The Dallas Stars have had an interesting season so far, starting off with a string of losses and underperforming players. Then November came, and the team began putting up wins. Now it’s December, and they seem to have finessed their team chemistry, despite their recent losses on the road. But as complex as their season has been, their roster is even more so. And when the season comes to an end, so will several players’ contracts.
Veterans like Alexander Radulov, John Klingberg and Joe Pavelski who are due to become unrestricted free agents (UFA) but will likely aim to stay on the roster. There are some that likely won’t. A few other players, who have been impactful this season, such as Jason Robertson and Denis Gurianov are becoming restricted free agents (RFA) at the end of the season, but it doesn’t seem likely that they won’t be re-signed, given their performances. There are also several young players this season looking to make Dallas their home.
But it is likely not just the UFAs or the RFAs that might be leaving the Stars come the 2022-23 season. There are also some players who haven’t meshed with the team chemistry or aren’t putting up the numbers they should be. As the Stars look to find their way out of their second slump of the season, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the following players.
It’s been an interesting time for Andrej Sekera. The veteran defenseman has had a very unremarkable season and it’s hard to evaluate him with the little ice time he’s seen so far.
The Slovak has played 19 games so far this season, and has only put up three points. He regularly finds himself in the third or fourth defensive pairing, and with his contract ending next season, the soon-to-be UFA won’t be on the roster for the 2022-23 season. He hasn’t made himself an attractive enough option to warrant him sticking around, and the Stars defensive situation is plentiful, especially with the new addition of Ryan Suter to the lineup, the void of strong veteran defense has already been filled. The Stars would benefit from removing the 35-year-old from the lineup and making room for younger talent that they can have for less money.
The 2021-22 season was a struggle for veteran goaltender Anton Khudobin, as he failed to find consistency this season. But recently the Stars placed the netminder on waivers, and he cleared and was loaned to the Texas Stars, Dallas’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate.
After contracting COVID-19 in 2020, Khudobin failed to find his groove in net, which can happen to some athletes after they recover from illness or injury. The goaltender just didn’t have his strongest game even while his teammates began to flourish around him. Despite this, head coach Rick Bowness hasn’t lost faith in the goalie.
“We’re certainly not ruling out him coming back. He’s still a part of the organization.”– Stars head coach Rick Bowness
Khudobin is 3-3-1 with a .873 save percentage and a 3.73 goals-against average in seven games this season with the Stars. Now he has the chance to find his game again playing in Texas, but it does seem likely that he may stay there into next season, despite the fact that he has one season remaining on his three-year contract of $10 million. The 35-year-old hasn’t played a game since Nov. 18, and maybe there’s a reason for it. He hasn’t had a good game in a while.
Perhaps he will do well in Texas, but he will really have to prove he can outplay Braden Holtby and up and coming star Jake Oettinger in order to earn his place between the pipes for the Stars. He may be a veteran and he may have led the team to the playoffs during the 2019-20 season, but the fans are itching for him to move on and maybe the organization needs to do the same.
Esa Lindell seems to be a bit of a toss-up player. Sometimes he plays on the first defensive pairing alongside Klingberg, while other times he’s in the third defensive pairing with new Stars addition Jani Hakanpaa.
The defenseman has played 26 games, and only has five assists (five points total with no goals). Yet, he has three years after this season left on his contract before he becomes a UFA. It might not be worth keeping him around, unless he decides to turn up his goal-scoring and defensive play before the season ends. He wore an “A” on his chest in the most recent game against the St. Louis Blues on Dec.14 (and has in the past) so he needs to earn it. With the way the Stars have been playing lately, they need him to step up more than anything. If the team does decide to keep him on the roster, they should expect more from him, after his several successful years with the club.
While he’s not new to the National Hockey League (NHL), Tanner Kero is fairly new to the Stars roster. He’s currently playing his second season with the team and has played all of 11 games so far this season, with two assists and no goals. The centre has shifted quite a bit in the lineup, most recently practicing on a line with Luke Glendening and Guiranov on Dec.16.
Stars practice lines (12/16):— Saad Yousuf (@SaadYousuf126) December 16, 2021
Robertson — Hintz — Pavelski
Peterson — Benn — Seguin
Raffl — Faksa — Radulov
Kero — Glendening — Gurianov
Suter — Klingberg
Lindell — Hakanpaa
Hanley — Sekera
Probably most talent Seguin has been on line w/ since Peterson/Radulov
The Stars recalled the forward back in November from Texas after sending Riley Tufte back down. Likely, the same will happen to Kero once again as he has played as mostly a filler player for the short time he’s been back in the NHL. It seems likely that he will go back to Texas for the 2022-23 season, or even before, and should finish out his contract there before becoming a UFA. The Stars had a plethora of talent to choose from in their AHL team and the centre doesn’t fit the bill right now, unless he shines for the second half of the current season.
Joel Kiviranta is a name that came from a lot of fans’ mouths before, but maybe not now. It may be too soon to tell, but it is likely that he won’t return to the team next season, despite having two years left on his $1,050,000 contract. The 25-year-old hasn’t turned many heads so far this season, and is running out of time to do so.
The forward currently has two assists and no goals in 22 games played this season. His last game played with the Stars was on Dec. 11, in a game against the San Jose Sharks, where he logged about six minutes of ice time and failed to put up any points. And now, he is currently sitting out with an upper body injury.
It might be to the Stars’ benefit to move him rather than finishing out his contract, to make room for thriving youngsters who continue to shift between the Stars and the AHL, such as Ty Dellandrea and Riley Damiani.
The Stars’ season is yet again hitting a low point as the team has lost their last four games, most recently their game against the Blues. If their season doesn’t turn around, for the second time, they will have to reconsider some players and ask more of others — and that may be just the start.
Who do you think should leave the Stars? Sound off in the comments below.
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.