The Stars will likely be one of the busiest teams this summer heading into the 2022-23 season. After a first-round exit from the postseason, there are many questions that need to be answered. Below, we will briefly discuss the top stories to watch this summer, and then we will dive deeper into each one in the coming weeks.
Who is the Next Stars Coach?
After Rick Bowness decided to step down recently, the talks have shifted towards the next bench boss for the Stars. Will they hire a top candidate like Barry Trotz or Pete Deboer? Will they bring in a younger guy as they did with Jim Montgomery? Or do they have some under-the-radar names that could be the key to the future of this franchise? It is a tough decision for any club to make.
The decision gets even tougher when you feel that your organization is right on the verge of being a legitimate championship contender. With a blend of experience and youth, a massive prospect pool, and likely one of the best goalies in the league, that is exactly where the Stars feel that they are. That means that this hire needs to be the right one from Jim Nill.
“We wish John, Derek, and Todd, as well as their families, all the best and are forever grateful for their contributions and hard work,” said Nill. “The search for a new head coach will begin immediately.”
Will John Klingberg Stay in Dallas?
The John Klingberg contract situation has been coming in and out of the news throughout the entire season. With his term coming to an end this summer, the future is unknown for the 29-year-old blueliner. What is not unknown is his stance as he continues to stick to his commitment to the Dallas Stars.
“At the end of the day, I’ve always wanted to stay here,” Klingberg said during Stars exit interviews. “This is the only team I’ve been talking to, obviously with Jim. On our side, we’ve been trying to find different ways to get it done: year-length, money-wise to just try to get something that we’re both happy with. We haven’t been able to.”
There lies the real problem with these negotiations. Klingberg has been playing on a bargain seven-year, $29,750,000 contract while other defensemen in the league have been making the big bucks around him. Now, he wants a well-deserved raise along with some security for the future (reports say that he is seeking something around eight years, $8M per year).
Dallas, on the other hand, surely wants to bring back arguably their most lethal defenseman and a huge part of this team. But with money being tight, many other contracts to dish out, and the bad taste of the “failed” long-term deals of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin in their mouths, the situation may force both sides to go their own way.
“I’m going to keep in touch with John’s representative,” Nill said. “We talked, and John’s got an opportunity to be a free agent and I don’t blame him. He’s got to look after his family and that. He’s going to see what the market is. We’ll see what the market is, and get a feel for that and see if it’s a fit for both parties or not.”
To put it simply, this is a toss-up. Both sides have shown their interest in making a deal but there are huge factors that make that difficult. Around the league, players like Seth Jones, Torey Krug, and Morgan Reilly are getting their deserved raises and terms while Klingberg remains on the outside looking in, hoping for a chance to stay in the city he loves.
“Where I’m standing right here, right now today, I really don’t know what’s going to happen,” Klingberg said. “We’ll see. … They’re going to have their standpoint. We’re probably to have our standpoint. We’ll try to meet in the middle, I guess.”
Who Will Backup Jake Oettinger?
There is no doubt about the future of the Stars net. It is Jake Oettinger. But behind him, there is a list of goalies that have gone through the carousel in Dallas. So who will be in the baseball cap behind the bench on opening night in 2022-23? The top options for this role are Scott Wedgewood, Braden Holtby, and Anton Khudobin.
Wedgewood was traded from Arizona at the deadline and was a stellar performer during a time when Oettinger desperately needed a break. He finished the season with a 3-1-3 record and .913 save percentage during his time in Dallas. He is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Holtby and Khudobin are far more complicated situations. The two goalies began the season as the guys for Dallas before things got dicey. Holtby looked like the Vezina-version of himself before he contracted a lower-body injury that began to hinder his game while Khudobin never seemed to regain his footing after a tough 2020-21 season. Holtby began to miss games and Khudobin was eventually waived and dropped down to the American Hockey League. Both goaltenders eventually were done for the season due to injuries (Khudobin had surgery), forcing the Stars to go out and pick up Wedgewood.
Holtby (32) and Khudobin (36) have been around a long time and have seen injuries hinder their games as of late. Holtby is set to become a free agent while Khudobin still has one year left on his current deal. Can either return to their form for 1-2 more seasons? The safer pick would be Holtby and the Stars would love to see him get back to where he began the 2021-22 season even though it would require a new contract. However, as both get up there in age, there is no guarantee that either will wear a Stars sweater or even an NHL one ever again. The nice part of all of this is that the confusion surrounds the backup position. For the first time in ages, the Stars are heading into the summer with their starting job all figured out.
Who Leaves, Who Re-signs & Do the Stars Add Offense?
Dallas has a long list of contracts that come to an end this summer. That is why this past season was looked at to be vital to their franchise. The list includes some veterans such as Alexander Radulov, Michael Raffl, Vladislav Namestnikov, John Klingberg, Scott Wedgewood, and Andrej Sekera. It also includes some big younger players who are looking to cash in on their next deal including Jason Robertson, Jake Oettinger, Denis Gurianov, and Marian Studenic. On top of that, Roope Hintz, Joe Pavelski, Joel Kiviranta, Jacob Peterson, and Luke Glendening only have one year left.
This means that a lot of decisions need to be made this summer from the Stars front office. While it is clear that players like Oettinger, Robertson, Hintz, and Gurianov are not going anywhere, where does that leave the rest? How does Nill deal out the cash to make sure his top priorities are happy without losing too many others? It will take careful work and will surely be an extended project throughout this summer.
Which Stars’ Prospects Will Crack the Lineup?
We are going to do a very deep dive into the Stars prospects soon but for now, let’s look at the ridiculous list of names that seem to be ready to make a statement at camp this fall. Players like Logan Stankoven, Wyatt Johnston, Mavrick Bourque, and Antonio Stranges have dominated their respective leagues all season. Older guys like Riley Damiani, Riley Tufte, Ty Dellandrea, Frederik Karlstrom, and Ben Gleason have shown what they can do at the professional level. And above them, some guys have been in and out of the NHL lineup such as Jacob Peterson and Joel Kiviranta.
The scariest part is that is just scratching the surface of what Dallas has in the pipeline waiting for their chance. It is arguably the best prospect pool in the NHL and the Stars know they need to develop these players right because this opportunity does not come around often.
“We’re excited about what’s coming, we’re excited about what’s in place,” said Stars GM Jim Nill. “I think the franchise is in a good situation as far as younger guys coming in and the older core that we have to support them. I think we’ve got a special thing going here. We’ve been able to transition from one core group to another core group and we’ve got another group of kids coming in. I’m excited about the future.”
So…this will be anything but a boring summer if you are a fan of the Dallas Stars. There will be a new coaching staff, some extensions, some key players departing, and possibly some new faces both from the prospect pool and from around the league. No matter what, this will be a very different-looking Stars club when the calendar turns to October. Let the fun begin.