Last offseason was a sizable disappointment well before any games were played. Sure, the season was a stinker, but the Dallas Stars fence-straddling about their direction in June and July set it up to be a disappointment early. The window for winning with this current Jason-Spezza-inclusive group was three years. A season passing has shrunk the window proportionally. All indications seem to be that the Stars are ready to take advantage of that remaining window immediately.
It’s entirely possible to have your heart in the right place and end up being wrong. The decisions to let Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers walk didn’t go as planned. Dan Hamhuis was a quality addition, but as the season crumbled, so did the young defensemen. You can make arguments in favor of letting either or both walk, but it’s equally as easy to make the argument that not being willing to cut bait on someone like Jamie Oleksiak was a serious error.
It remains to be seen how the Stars address the defense, but 2017’s NHL campaign isn’t fully concluded yet and the Stars have already begun working to shore up the goaltending. Antti Niemi and Kari Lehtonen proved not to be the answers. Ben Bishop is now likely going to be the guy the Stars rally around. Good.
It may not work out, but decisive action is necessary. Stars GM Jim Nill was dealt a tough situation last year, but the optics of the situation look like he was simply too patient or indecisive in dealing with his team. Striking early to get the starting goalie taken care of without using much trade capital is a quality move. Fortune favors the bold. For the Stars to get where they want to go they should have the courage of their convictions and continue to make bold moves to kick the playoff door down with authority in 2018.
What else could they do?
Find a second goalie
Bishop doesn’t need to play more than about 60 games, and he could get hurt. Trusting Niemi or Lehtonen at this point would be foolish. Bishop is also 30. At some point the Stars are going to need to get someone younger in the organization. Bishop won’t need to be protected from expansion unless he signs an extension early. The Stars could still pick up a goalie with all of the names potentially available and have a quality tandem.
Commit to Julius Honka
Honka was one of the Stars’ four best defensemen in training camp last year. He might be more dynamic offensively than John Klingberg, and he’s certainly more of a shooter. Ken Hitchcock has a lot to offer him in the details and defense department. Honka is going to make mistakes, but he needs to be in the lineup from day one.
Find a top pairing defenseman
Admittedly I have no idea who that would be. This may not be possible, but if you don’t try you never know. Someone could randomly be available that we simply don’t know about yet. At the very least, they should be able to find a top-four defenseman like a Brendan Smith.
Find a couple of scoring wingers
Maybe Patrick Sharp comes back after he rehabs. Maybe Ales Hemsky comes back. Whatever the names end up being, the Stars need to find some wingers capable of providing secondary scoring through free agency or trade. Alex Radulov, Ilya Kovalchuk, T.J. Oshie, Justin Williams, or random trade candidates who will start to have their names circulated soon all make different levels of sense.
Trade the picks
If the Anaheim Ducks win Wednesday night, the Stars will have two first-round picks. Even if the Ducks lose, the Stars have the third pick in the draft. You don’t move either pick lightly, but if you are going all out trying to win while you have Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Spezza together you have to consider moving the pick in a deal that nets you a young core piece. This draft isn’t top-heavy in immediate impact talent so if you want this pick to make a difference while you have the best collection of players possible then a trade could make a lot of sense.
Go. All. The. Way. Despite last year’s awful season, the Stars still have a wealth of talent, a new coach, and apparently a solution in goal. Push that window wide open and make a run for a Stanley Cup before this current core is forced to change drastically due to the salary cap. Now is not the time to be timid. It’s risky, but if you believe this team led by Benn and Seguin can win a Cup the time is here to gamble a bit and push some chips into the pot.
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