Injuries Spark Opportunity for Fontaine


By Mike Meyer

Dallas Stars Writer

 

With injuries already in the offseason and preseason training to players such as: Tyler Seguin, Mattias Janmark, Cody Eakin, Devin Shore, Radek Faksa, Jason Dickinson, and Ales Hemsky, Dallas Stars General Manager, Jim Nil was in luck to find an experienced, young NHLer to help with his club. Just days after being released from his PTO with the Florida Panthers, Dallas has signed forward Justin Fontaine to a new PTO. If a fit arises, Fontaine could play up and down the lineup, and provide the Stars with experience that up-and-coming players from the AHL Texas Stars and junior leagues may not have just yet.

 

Fontaine, 28, played the last 3 seasons with the Minnesota Wild where he has posted 68 points in 197 career games. Fontaine came in to the Wild’s system as a free agent in 2011 and suited up in the NHL for the first time in 2013. Through constant line shuffling and line mates, and at times watching from the press box to make room in the lineup for veterans, Fontaine arguably never had a way to grow at a consistent rate in Minnesota. With the ability to play perhaps with a better system and opportunity, Fontaine could find success in Dallas through Lindy Ruff’s system. If signed, Fontaine can quickly become a very sneaky and underrated asset for the Stars.

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Nichuskin Heads to Russia


By Mike Meyer

Dallas Stars Writer

 

While it has not been confirmed just yet*, reports are circling around that young Dallas Star, Valeri Nichuskin has signed a 2 year contract to play for the CSKA Moscow. Sources have sited that Nichuskin has had issues playing underneath of Stars Head Coach, Lindy Ruff and does not wish to play in Dallas as long as he is behind the bench.

 

With the Stars adding 32 year old veteran, Jiri Hudler in the offseason, there was always a concern about what this would mean for ice-time and contract negotiations for Valeri. The 21 year old, Right Winger has struggled to prove dividends for the Stars after being drafted 10th overall in 2013. He has managed only 64 points in 166 career NHL games.  Though Nichuskin has struggled and shown flashes of talent, this could be a good time for he and the Stars to part ways.

 

“It would not be the end of the world,” General Manager Jim Nill said.

 

*It has now been confirmed

Confirmed: Dallas Signs Hudler


By Mike Meyer

Dallas Stars Writer

Edmonton Oilers Writer

St. Louis Blues Writer

 

Reports have begun to circle around that Jiri Hudler will be taking his talents to Dallas. On August 24th, Dallas has reportedly signed* Hudler to a 1-year contract worth $2 million.

 

Though at a half the yearly value of his contract in Calgary, Hudler in the Lone Star State could be a very low risk, high reward contract for the Stars. The 32-year-old, Hudler saw plenty of success with Calgary in the 248 games he suited up for.

 

Before being traded to the Panthers at the NHL Trade Deadline in February, Hudler netted 68 goals and 192 total points for the Flames. He went on to rack up 11 points in 19 games for the Florida Panthers after the trade.

 

The veteran can help reinforce the talent along the right wing side along with Alex Hemsky, Patrick Eaves, and Brett Ritchie. Though the signing of Hudler for Dallas Stars fans does look good, one person that might take offense to this could certainly be Restricted Free Agent and right winger, Valeri Nichuskin.

 

By bringing in Hudler, does this bode well for things to come for Valeri? Or is this merely a veteran talent that Dallas can add to their arsenal as a security blanket, should things go south for Nichuskin?

 

*It’s now been confirmed that Hudler has signed.

What to Expect from Dallas’ Stephen Johns


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By Greg Johnson

Dallas Stars Writer

The defensive end for Dallas has been a huge question mark in the last few seasons. As they continue to rank near the top in goals scored, the Stars continue to be pummeled by goals against.

Many people will call out goaltending, but defense is the first thing an opponent needs to get through to get the opportunity to score. Both are important to take a look at. Big changes are coming to Dallas with young talent stepping in after a whirlwind of player movement left some big holes in the defensive end.

After signing a 2-year contract with Dallas this offseason, defenseman Stephen Johns looks to follow up a strong year and prove he can become a set piece in the Stars roster and make the changes Stars fans are looking for.

