With an exciting offseason behind us, hockey season is finally back and it’s time to see who made the right moves and who will once again be lagging behind in the standings. Despite having what many would consider bad luck last season, the Dallas Stars managed to make some incredible moves in the offseason once again under the leadership of general manager Jim Nill.
Towards the end of the 2014-15 season, there was plenty of talk about what the Chicago Blackhawks would do, considering the big changes that would need to be made due to their salary cap. Jim Nill struck while the iron was hot, acquiring both Patrick Sharp and Stephen Johns from the Blackhawks in exchange for Trevor Daley and Ryan Garbutt. Johns will serve as a great defensive prospect and play with the Texas Stars of the AHL for now while Patrick Sharp will add to Dallas’ already deadly offense as well as give the team more experience, as Sharp is a three-time Stanley Cup winner as well as Olympic gold medalist. Just five days later Dallas fans were even more excited to hear that former Blackhawk and two-time Stanley Cup champion Johnny Oduya had chosen to sign with the Stars in his free agency, adding strength to their problematic defense.
One of the biggest problems plaguing the Dallas Stars last season was inconsistent goaltending and defense. The Stars had no problem scoring, especially when you take into consideration Jamie Benn’s Art Ross win, but time after time they were unable to hold on to leads and close out games that could have easily been won. To try to combat this, Nill traded the 193rd pick in the 2015 draft to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for Antti Niemi’s negotiation rights. Niemi ended up signing a three-year deal just two days later. This will create a Finnish goaltending duo of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, who were both goaltenders for Finland’s 2014 bronze medal win in Sochi, alongside Tuukka Rask.
Despite having two great players in net, both men will have to be able to consistently keep the puck out of the net, even when the defense is lagging. Kari Lehtonen finished last season with a 2.94 goals-against average and .903 save percentage in 65 games, while Antti Niemi had a 2.59 GAA and .914 save percentage in 61 games. While these stats aren’t horrible, Lehtonen and Niemi will have to step up their game this season and form a solid goaltending duo for the Stars.
With great offense a sure thing for the Stars, their biggest struggle this season will once again be defense, goaltending, and their ability to stay consistent in that throughout the season as well as closing out games when they have the lead. Overall, this looks like it will be a very promising season for Dallas and will likely see the Stars returning to the playoffs after missing last year.