Life after Brad Richards. It seems to be all that people want to talk about regarding the Dallas Stars at this point. Although there are many out there that feel that the Stars maybe should have tried to have traded him off at the trade deadline instead of waiting and then not getting anything for him as he walked in free agency, I still think that GM Joe Nieuwendyk did the right thing at the time considering the circumstances. Those circumstances were that the Dallas Stars were still in position to make the playoffs, Brad had a concussion at the time, he also had a no-trade clause that could have prevented him being traded, etc. but those are a discussion for another forum. So how have the Stars fared this summer while losing a top-5 playmaking center?
At first I was admittedly worried. Dallas missed the playoffs last year (although they shouldn’t have lost to Minnesota in the final game of the season and should have been in there, but I digress) and without Brad Richards, how are the Stars going to possibly make the playoffs next year or even a few years down the road? Then the draft occurred and July 1 rolled around, and I feel that Nieuwy was able to do a great job with what was at his disposal. On a day where people were getting overpaid left and right and were being signed to to much longer terms than they should have been (I mean how about Christian Ehrhoff bailing for $40 million over 10 years or James Wisnewski for $33 million over six), I feel the Stars did really good with their signings. The longest contract they signed was a 3-year deal with Vernon Fiddler and he is regarded as one of the top defensive-forwards in the league and will really help solidify the PK and third line for years to come, not to mention his solid face-off stats, and those were all prime places Dallas really struggled with last year. Michael Ryder for only two years seems like a great pickup also because Dallas literally has no right-handed forwards, so having him to play alongside Mike Ribeiro, who not only has played with Ryder in the past but really needs a right-handed shot, I think it solidifies a pretty nice line in Brenden Morrow – Ribs – Ryder. Adam Pardy I’m not really too sure about, but he should be at least a solid sixth Dman for the next couple years, and he has the potential to grow. I honestly had never even heard of him until Dallas signed him but apparently Joe had had his eyes on him for a while. Radek Dvorak is going to be a third or fourth line winger and was only signed for one year and should be better than any of Brian Sutherby, Brandon Segal, or Jason Williams from last year. Jacob Dowell also seems like a good third or fourth line pickup for only one year at $800,000, as he plays a good aggressive “hard to play against” style for cheap. He also scored 21 points on Chicago’s fourth line with limited minutes last year, which is pretty much more than Dallas’ fourth line combined from last year.
And then there is the Sheldon Souray signing. This was a gamble that I was not expecting the Stars to make; however, at the right price I think it’s worth a shot. Only one year for $1.65 million for a player with a lot to prove turned out to be a great low-risk, high-reward type situation for the Stars. If he doesn’t work out too well, he is only signed for one year and is making less than all of the other projected starting defensemen on the team, save for Nicklas Grossman who is making only $25,000 less. I have listened to some interviews with him and read some articles about him and he seems really determined to show Edmonton that they screwed up with him by putting him into the minors. Also, he seems to have more credibility with the whole injury fiasco with Edmonton now that they tried to trade an injured Gilbert Brule, whom they didn’t actually report properly that he was even hurt (kept him off of injury reports) and then instantly traded off another injured guy to LA in Colin Fraser, so who knows. Despite all of that, Souray sounds really determined to prove that he’s still got what it takes to be a good player in the NHL, which is exactly the kind of player I like in the dressing room because you know he’s going to be giving 100 percent. What’s really interesting about some of his interviews is that he said that Dallas was actually his number one choice and he’s wanted to go to Dallas for a long time, which I never knew. He said he has always somehow dealt with ex-Dallas Stars such as Guy Carbonneau as his former coach, played with Morrow in tournaments. He also said he had never heard a bad thing about Dallas and that they treat players really well so he always had it in the back of his mind that he wanted to come play for Big D and see what it was really like. Not sure how much of that is actually true, but seems pretty cool to me.
Then there is the draft. Gone are the days where Dallas had a very high budget and was constantly replenishing their team by buying high-priced free agents and sacrificing their top draft picks in trades. Just a few years ago, the stars prospect system looked bleak. Miserably bleak. However, in the three years that Joe has been GM he has really turned that previous trend around. Philip Larsen, Alex Chiasson, Tomas Vincour, Scott Glennie, Reily Smith, Patrik Nemeth, John Klingberg, and Colton Sceviour are all names worth watching for in the future as they could really be impacting the stars in the next few years, and that’s not even mentioning last year’s first round pick Jack Campbell. Then this year, he added the 18 year old, 6’-7” 244 lb. behemoth Jamie Oleksiak as well as big power forward Brett Ritchie (so Dallas replaced one B-Rich with another B-Rich). These guys will most likely be making a big impact with the team in a few short years, and Emil Morin and Troy Vance were both steals at their positions in my opinion. What was once a shameful system is now looking very bright in this new era of developing players from within for the Dallas Stars.
So even though Dallas has no B-Rich and now have a glaring hole at the first-line center position, I think Joe made Dallas a much deeper, tougher team to play against while also maintaining a solid foundation for the future. Penalty kill and bottom-6 forwards look much better than last year as well as upgrading their D, all of which were the Stars’ main fallbacks last year. So who knows what’s going to happen with the Stars next year. It’s hard to say since they look so different now. Are they going to be knocking down the door to get at the Stanley Cup during the 2011-2012 season? Certainly not, but I do think there is hope that they can finally get back into the playoff picture. I’m also really glad Joe didn’t go buying stupid, overpriced contracts for players. For instance, Dallas was thought to be in the running for Tim Connolly, so I’m really glad Dallas isn’t paying him $4.75 mil per season. He ended up getting a raise from his previous contract and I definitely don’t think he earned a raise with his down play and injury past. Having their most expensive contract signed on July 1 be Ryder for $7 mil over two years and the longest be Fiddler for three years at $5.4 mil, that was a definite win for the Stars. They made the team competitive for this year instead of just giving up while also making sure they didn’t sacrifice valuable budget money in 2012 when it comes time to re-sign franchise cornerstones Jamie Benn and Alex Goligoski while still being able to have the prospects try to make an impact at the same time. GM Joe did a great job of building a team that will be tough to play against in 2011-2012 while also building a solid future for fans to look forward too. And he did it all without even having an owner.
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