Johns came in late in the 2015-16 season to replace the injured Jason Demers, playing a total of just 14 NHL games. Let’s take a look at what he did in those games, and what we have to look forward to in October.

 

  • Physical play: Johns measures in at 6’4 and hits like a truck (Google “Johns hits Max Domi” for an example). Johns averaged barely under 4 hits per game and had 13.2 hits per 60 minutes played. Not exactly small numbers. He has the presence of mind to know when to hit hard and force a turnover, but sometimes the thirst for blood can result in an overcommitment, leaving him out of position. This can be coached however, and I will enjoy seeing number 28 sending guys into the boards on a regular basis.

 

  • More shots (but not that many): Johns scored only one goal in his brief introduction to the NHL. A powerful slap shot from near the blue line sailed past Tampa Bay’s Ben Bishop to tie the game in the 3rd. Johns shot more in his AHL days, but did not score frequently. I believe he will get more comfortable with his powerful shot and gain confidence to take opportunities in the coming season. However, I do not think it will necessarily be his strongest attribute. Since he’s a defenseman, I’d say this can be overlooked. There is only so much need for more Kris Letangs.

 

  • Pair?: The first defensive pairing will undoubtedly be held by John Klingberg and new Stars signee Dan Hamhuis. Johns should start on the second pair, ideally with Johnny Oduya. His physical play style will fit well with the 2nd and 3rd forward lines that puts him with, and skating alongside a vet like Oduya is a logical move. As a defenseman, the most important thing Johns can produce is actual defense. We all know he can block a shot like no one’s business (21 total in the 14 games played), but what I want to see is the elimination of that shot attempt altogether. I want to see him reading plays on the fly and making that takeaway count rise.

 

  • Final thoughts: This season, Johns will show growth. I predict that more often than not, plays resulting in goals will be a direct result of his aptitude and spatial awareness. Regular fans may not even see his contribution right away. His role is not to be offense minded, but hunkering down the defense and being a wall opponents are afraid to go through. I also predict he will make some mistakes. Simple errors may quickly negate consistent effort. That is how things go for someone this early in the league, but Johns is not new to hockey. He will learn fast.

2016 Offseason Power Rankings


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Every month, Hockey Trade Central will be posting Power Rankings. They will be posted the 1st of every month during the regular season, and will reflect the previous month’s play.

 

The Power Rankings are voted on by the writers.

 

Offseason Power Rankings are based on how well the teams drafted, how well they did in Free Agency, and the trades the teams have made.

 

2016 Offseason Rankings:

 

  1. Pittsburgh Penguins /
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning +1
  3. San Jose Sharks -1
  4. Dallas Stars +1
  5. Washington Capitals +2
  6. Nashville Predators /
  7. Florida Panthers +4
  8. Chicago Blackhawks +2
  9. St. Louis Blues -5
  10. New York Islanders -2
  11. Anaheim Ducks -2
  12. Los Angeles Kings +3
  13. Philadelphia Flyers /
  14. Minnesota Wild -2
  15. Detroit Red Wings -1
  16. Boston Bruins +1
  17. New Jersey Devils +3
  18. New York Rangers -2
  19. Carolina Hurricanes -1
  20. Buffalo Sabres +3
  21. Ottawa Senators -2
  22. Montreal Canadiens /
  23. Calgary Flames +3
  24. Arizona Coyotes /
  25. Winnipeg Jets /
  26. Colorado Avalanche -5
  27. Edmonton Oilers +2
  28. Toronto Maple Leafs +2
  29. Columbus Blue Jackets -2
  30. Vancouver Canucks -2

 

Previous Rankings:

