While they secured a win against the St. Louis Blues on Nov. 20 and have a few other wins in their repertoire now, the Dallas Stars still seem to be stuck in their regular season slump. This unfortunately could have significant impacts on the players whose contracts are ending after this season, as they find themselves in the territory of unrestricted free agency. And for the Stars, that includes a lot of their top players, and a lot of players in general. So when the season does come to a close, what is going to happen? Who will stay? Who will go? Who should stay?
Here’s a look at the upcoming Stars’ unrestricted free agents and where they could or could not be heading.
Defenseman John Klingberg
John Klingberg has arguably become one of the elemental faces of the franchise, and a fan favourite. Hailing from Sweden, he’s an offensive defenseman with incredible hockey sense who has consistently found himself shining in the top defensive pairing. The Stars would be fools to let him leave the organization without a fight. There’s a noticeable difference without him in the lineup, and he has expressed interest in staying with the group with his next deal. If he were to end up in the open market this coming summer, he could be one, if not the, top defender and could demand a high calibre deal from any other organization who wanted. It was reported that Klingberg was looking for an eight-year extension worth more than $60 million, knowing this could be his last big pay day, given that he’s 29 years old.
The Stars will hopefully aim to re-sign him. They can afford to, even with the price he’s asking for, and could even sign him for fewer years if he’s keen. The Swede seems loyal to Texas and hasn’t given the impression that he wants to put down team roots anywhere else. He’s been adamant about staying in Texas. He’s among the top ten scoring defensemen in the NHL and losing him would be a major blow. And the longer the Stars wait to come to an agreement with their top D-man, the less likely it is that they’ll come to an agreement, even if both parties want him to stay. Overall, there’s a very high probability that the defenseman stays in Dallas.
Forward Alexander Radulov
Another player who has also become a secondary face of the organization is Alexander Radulov. Coming off a core injury in the summer, he started off slow in the pre-season but has returned to his regular offensive playmaking. He’s known for making scoring chances as a winger and has a killer wrister. Despite having some time off for his surgery, the forward came into the season stronger than ever. He has, however, put up fewer points than expected at this point with only seven points, and only one of those being a goal.
While he may not be at peak performance on the goal front, the Stars likely won’t let the Russian forward get away from them at the end of the season. It might be wise of them to expect more from the winger, considering his nearly veteran status on the team. Perhaps he can earn the “A” back, which he hasn’t worn for the team since the 2019-20 season. Like Klingberg, he loves playing in Dallas, so he would definitely be the guy to fight to stay with the team. Plus, he produced decent plays alongside his new linemate Jacob Peterson and usual go-to partner Tyler Seguin.
Stars lines at practice (11/22):— Saad Yousuf (@SaadYousuf126) November 22, 2021
Robertson — Hintz — Pavelski
Raffl — Benn — Gurianov
Kiviranta — Seguin — Glendening
Peterson — Faksa — Radulov
Suter — Klingberg
Lindell — Heiskanen
Hanley — Hakanpaa
Sekera and Kero also on the ice.
It’s likely that the Stars, in a similar situation with Klingberg, would keep Radulov around if they can. There hasn’t been much talk around his projected contracts just yet, but he would definitely be one of the top players up for grabs if the Stars release him into the UFA universe. It is likely he’ll stay in Dallas if the Stars can once again offer him up an attractive contract, if they have the desire to.
Forward Joe Pavelski
Joe Pavelski is another player whose future with the organization remains uncertain, and he has more points than some of the veteran Stars players. This is his third season with the team and he’s fit quite well into the roster, often acting as a leader for the rest of the team. He even wore an “A” on his chest last season, and is still sporting it this season. He’s invested his skills and drive into the team since the preseason began, so it seems as if he’s trying to make a steady name and a place for himself on the roster while setting his teammates up for goals along the way.
He’s been on fire on the top line with Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz, both of whom have been magnetic since the start of the season.
