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NHL Burning Questions: Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars are looking to make some noise this year after a summer of little turnover. Adam Proteau looks at three key questions for the club heading into 2022-23.
Tyler Seguin

This is the newest file in THN.com’s ongoing “Three Burning Questions” series – three big questions for each NHL team before the beginning of the upcoming regular season. 

We’re asking Three Burning Questions about the Dallas Stars in today's file.

THREE BURNING QUESTIONS FOR THE STARS IN 2022-23:

1. How much do Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have left in the tank? As Dallas’ top-paid players for years now, much is expected of star forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and the duo has not produced enough offense to justify their salaries of nearly $10 million per season. Stars owner Tom Gaglardi said as much publicly, and nobody can really argue with him. Seguin was slightly better than Benn, posting 24 goals and 49 points in 81 games, while Benn generated 18 goals and 46 points in 82 games.

Both thirty-somethings have many miles on their NHL odometer, but those totals simply aren’t acceptable given how much salary cap space they take up. And the worst part is, Dallas is on the hook for Seguin and Benn’s salaries for the next five and three seasons, respectively. A buyout of one or both seems highly likely before they reach the end of their contracts.

In the meantime, Benn and Seguin project to be two-thirds of the Stars’ second-line, alongside new acquisition and former Florida Panthers winger Mason Marchment. They’ll probably get 17 minutes of ice time per game, and for Dallas to stay relevant in the highly-competitive Central Division, they’ll need Seguin and Benn to make a bigger impact in the offensive zone. If one or both can’t step up, or is hit by the injury bug again, the Stars are going to be in trouble keeping pace with the five other playoff contenders in the Central.

2. How much high-quality forward depth do the Stars actually have? The Stars had very little roster turnover this summer, with only veteran forward Alex Radulov and former cornerstone blueliner John Klingberg departing. Klingberg’s absence will hurt the defense corps, but the Stars still have a good deal of depth on the back end. The same can’t be said for the group of forwards, which does have elite talent in young forwards Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz, and star forward Joe Pavelski – who, at age 38, posted a team-best and career-high 54 assists and 81 points last year.

However, once you get past Dallas’ second line, you wander into a questionable group comprised of 33-year-old Luke Glendenning, veteran center Radek Faska (who has never produced more than 30 points in seven NHL seasons), a pair of 23-year-olds (Marian Studenic and Jacob Peterson), 25-year-old winger Denis Gurianov, and 26-year-old winger Joel Kirivanta. This is not a group that is going to intimidate opponents.

Stars GM Jim Nill has approximately 6.3 million in cap space at the moment, but most, if not all of that could go to restricted free agent Robertson, so Dallas is likely to be capped out by the start of the season. That means any moves Nill makes will have to be on a dollar-for-dollar basis. That means the Stars’ depth at forward is probably going to remain somewhat thin. If someone crucial goes down to an injury, it could spark the downfall of the team in 2022-23.

3. Can new head coach Peter DeBoer keep the Stars in the playoff picture? The Stars parted ways with head coach Rick Bowness after their first-round playoff loss to Calgary last spring, and Nill chose to go with veteran bench boss Peter DeBoer to replace him. DeBoer, who is now on his fifth NHL team, got a four-year contract from Nill – who, intriguingly enough, got only a one-year extension this week that leaves DeBoer locked into two more years than Nill has with the Stars. This speaks to Gaglardi’s desire to win, and win now, so DeBoer is going to be under massive pressure to not only make the post-season, but go on a deep playoff run.

DeBoer’s previous NHL stint with the Vegas Golden Knight had its share of rocky moments, particularly his relationship with starting goalie Robin Lehner last year. He’s got experience running a winning team, but he’s facing a gigantic challenge in Texas. The Central has three teams – the defending Stanley Cup-champion Colorado Avalanche, the St. Louis Blues, and the Minnesota Wild – who almost assuredly will be playoff teams in 2022-23, and the improved Pacific Division will probably take back the one playoff berth it lost to the Central last year.

That leaves one playoff spot, and three teams – the Stars, Winnipeg Jets and Nashville Predators – vying for it. Failure to make the playoffs by Dallas will probably lead to notable change. DeBoer is probably going to survive that change, but make no mistake – he will be called upon the carpet by Stars upper management if he doesn’t steer Dallas into the post-season this year.

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