  1. Pittsburgh Penguins
  2. San Jose Sharks
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning
  4. St. Louis Blues
  5. Dallas Stars
  6. Nashville Predators
  7. Washington Capitals
  8. New York Islanders
  9. Anaheim Ducks
  10. Chicago Blackhawks
  11. Florida Panthers
  12. Minnesota Wild
  13. Philadelphia Flyers
  14. Detroit Red Wings
  15. Los Angeles Kings
  16. New York Rangers
  17. Boston Bruins
  18. Carolina Hurricanes
  19. Ottawa Senators
  20. New Jersey Devils
  21. Colorado Avalanche
  22. Montreal Canadiens
  23. Buffalo Sabres
  24. Arizona Coyotes
  25. Winnipeg Jets
  26. Calgary Flames
  27. Columbus Blue Jackets
  28. Vancouver Canucks
  29. Edmonton Oilers
  30. Toronto Maple Leafs

Look to the Stars


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By Mike Meyer

Dallas Stars Writer

St. Louis Blues Writer

Edmonton Oilers Writer

 

Thursday, October 13th 2016.  American Airlines Center. Home ice against the Anaheim Ducks. This will mark the start of a new season. A new chance for Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin, and John Klingberg to lead their team back to the playoffs and to prove that last season was no mistake.  The Stars ended their 2015-16 regular season as the second best team in the NHL. The team was able to secure the Central Division title for the first time since 1998. The Stars were able to best the Minnesota Wild in six games to advance to the second round. However, the Stars were burnt out in the by the St. Louis Blues in Game 7, mirroring the same result the last time these two Central Division rivals faced off since 2001 in the playoffs.

 

Many questioned the defense of the Stars and thought they couldn’t carry the load. They couldn’t weather the storm of the playoffs. They were proved wrong. Plenty questioned what the Stars fate would have entailed had Tyler Seguin been healthy and in the lineup. We will unfortunately never know. Questions still surround the value and worth of the netmiders. They have a chance to prove everyone wrong.

 

The 2016-17 season will return plenty of familiar faces, and look almost identical for the forward roster, as  I’ve noted above. Jamie Benn got a hefty contract extension. The management has brought in depth forwards Adam Cracknell and Brett Ritchie to help counter the losses of Vernon Fiddler, Travis Moen and Colton Sceviour. Questions will certainly come from once again the backfield. The defense and the goaltending could without a doubt the be Achilles heel of the Dallas Stars once again throughout the upcoming season.

 

dan-hamhuis

 

The defense will once again this season be faced with adversity, and leaning on youth. With the loss of Goligoski, Demers and Russell, the group will likely have to lean on its youth’s prior success and hope that it can translate in to success at the NHL level. The most notable acquisition came from ‘Day 1’ of Free Agency when Dan Hamhuis signed a 2-year contract with the Stars. He will likely be leaned on as the ‘Number 2’ Defensemen and paired with John Klingberg throughout most of the season to help balance the loss of Goligoski. In recent seasons, Hamhuis has not been known as a point producing defensemen or as reliable to produce, as compared to Goligoski. Since the 2011-12 season, Dan has not produced more than 37 points produced in a single season. Granted those seasons have come with the Vancouver Canucks, it is still unlikely that he will bring much offense to the squad. It is likely, however, that Hamhuis will still be relied on as a veteran to help lead and shepherd the young, upcoming defensemen on this squad and provide the unsung, defensive qualities that will help out the Stars netminders.

 

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Speaking of goalies, it will be a shock to the NHL community if both Niemi and Lehtonen end their season both a Dallas Star. Niemi, a previous Stanley Cup Champion with the Chicago Blackhawks, holds more value to the Stars when it comes to pressure situations in the playoffs. He’s literally been there, and done that. Lehtonen may be the odd man out. But hey, I could be wrong. Stranger things have indeed happened. Taylor Hall was traded for Adam Larsson straight up. What could Lehtonen fetch for to a desperate GM? The question remains though of where to, for who, and who replaces him? The question comes of why did Jim Nill not seek to trade one of the two goalies at the draft? There were certain rumblings of teams willing to trade or add a starting goaltender. Or better yet, if Jim was asked, was the trade value simply just not there to even consider moving?  Better men that are deeper down the rabbit hole than I know the answer to these questions.

