The Dallas Stars took a huge step in the right direction when they hired Jim Nill as the general manager in 2013. Nill came from the Detroit Red Wings and was known to be a wizard when it came to running a club’s free agency, trades, and draft picks.
He has had many successes in his nearly nine years in Dallas. From draft picks that are playing big roles today, blockbuster trades that changed the franchise, and offseason signings that solidified Dallas as a contender, he has had success year in and year out. Here is a look at his greatest all-time trades, draft picks, and free-agent signings in Dallas.
2013 First Round: Jason Dickinson, Forward
Dickinson played a few seasons in the AHL where he developed into a solid two-way forward. He made his NHL debut in the 2015-2016 season where he scored his first career goal. He went on to play 37 games with Dallas over the next two seasons before becoming an NHL regular. In his time with the Stars, he has become the most versatile player on the roster. He can play center or wing, plays up and down the lineup from the first line to the fourth, and is just under 50% on faceoffs.
Perhaps the biggest role that he plays is on the penalty kill. Dickinson possesses the speed, hockey IQ, and commitment to sacrifice his body that makes up a perfect penalty killer. He has also shown his toughness often. Ask any Stars fan and they will tell you that it is rare to have an entire game go by without him being hit in the face with something. However, he constantly gets back up and plays on whether it is a high stick, a puck, or something worse.
Dickinson will be an attractive target for the Seattle Kraken this summer in the Expansion Draft but the Stars want to do their best to keep him around as he could be a huge part of their future.
2015 First Round- Denis Gurianov, Forward/2015 Second Round- Roope Hintz, Forward
These two young forwards are arguably the most important pieces upfront for this Dallas Stars team.
Gurianov burst onto the scene last year leading the team with 20 goals on the season. He continued his high-level play scoring six goals in the first round of the playoffs versus the Calgary Flames including a four-goal night in the clinching Game 6. He is one of the fastest players on the team and in the league which allows him to fly down the wing and either beat defenders to the net or back them off enough to release his wicked wrist shot.
Possibly his biggest attribute is his high-powered one-timer on the power-play wing that became apparent last season. At only 23 years old, he still has much to learn and will continue to develop into a consistent scoring threat for the Stars.
Hintz has a similar style of play to Gurianov. He has a long and beautiful stride that allows him to open up space for himself and his teammates. With his long hair flowing in the wind, he reminds many Stars fans of a young Mike Modano who simply looked to be at a different speed than the competition.
Hintz is also a huge part of the Stars powerplay and is 50% on the faceoff dot. Despite a nagging injury that has kept him out of the lineup in just about half of the Stars games in 2021, he still continues to be the Stars’ best forward when he is in the lineup and should be for many years to come.
2016 Fourth Round- Rhett Gardner, Forward/ 2016 Fifth Round- Nicholas Caamano, Forward
These are two depth forwards that Dallas is very high on right now. Both players have seen consistent ice time this season due to the excessive injuries that the team is facing. Both bring a lot of speed and grit which has been noticeable on the fourth line but have also had to jump up the lineup and play bigger roles on certain nights.
Caamano has one goal in his career which came last season while Gardner scored his first and only goal on March 21 versus Nashville. These two spotlight a prospect pool that is very deep for Dallas.
2017 First Round- Miro Heiskanen, Defenseman, Jake Oettinger, Goaltender/ 2017 Second Round- Jason Robertson, Forward
With the pick of Heiskanen, this was already one of the best drafts in the team’s history. However, after what we have seen this season from Oettinger and Robertson, it now stands even further above the rest.
Heiskanen was an elite player from the start recording 12 goals and 21 assists in his first season with the Stars. The second season brought an even more well-rounded player as he turned a minus-14 plus-minus rating into a plus-14 and recorded 35 points in the 68 games that he played during the COVID shortened season.
