Before we explore the star options, it’s important to understand what they have to work with, in terms of menu places. Let’s check which players from last season will be back and who won’t be in the picture. Of course, there are also a few players that are question marks.
(Note: Use of the word “return” in reference to the NHL lineup, not just the organization.)
lock back: Jimmy Penn, Tyler Seguin, Joe Pavlesky, Rob Hintz, Jason Robertson, Luke Glending, Jacob Peterson.
This group does not need a large amount of spilled ink to explain the rationale for its inclusion in this category. Robertson is technically the only one not under contract but he is a 22-year-old domestic 40-goal player and a restricted free agent. He is a big winger and arguably the best attacking player for the stars. The only mystery surrounding him is whether he’s going the bridge route or the long-term route to his new deal.
Benn and Seguin are imprisoned. Pavelski was re-signed at the end of last season and is not going anywhere. Hintz is set to pass Robertson as the best deal with the team with another year left on his current $3.15 million deal. Peterson’s career is just getting started and he has already shown a lot of promise. Glending has another year left on his contract. In its turn and at its price, Glendening provides solid value to the stars.
Basically a lock for return: Radek Faksa, Denis Guryanov, Joel Kiviranta.
All three players are in this category for a different reason. Faksa is nothing but a lock to return to the stars. He has three years left at $3.25 million from AAV and has an adjusted no-trading clause (five-band no-trading list). Faksa’s stats will probably never reach a point where outsiders are satisfied, but the organization loves Faksa and views his role as important.
Gurianov is a restricted free agent whose eligible bid will come in at $2.9 million. Showing cards aren’t really a thing in the NHL unless you’re the Canadians or the Hurricanes, but even if they were, no one would advocate a bit to pounce and get Gurianov. It is likely that he will soon sign his bid to qualify and get another chance to figure things out in Dallas under a new coach. It’s almost a lock to return to the roster to start the season, but the probability of finishing the season in Dallas is a little lower.
Kiviranta has another year with $1.05 million. He hasn’t been very productive since Game Seven against Bubble Avalanche in 2020, but the stars loved him enough to count him in the lineup in post-season. How the new coach chooses his lineup will play Kiviranta, but he’s not as bad a player as the 13th forward.
Probably back: Marian Studenik
Studenic is a restricted free agent and their eligible offer starts at $787,500. That’s a lot of value for what he showed the stars last season. His pace was impressive, instantly fitting into different combinations of lines, playing hard and managing the match well. He hasn’t been a high draft pick and hasn’t shown enough on tape in the past to check optimism yet, as a player like Gurianov has, but his future is interesting. He is only 23 years old. There is a lot of development left and the stars may have found something in this waiver claim.
In limbo: Michael Raffel, substitutes Vlad, Tanner Kerro, Ty Delandria
Three different situations play here with these four players. Raffl and Namestnikov are no-holds-barred free agents and both have proven to be superb star flocks along the way. Ravel, in particular, helped his cause greatly in the playoffs with the way he played against the Flames in the Group of Seven matches. He was in Dallas on a one-year deal worth $1.1 million last season. By all accounts, he enjoyed Dallas and his teammates enjoyed him. Money will be a deciding factor for both sides as the stars will not have much to work with and Raffl, 33, will want to make as much as possible from the back side of his career.
Namestnikov was taken into the trade deadline for a fourth-round pick. He is 29 years old and has a good presence in the mid-six. Dallas was his sixth National Hockey League team in his nine-year career, so he’s certainly no stranger to moving in the league. He was on a $2 million deal last season and the stars wouldn’t get past that much, even if they offered to.
Kiro ended the years in the palace. He’s under next season’s contract for $750,000 and has proven to be the 13th choice forward for the stars. There is art that plays this role and it does it well. It also means that it leaves him on the sidelines of the NHL and AHL.
Delandria is an interesting case. The 2018 first-round pick drew positive reviews across the organization for the improvements he made to the AHL last season. He came to prominence as a positive for the stars when he was called to action in Game 7 Against Flame. He’s still only 21, however, unless he proves to be among the top 12, he may find his way back to Cedar Park. He should not play in that thirteenth marginal role that Kiro and Kiviranta might play. Given the stars’ limited flexibility, using a cheap striker like Dellandrea would be one of the first ways to upgrade the roster from last season.
He went: Alexander Radulov
Radulov quietly came out for a man who was an integral part of the first team streak for a few years half a decade ago. He’s given stars a lot, both on the ice and in the locker room. He was not a huge fan of the media and did not build a relationship with his fan base but his colleagues loved his skill, passion and passion. He signed to KHL a few weeks ago after his star contract expired, and netted $6.25 million.
(This is not an expected lineup, which will come later, but just an evaluation of the list.)