 

benn_seguin_stars_040914

 

Finally, lets wrap things up with talks of the forward group that is so beloved. And who better to start talks with than the best duo in hockey: Benn and Seguin. Tyler Seguin, playing in 223 games with the Dallas Stars, netting a ridiculous 234 points in that time, good for 1.05 points per game. Since the acquisition of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn has gone on to play 245 games, scoring 255 points, good for 1.04 points per game. Let’s do the math here. Since the 2013-14 season, Seguin and  Benn alone have combined for 489 POINTS. The Stars hope that these two can continue that run and help lead their team to a Stanley Cup Championship. And though Patrick Sharp has not always been the most consistent of forwards that the Stars had hoped for, his 55 points in 76 games certainly ranks up as impressive for the bouncing around the lineup he was managing. His -3 overall ranking ranked for fourth worst on the entire team. In order for the Stars to succeed and commpete during this upcoming season, the Stars will need help from the likes of Nichuskin, Ritchie, and Faksa to help balance out any shut down the Top 6 might recieve from opponent defense.

 

 

Where will the Stars finish this upcoming season? Will Benn and Seguin continue and build off the bromance and build another 150+ points to their combined record? Will the Stars even trade one of their goalies? Stars fans, stay tuned and get ready to #bang October 13th

Central Division Draft Day: Team Needs



By Bobby Bauders
Senior Writer/Editor

 

We’ll have four team needs stories highlighting the draft needs of the teams in every division. Written on June 23rd, any trades that happened after this story was written will not be mentioned in this story, therefore some draft spots may be outdated.

 

Our Updated Mock Draft

 

Chicago Blackhawks:

1st Round Picks: 0

2nd Round Picks: 1

Total Draft Picks: 8

Chicago needs to clear some cap. Obviously the draft is about building your future, but Chicago’s cap is horrendous.

 

As for Chicago’s 50th pick, maybe Tim Gettinger or Markus Niemelainen will be available.

 

Colorado Avalanche:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 1

Total Draft Picks: 6

Colorado needs serious help on defense. But at Colorado’s place in the draft at 10th overall, they should be going after forwards.

 

In order to significantly address Colorado’s laurels on defense, it’ll likely come via trade or free agency.

 

As for the 10th pick, expect Colorado to look at Clayton Keller, Kieffer Bellows, or Logan Brown.

 

Dallas Stars:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 0

Total Draft Picks: 6

Dallas has needed defense for years and that stands today. Jim Nill has done an outstanding jobs assembling Dallas’ offense, but now they need defense.

 

Dallas currently sits at 25th overall and may be able to select Logan Stanley or Dennis Cholowski.

 

Goaltending is also going to be an issue soon, but with the goalie market about to heat up, they’ll probably address that via trades.

 

Minnesota Wild:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 0

Total Draft Picks: 4

Minnesota is absolutely loaded on defense. Expect them to look at offense.

 

Players available may be Luke Kunin, Max Jones, and Julien Gauthier.

 

Nashville Predators:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 1

Total Draft Picks: 8

Nashville is aging down the middle. They need to select a center who may be able to take the place of Mike Fisher in the future.

 

This draft is full of centers so it shouldn’t be too hard to find a player. Nashville needs to hope that Luke Kunin is available at 17.

 

St. Louis Blues:

1st Round Picks: 1

2nd Round Picks: 1

Total Draft Picks: 7

It’s known that Kevin Shattenkirk will be playing in a different city next season. It’s also known St. Louis wants to move up in the draft. Maybe they could figure out a way to trade Shattenkirk to Boston and get their 14th overall pick.

 

With that pick they could select anyone from Luke Kunin to Jake Bean to Tyson Jost. Blues could maybe use a scoring center in Kunin or Jost. Jost will be spending next year with the University of North Dakota, which would be fine with Blues because they have a good team now. Any selection will be for the future.

 

Winnipeg Jets:

1st Round Picks: 2

2nd Round Picks: 1

Total Draft Picks: 7

The only thing Winnipeg needs to worry about is selecting Patrik Laine. Seriously. People have been saying they’re considering Jesse Puljujarvi. All Kevin Cheveldayoff needs to worry about is saying “The Winnipeg Jets are proud to select Patrik Laine” at the podium.

 

Then they can worry about trading Jacob Trouba and re-signing Mark Scheifele.