He was fully introduced to the hockey world in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Playing in Dallas, he was not seen much on the national stage but showed what he could do when the spotlight shined the brightest. He led the team with 26 points in 27 playoff games during the Stars’ run to the Stanley Cup Final. Already in the Norris Trophy discussion at the age of 21, he is the Stars’ best player and most important piece to their future.
Robertson showed the potential of a scorer early on but struggled to find his game. Once the calendar turned to March, this was no longer the case. He led all NHL rookies with 16 points during the month which put him second in rookie scoring with 24 points in 31 games this season.
After losing 21lbs and adding strength this offseason, he has found his place with the Stars on what is being called the “Superline” by fans. Along with Hintz and Joe Pavelski, the line combined for eight points in their first game and has not slowed down since. Robertson is only 21 years old and looks to be a future superstar on this Dallas roster.
Oettinger has shown his skill this season coming in for the injured Ben Bishop and seemingly overtaking Anton Khudobin for the starting job. He has a 6-4-6 record with a .918 save percentage (SV%) and 2.24 goals against average (GAA). The most promising part of his game is his overall calm in the net. He allows his team to play their game in front of them with the confidence that he will bail them out if they break down, which he has. It was clear to Dallas that Oettinger was their future goalie but he has proven that he may be ready far sooner than they predicted.
2018 First Round- Ty Dellandrea, Forward
The final piece to the current Stars team is Ty Dellandrea. Dellandrea was one of a couple of Stars prospects to surprise people and nearly make the NHL roster last season. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, he plays a hustle and grind style of hockey that any coach loves to have. He uses his speed to put pressure on opponents all over the ice and is constantly winning puck battles or breaking up plays with his hounding ability on the puck.
He added his first NHL goal versus Detroit earlier this season and has scored two more on the season. At just 20 years old, he is also still learning and the Stars allow him to take games off here and there so he can watch from the press box and improve his mental game. Along with Oettinger, Harley, and many other young players, Dellandrea grew from his time on the ‘Taxi Squad’ in the Edmonton Bubble during last year’s playoffs.
Biggest Draft Prospects Not Yet in the NHL
Riley Tufte, Forward- 2016 First-Round Pick
Frederik Karlstrom, Forward- 2016 Third-Round Pick
Jacob Peterson, Forward – 2017 Fifth-Round Pick
Thomas Harley, Defense- 2019 First-Round Pick
Maverick Bourque, Forward- 2020 First-Round Pick
Alexander Radulov, Forward- 2017
Radulov signed with Dallas after showing that he could still play in the NHL after a brief stint in the KHL. He immediately clicked with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin and became one of the Stars’ most dynamic players. He has produced plenty in his time in Dallas scoring 27, 29, and 15 (shortened season) goals during his first three seasons. He has also shown that he can score when it matters most, recording five goals in the 2018-2019 playoffs and following that up with eight goals in the 2020 Edmonton Bubble.
One of his biggest attributes to the Stars is his energy. If you ever watch Radulov play the game, his passion is obvious. He celebrates every goal like it is a Game 7 winner and that energy has become infectious in the Stars’ locker room. He has been kept out for most of the games this season due to a lower-body injury but is still a point-per-game player with 12 points in the 11 games he has played.
Anton Khudobin, Goaltender-2018
Jim Nill has signed a lot of goaltenders in his time whether it was to split time with Kari Lehtonen, become their starter, or to be an insurance backup to the injury-prone superstar Ben Bishop. Khudobin has been a career backup goalie and was brought in to not only backup Bishop but to fill in as the starter when he is injured.
Over his two seasons in Dallas, Khudobin has played in half of the team’s games and has a .927 SV%. He also led the entire NHL last season with a 2.22 GAA. He would be tested most when Bishop was injured during the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This was the first time he was “the guy” for his team and he did not disappoint. He recorded 14 wins in his 24 starts with a .917 SV% and 2.69 GAA which was even better through the first three rounds before Tampa Bay figured him out in the final.