The forward has been an asset to the team since he joined, so it would make sense for him to stick around longer if he can. But if the Stars can’t offer him what he wants, then he may just seek a team elsewhere. His upcoming unrestricted free agency hasn’t been talked about much, so only time will tell if this forward’s time in Dallas is coming to a close or just ramping up.
Forward Michael Raffl
The forward has only just joined the Stars’ roster this season but seems to be fitting in quite well. In fact, in Rick Bowness’ ever-changing line rotations, the veteran NHLer has recently been put on a line with Benn and Denis Gurianov — a combination that has been integral in the Stars’ recent success (albeit minimal). It has recently proved to be a “spark plug” for the team, and the line looked great against their most recent 4-1 win against the St. Louis Blues. Raffl shone on the penalty kill and has been a solid performer as of recent. Bowness said he’s a big body who’s physical, protects the puck and creates offense when it’s needed. He’s been a great addition to the roster with two goals and four assists and leads the team in penalties drawn. He’s also quite versatile.
“That’s what Michael does. He’s a reliable player and a veteran player and that’s what we need from him.”– Stars head coach Rick Bowness
The team seems to have made the left winger feel right at home and set him up for success. With his impending unrestricted free agency, it’s uncertain whether the forward is due to stick around for another season or two, or whether the team has a tough decision to make and cut him loose. It seems likely they’ll re-sign him but crazier things have happened before.
Defenseman Andrej Sekera
It seems unlikely at this point that Andrej Sekera will stay with the Stars. The veteran defenseman has spent a couple games as a healthy scratch so his stint with the Stars could be closing come the end of the season. The team needs more young talent and getting rid of Sekera, who is often on the third or fourth defensive pairing, could allow for younger talent or prospects from the Texas Stars to move up. Bowness has treated him more like a filler player and he doesn’t seem like a long-term investment. His points are low and the only move that seems possible for the player is if they let his contract run its course and let him go.
Goaltender Braden Holtby
Braden Holtby has been one player that seemed like a toss-up at the start of the season due to his horrible previous season with the Vancouver Canucks. The Stars’ goalie situation is undeniably complex, with four guys vying for top spot in the crease, but Holtby has shown up — and showed off — since the start of the season. He had some strong starts, and it’s becoming clear that the team would be worse off without him between the pipes. With newbie Jake Oettinger showing promise, Bishop still sitting the season out despite being cleared to play and Anton Khudobin showing inconsistency in numbers, the netminder might be exactly what the Stars need to keep their playoff dreams alive.
Despite recently suffering a lower-body injury at the beginning of November, and not playing since, the goaltender is currently sitting with a .918 save percentage. It’s uncertain whether he will play in the Stars next game against the Edmonton Oilers (from “Braden Holtby sees limited action, giving Stars four goalies on the ice during practice”, The Dallas Morning News,, Nov. 22, 2021). The netminder still has lots of time to prove he deserves a spot on the Stars, and if he continues playing as solidly as he has, he’ll be guaranteed more time with the team in the next season and beyond.
The next chunk of games is pretty important ones for the Stars. They’re facing other three division teams and on Nov. 23, they’re playing the Oilers, who are currently sitting second in the Pacific division.
The next 8 days are quite gargantuan to the Stars’ season.— Saad Yousuf (@SaadYousuf126) November 19, 2021
Home vs. Blues (1 day rest)
Home vs. Oilers (2 days rest)
Home vs. Avs (2 days rest)
@ Coyotes (second night of back-to-back, but worst team in NHL)
3 division games, the other against the best player on the planet.
There’s still time left in the season for the Stars to make decisions regarding their soon-to-be free agents, and these next few games may be integral as they start to configure who they want to keep in Dallas.
Raylene Lung is a journalist based in Ottawa and has a Masters of Journalism from Carleton University. She has previously written for The Victory Press, The Hockey News, Canadian Geographic and most recently worked at CBC Edmonton. She still reads magazines religiously and loves women’s hockey. When she isn’t writing, she is riding her horse. She currently covers the Dallas Stars for The Hockey Writers.