Matthew DeFranks, Stars beat writer for SportsDayDFW.com and The Dallas Morning News, answered questions about the team in a recent live chat. Here are some highlights, edited for clarity:
Will the Stars try to lock up Miro Heiskanen sooner rather than later like they did with Klingberg?
Matthew DeFranks: “It won’t be as easy. Heiskanen still has two years left on his entry-level contract and his potential isn’t as masked as Klingberg’s was. Heiskanen is going to be a supreme player in the NHL. That is very apparent. So the Stars likely don’t get him on a great contract like they did Klingberg.”
What does your defense look like next year, if you’re the coach/GM?
DeFranks: “Lindell-Klingberg. Heiskanen-?? Oleksiak-?? Perhaps Gavin Bayreuther could play on his off side and fill one of those right-handed spots on defense. Stephen Johns’ status is still up in the air, but that would be a huge addition back to the defense. Maybe Taylor Fedun is a re-signing option?There aren’t a lot of good right-handed defensemen on the unrestricted free agent market this summer. Tyler Myers is probably looking for a raise on his $5.5M deal. Deryk Engelland (37), Dan Girardi (35), Roman Polak (33) and Ben Lovejoy (35) are at the tail end of their careers. Erik Karlsson is probably out of the Stars’ price range. Then you’re left with guys like Adam McQuaid and Anton Stralman. If there’s anything I learned this season, it’s that defensemen can change a lot under Jim Nill.”
Should Jim Nill build three scoring lines, as opposed to just sorting out the 2nd by adding a graduating Gurianov, or Zuccarello to an extension?
DeFranks: “I think every team would want three scoring lines. It’s what made Pittsburgh so dangerous when they were winning Stanley Cups. And to a much lesser extent, what gave St. Louis an edge over Dallas with the Maroon-Bozak-Thomas line. But you have to build two scoring lines before you can built three. Denis Gurianov should get his chance to be a top-six forward next year, like Roope Hintz did this year. We’ll see how it pans out.”
Is it feasible for the Stars to go all-in and worry about cap later, by off- loading an expensive contract, like Benn, if need be to Seattle at the expansion draft?
DeFranks: “The Stars four biggest contracts (Seguin at $9.85M, Benn at $9.5M, Radulov at $6.25M, and Bishop at $4.92M) all have no-movement clauses. So, that strategy would be tough to pull off. With Methot and Spezza coming off the books, though, they should have enough cap space to work with, even when looking at future raises for Esa Lindell and Miro Heiskanen.”
With the way the offense looked with him in it, plus the Stars’ draft history, shouldn’t it be a no-brainer to sign Zucc despite losing the better pick?
DeFranks: “I don’t think the Stars’ draft history should factor into the decision. Sure, the team has missed on picks like Valeri Nichushkin and Julius Honka, but that doesn’t mean first-round picks aren’t valuable at all. You can’t just give up on your entire amateur scouting branch of the organization.
“That aside, Mats Zuccarello certainly added an element of creativity that the Stars were missing and he gave them a true top-six. He would be worth the pick to re-sign in Dallas. The main point of contention should be term. Zuccarello may be looking for a five-year contract that would mean he’s 36 years old when it runs out. This is probably his last contract to sign, so he has every right to seek out the best offer.”