Khudobin will be another target for the Seattle Kraken this summer and with the emergence of Oettinger, it may be his time to move on but he has given the Stars more than they could have hoped and has become a fan-favorite in Dallas.
Joe Pavelski, Forward-2018
At 34 years old, Pavelski was set to leave San Jose for the first time in his career. He served as the Sharks captain and was one of their top scorers every season. Teams did not know whether he could still produce at his age but the Stars took a chance on him. He has shown that he can not only produce but he can do it consistent with some of the best in the league. After a few months of adjusting to his new team, he seemed to find his place with the Stars.
During the 2020 playoffs, Pavelski scored 13 goals in 27 games including multiple late game-tying goals. His brightest moment was his hat trick in Game 4 vs the Calgary Flames in a game that may have saved the Stars’ season. He has not slowed down a bit during the 2021 season either. He has 15 goals in 26 games and leads the NHL with 11 goals on the power-play.
It seems that he will be the third attractive target for Seattle this summer but the Stars will do their best to keep him around as he is a huge part of their current chances to make a run and does not seem to be slowing down any time soon.
2013: Stars Acquire Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverly, and Ryan Button from Boston Bruins for Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser, and Joe Morrow
Nill started off his time in Dallas with a bang. In the biggest trade for Dallas in a long time, the Stars acquired their future number-one center, Tyler Seguin. He had immediate chemistry with Jamie Benn and the two of them were unstoppable together for years. He has led the Stars in scoring nearly every season since coming to Dallas including multiple 30-goal seasons and one 40-goal campaign in 2017-2018.
He committed to a new style of play similar to what Modano did to win the Stars’ only Stanley Cup. He became a two-way player and helped his team in every area rather than simply an offensive threat. He is the Stars’ best faceoff man at 52 percent, leads the team in shots, and even contributes to the penalty-kill.
He is also a massive part of the power-play and leads the Stars with 43 game-winning goals since 2013. On top of all of that, he is also the Stars’ best option in the shootout at 50 percent which is far above the next best.
In a season where the Stars have struggled to produce scoring chances, score goals, win close games, and win past 60 minutes, Seguin has been severely missed but looks set to return in the next few weeks.
Peverly was a solid depth forward for the Stars during his only season. He recorded 30 points and provided veteran leadership to a young team. Unfortunately, his career was cut short due to a heart condition that caused him to collapse on the bench during a game in 2014.
He ended his career but almost immediately was hired as part of the Stars Player Development team in 2016. He has become a huge part of the team and continues to do great work off the ice both with the Stars and in giving back to the hockey community.
2014: Stars Acquire Jason Spezza and Ludwig Karlsson from Ottawa Senators for Alex Chiasson, Alexander Guptill, Nicholas Paul, and 2015 Second-Round Pick
Spezza was a huge piece during the high-flying Lindy Ruff era for the Stars. He recorded 62 points in his first season and 63 in his second when scored 33 goals. His veteran leadership was a big part of the Stars’ success as he helped them win their first division title in ten years in 2015-2016 as they were the regular-season Western Conference champions.
His production fell off a bit as the Stars struggled in the following two seasons failing to make the playoffs in both. After one last playoff run in 2018-2019, he signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs as the Stars moved on to younger options.
2014: Stars Acquire Mattias Janmark, Mattias Backman, and 2015 Second-Round Pick from Detroit Red Wings for Erik Cole and 2015 Third-Round Pick
This was a big trade for the Stars in a couple of ways. First, Janmark burst onto the scene with 15 and 19 goals in his first two seasons in Dallas. Although his production would decrease significantly after that, he played a huge role in a more defensive-minded Stars team.
He played hard minutes against the opponent’s top players and was arguably the Stars’ best penalty killer. After the magical playoff run in 2020, Janmark signed with the Chicago Blackhawks where he found a bigger role.
The second and more important part of this trade is the 2015 second-round pick that the Stars obtained. That pick turned into Hintz.
