time with the Detroit Red Wings is at an end, goaltender Jimmy Howard said that he isn’t ready to retire.An unrestricted free agent on Oct. 9, the 36-year-old Howard admitted that he was “probably not” going to return to Detroit after a disastrous season in which Howard had career lows with a 4.20 goals-against average and a .882 save percentage in 27 appearances. Some of those struggles could be attributed to playing for one of the worst teams in NHL history, which finished with a 17-49-5 record last season.
How Dallas Stars built their Stanley Cup roster
The house that fifth-round picks built?
, the Stars haven’t always drafted well. Once you move beyond “obvious” high first-rounders (like Stars phenom , selected third overall in 2017), a team can make or break its fortunes based on getting mid-first-rounders right.
Dallas shows that you can still cobble together a competitive team even if you do sometimes barely make contact.
Take a look at their first-rounders since 2010:
- , 11th overall in 2010, never delivered much for the Stars. He’s rebounded to become an intriguing platoon option for the Maple Leafs, but it took a long time.
- , 14th in 2011: a legit and large NHL player, but not necessarily a grand slam.
- , 13th in 2012: Stars love him, so there’s that. Just don’t look at , , and going 17-19th. (That said, feel free to get people mad debating Faksa vs. 16th pick .)
- , 10th in 2013: found a second life as an analytics Selke darling. The Stars are getting more out of 29th pick ; not great for two first-rounders, though.
- Julius Honka, 14th in 2014: *cringe emoji*
- , 12th in 2015: sure, he’s not (16th), (17th), or (18th), but Gurianov is rounding into a dangerous and fun forward. Now the Stars just need to loosen that leash. The Stars also drafted in the second round at the 49th pick, so the 2015 draft was quality-over-quantity with just five picks. (And I’m not just saying that because Chris Martenet’s name makes me think of .)
- Riley Tufte, 25th in 2016: uh.
- Heiskanen, third in 2017: when you’re wondering if he’ll end up a bigger star than (fourth) or (fifth), you’re dealing with what the kids call “champagne problems.”
- Too early to say about Ty Dellandrea or Thomas Harley. They haven’t played in the NHL yet, though.
So … not great.
Ottawa's Andreas Englund signs in Sweden
The Ottawa Senators may have lost one of their defenseman, as Vasterviks IK announced they have signed defenseman Andreas Englund , who is expected to hit restricted free agency on Oct. 9. The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports that the deal has an out-clause in which he can return to the Senators, but only if the team gives him a qualifying offer next month, which is no certainty. The wording on the announcement also suggests the Allsvenskan team hopes to keep him around permanently. © Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports Andreas Englund will be playing abroad.
Fortunately, the Stars nailed some later draft picks over the years. In particular, they found two huge steals in different fifth rounds, nabbingat 129th in 2007 and at 131st in 2010. Getting with a third-rounder (74th in 2012) has also been important for making up for some of those first-round follies.
Sorry, Loui: that one big trade
For the most part, the Stars haven’t gone the trade route in putting together this Stanley Cup roster. While the Lightning spent big to improve their depth during the trade deadline, Dallas sat on its hands.
But the Stars changed the trajectory of their franchise when they landed. (At minimum, of the salary cap era.)
Even factoring in his downright baffling playoff puck luck, Seguin’s been one of the Stars’ most important players. During his seven seasons in Dallas, Seguin has generated almost a point per game (514 points in 538 games).
Montreal Canadiens extend Jeff Petry with $25M deal
Though he still doesn’t get quite the recognition of one, Petry has developed into one of the best two-way defensemen in the league over the last few years. In fact, his 128 points over the last three seasons put him 17th among all NHL defenders, while his 36 goals sit 11th over the same time period. Though he’ll never get the same type of press that teammate Shea Weber receives, Petry is almost equally important to the Canadiens and showed it this postseason.
Speaking of Super Mario, Seguin is so good, the Stars put this together when they extended his contract:
Stars scour the free agent market
Huge free agent team-building value in net, alone
After biffing it with Antti Niemi, the Stars made incredible free agent investments when it came to goaltending.
To start, they shrugged off skepticism (especially in the analytics community) about, and they’ve enjoyed incredible value. Although injuries have been a headache — even before the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs — Bishop’s been killer for a smidge under $5M per year. As strong as he was with the Lightning (.921 save percentage in 227 GP), Bishop’s been a brick wall for the Stars (.923 in 143 GP).
When Bishop hasn’t been able to play, the Stars have been able to turn to. Again, this playoff run , turning Khudobin’s strong play . Khudobin somehow has a .926 save percentage in 71 GP over two Stars seasons, plus this playoff run you might have heard of.
Free-agent focus: Who stays, who goes for Blue Jackets?
While the Columbus Blue Jackets have no UFA’s of note, they still have their work cut out for them with a laundry list of RFA’s, including several core players. © Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports Getting Dubois, 22, locked up long-term is the core objective of the Blue Jackets’ off-season. Key Restricted Free AgentsF Pierre-Luc Dubois – Getting Dubois, 22, locked up long-term is the core objective of the Blue Jackets’ off-season. Over the three seasons of his entry-level contract, Dubois totaled 158 points in 234 games, including a 61-point campaign in 2018-19 and a 57-point pace this season.
About the only conundrum is that Khudobin is a pending free agent, and.
The Stars have been knocking it out of the park when it comes to goalies in free agency lately, overall.
Adding veteran scoring help in free agency
Beyond those goaltending gems, the Stars made some big bets in free agency.
Pushing past fears of the aging curve, Dallas signedto a five-year, $31.25M contract that has been a great success. It’s all gravy as he approaches the final season of this deal, which is probably good because Radulov occasionally lands in the doghouse.
Time will tell if theinvestment ($7M cap hit through 2021-22) will pay off. Things went from lousy in the regular season to more promising during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. At 36, Pavelski will need to work for it.
, meanwhile, fell in the low-risk, low-reward bin, which makes sense since he cost pocket change.
If you count coaches as part of a “roster,” it’s worth at least mentioning that the Stars certainly faced turmoil over the years. First, they cycled through styles and veterans, going from Lindy Ruff to throwback Ken Hitchcock.
Then off-the-ice issues prompted the Stars to move from Jim Montgomery to Rick Bowness this season.
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Naturally, it’s tough to tell how much of the Stars’ structure hinges on Montgomery’s system, versus Bowness’ influence. But, the whole “being in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final” thing seems pretty promising. Especially since the Stars beat some true West powers in the Avalanche and Golden Knights.
Final thoughts on how Stars’ Stanley Cup roster was built
It hasn’t always been pretty, but the Stars put together a strong foundation through a mix of some draft and trade deals, plus strong free agent wins.
Maybe most promisingly, there’s room to get better. Cap Friendly estimates the Stars’ cap spaceheading into the off-season. While Hintz, Gurianov, Faksa, and maybe even Khudobin will take up a hearty chunk of that surplus, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Stars ended up with room to get better for 2020-21.
2020 STANLEY CUP FINAL (Rogers Place – Edmonton)
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars
Game 1: Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC ()
Game 2: Monday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN ()
Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN ()
Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET – NBC ()
*Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
James O’Brien is a writer for . Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter .
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