Hintz – Glendening – Seguin
Pavlesky – Ben – Robertson
Peterson – Fax – Guryanov
Delandria – X – X
Kiviranta, Stodinik, Kiro
What does this mean: The squad will have some question marks in training camp and these questions will not be answered by any of the players discussed in this space. Young attackers in the star system will have a say in how the final roster changes. White Johnston, Maverick Burke, Logan Stankoven, Fredrik Karlstrom, Oscar Buck, Riley Toft, Riley Damiani, and Delandria are all cheap options the Superstars can turn to in order to bolster their attacking squad and upgrade from last season. In the case of most of these players, especially the younger ones, the stars wouldn’t force them to join the NHL if it was negative for their overall development, but they are open to entry contracts working their way into the squad. How many of them are already ready for the National Hockey League will have a domino effect on everyone outside the top nine players.
Defenders and goalkeepers
lock back: Miro Heskanen, Issa Lindell, Ryan Sutter, Jani Hakanpa, Jake Oettinger.
Heiskanen, Lindell and Suter are all under contract next season and all three have full terms not to move. Oettinger is a restricted free agent but is clearly the team’s number one goalkeeper in the future, so, like Robertson, the only mystery is what the numbers look like on his next contract. Hakanba is under contract for an additional two years at $1.5 million per season, good value for a strong player who is one of the few right-handed defenders in the organization.
Basically a lock for return: Thomas Harley, Joel Hanley.
Harley falls under the same interpretation as Dellandrea, except the conditions on the blue line of the stars make it very likely that Harley is now a full-time NHLer. With four of the six top stars set to return to the stars, it’s hard to see a situation where Harley doesn’t fill in one of the remaining two spots, especially given what the stars might lose and what they bring in the power game.
Hanley is under contract for another season for $750,000. It’s a great #7 option that can fill this nicely when asked, no matter how long he’s been watching from the press box.
In limbo: John Klingberg, Anton Khadobin, Scott Wedgwood.
Klingberg has said he still prefers returning to Dallas, and the stars have said they want Klingberg back. The caveat to both sides is the money and the term, which is a pretty big caveat, obviously. Klingberg will test the open market and that is what will ultimately end up deciding in this long-running saga. Klingberg’s two extra seasons makes things more mysterious, especially given his age, but all it takes is one team. If not, meeting Kleinberg in Dallas is still on the table.
Khadoubin is under contract for next season at $3.33 million, which is the last year of his contract. It’s A-stars’ plan to support Oettinger, mainly because of the state of the contract, not because of his snowboarding. He also underwent hip surgery in March, which left him with six months of treatment. Under this schedule, he should be ready in time for training camp.
The stars will be relying heavily on Oettinger next season regardless, so Khudobin pushed And the Adding another better goalkeeper in the tuck could be a bit rich. This is where the Wedgwood factors come in. The stars took over Wedgwood on the trade deadline and he’s been fantastic for them in the long run. The 29-year-old is an unrestricted free agent looking for a multi-year deal. On the other hand, returning Wedgewood could prepare the stars for the Oettinger-Wedgewood duo for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, that will be a lot of money tied up in next season’s tuck between Oettinger, Khudobin and Wedgewood, as well as the $5 million Ben Bishop, which will be on LTIR.
Unlikely to return: Andre Skira, Braden Holtby.
Sekera is 35 years old and was a healthy scratcher to finish the season. It’s an unrestricted free agent and unlikely to return if the stars can find a way to upgrade internally.
Holtby spent the past few months on the shelf, eventually going to LTIR. He’s been a veteran presence when the Superstars needed someone to take on half the burden but with Oettinger’s appearance, it’s hard to see Holtby return when he should have better chances in the league, both financially and in his role.
(This is not an expected lineup, which will come later, but just an evaluation of the list.)
Hakanba – Lindel
Heiskanen – Sutter
Harley – X
what do you mean: The Superstars need to find one man of defense who deserves to be in the squad on a nightly basis. The first option they have is to re-sign Klingberg but if not, they can try out the deal basket at the free agency. One of the options that should not be excluded is the lifting of Dawson Barteaux from the palace. He’s a right-hand man and has a great relationship with Harley since their time together at the AHL. Barteaux has been positive in previous training camps, and the 2018 sixth round pick was right-handed and cheap. He’ll have to force the issue in training camp and pre-season, but it could be an interesting option.
The Stars had four goalkeepers in the training camp last season so this is clearly a team that believes in the ‘better safe than sorry’ mantra. It paid off for them, as the fourth goalkeeper ended up becoming their real player. It should not be ruled out that the stars would re-sign Wedgwood or someone else who might be cheaper to camp with Oettinger and Khudobin. If they are satisfied with Khodobin’s recovery, and aren’t worried about things beyond next season, then they can stay in the status quo.
(Top image of Michael Raffle: Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)