2017: Stars Acquire Ben Bishop from Los Angeles Kings for 2017 Fourth-Round Pick
This was a big win for Nill. Although Bishop has been injured a lot during his career, he is still one of the best goalies in the league when healthy. He has put up monster numbers since coming to Dallas with a 2.32 GAA and a .923 SV%. His best season came in 2018-2019 when he had a 1.98 GAA and seven shutouts. He shined his brightest on the big stage leading the Stars within one goal of reaching the Western Conference Final. The Stars lost to St. Louis in double-overtime in Game 7 despite his 52 saves in the game.
He is the Stars’ top goalie and looks to be set to return in the next few weeks after missing the entire season and last year’s playoffs with a knee injury that required surgery. He will play an important role as the Stars want to develop Jake Oettinger further into their future number-one goalie. If he can remain healthy in the next few seasons, the Stars remain legitimate Stanley Cup contenders.
2017: Stars Acquire 2017 First-Round Pick (26th Overall) from Chicago Blackhawks for 2017 First-Round Pick (29th Overall) and 2017 Third-Round Pick
Speaking of Oettinger, this trade is how he was acquired by the Stars. Dallas knew that they wanted him and traded up from the 29th overall pick to the 26th to ensure that they would not miss out.
As discussed above, he has made a huge impact on the Stars and looks to be NHL ready years before they predicted.
2019: Stars Acquire Andrew Cogliano from Anaheim Ducks for Devin Shore
There are few that played more NHL games in a row than Cogliano. The “Iron Man” forward played 830 games straight until he was suspended in 2018, the fourth-longest streak in NHL history. He has done nothing but impress since coming to Dallas. He provided a veteran leadership that is essential to the growth of the many young players on the Star’s roster.
He has served mostly on the checking line along with Radek Faksa and Blake Comeau which has been the Star’s best line over the last two seasons. He is an excellent penalty killer as well and has played that role to perfection his entire career. He is not the biggest offensive threat but has found a way to help his team with a few goals each season. The team is far better when Cogliano is in the lineup than when he is not.
2019: Stars Re-Acquire Jamie Oleksiak from Pittsburgh Penguins for 2019 Fourth-Round Pick
After drafting Oleksiak 14th overall in 2011, it did not work out for him in Dallas the first time around. He was traded to Pittsburgh in 2017 after years of inconsistency. After gaining some confidence and playoff experience, he was traded back to the Stars who were short on defenseman early in 2019. He found his place almost immediately on the second pair with Miro Heiskanen.
Oleksiak was a new player and showed the potential that the Stars saw in him back in 2011. He benefited most from the Stars’ new style going into the 2020 playoffs as the team wanted their defense to be more involved in the offense. He went up and down the ice scoring five goals and adding nine assists in the run to the final.
He has developed into a true top-four defenseman for the Stars and they are hoping that they can re-sign him as his contract comes to an end this summer. If they can and have no issues extending other contracts, the Stars should be set with one of the best top-four of John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, Oleksiak, and Heiskanen for years to come.
It is pretty impressive to look at the moves that Jim Nill has made in Dallas. He has brought so many key pieces to the team in so many ways and has created the Stanley Cup contender that stands before us now.
Just as important as the moves that he did make are the moves he did not make. It seems that Nill has a great eye for who to take a chance on and who not to. He is usually not the one to sign the big-name players that are asking for a lot of money as he chooses multiple small moves instead. There have been many superstar players that the Stars were trying to pick up only to pull out when the asking price became too high. Many of those players turned out to not be worth the price they were paid making Nill look even smarter.
Aside from all of the players that he brought to Dallas, Nill also hired some incredible coaches in Rick Bowness, John Stevens, Todd Nelson, Derek Laxdal, and goaltending coach Jeff Reese, who has been a huge part in the development of Bishop, Khudobin, and now young Oettinger.
Nill has brought a lot to this Stars team both in the present and even more so in their future and the Stars are lucky to have him as one of the best general managers in the league.
Sam Nestler is a Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the NHL and NCAA. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!