News broke that six players and two staff members of the Dallas Stars have tested positive for Covid-19 less than a week ahead of the regular-season opener against the Florida Panthers on Friday morning. At this time the season will be delayed and we all hope for the speedy recovery of all those affected. While the regular season may be delayed for the Stars, as it stands play is to begin next Wednesday.
What can we expect to see once the season is allowed to begin for the boys in victory green? Assuming all games will be played, where do we expect the Stars to finish in the, forgive me for this, Discover NHL Central Division.
All things considered, the Stars relatively will take the ice with the same squad that took them all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. The few additions that were made in the offseason were to bolster the bottom lines, but let’s take a look at a few new and actually familiar faces that may make an impact in the upcoming season as well as a few faces headed out of town and on to new homes.
Mark Pysyk – Defence
Mark Pysyk was picked up in free agency on a one-year contract worth $750,000. He has spent time with the Buffalo Sabres and most recently the Florida Panthers. In his NHL career, Pysyk has scored 22 goals and added 66 assists for 88 points in 417 games. The right-handed blueliner is currently battling for a spot on the bottom defensive pairing. It should be noted that Pysyk also has experience at right-wing, but look for him to be exclusively used for his defensive play.
Julius Honka – Defence
Yep. He’s back. The Finnish Mafia looks to bolster it’s numbers with the Stars as the 25 year-old right handed defender is back once again for his second stint with the team. The once 14th overall draft pick finds himself back with the team he once scorned. It will be interesting to see if Honka gets a shot at the NHL roster as the previously mentioned Pysyk has hundreds of NHL games under his belt compared to Honka’s 87 games played. (Look for Honka to spend time in the AHL with the Texas Stars to begin the season.)
This is a low risk-high reward signing as the Stars signed Honka to a one-year two-way contract worth $700,000.
Roman Polak – Defence
Roman Polak was the lone Star that decided to opt out of the NHL’s Return to Play scheme. He signed a three-year deal in his native Czech Republic with his original professional club, HC Vítkovice. Polak is likely done with his time in the NHL as he is currently 34 years old. Not a huge loss, all things considered, seeing as you didn’t have him on your roster for the Stanley Cup run and were within two wins of being crowned Stanley Cup champions.
Mattias Janmark – Center
This one stings, if only a little. The Swedish right-handed center signed a one-year $2.25 million contract with the Chicago Blackhawks in the off-season. Janmark has the speed and ability to create space on breakaways but could never seem to finish. Having spent his entire professional career in Dallas starting in 2017, it will be tough to see Janmark in a different jersey. On a one-year deal in a new city, we can only hope he has a big year and earns himself a nice payday.
Corey Perry – Right Wing
I mean, what can one say? We adjusted to loving Perry for a season and he played his best when it mattered the most in the playoffs. Perry recently signed a one-year $750,000 contract with the Montreal Canadians, and unless by some miracle, we won’t be seeing him suit up against the Stars this season. The 35-year-old veteran is likely in the last years of his career, and while he served his purpose here in Dallas, he will always be remembered most for his walk of shame off the ice in the 2020 Winter Classic. Unfortunately due to salary cap reasons, the Stars were unable to bring Perry back, even if it was just for playoff purposes.
A major story line moving into next season is the youth movement. With Ben Bishop and Tyler Seguin on the IR until at least March or April, look for some fresh names to take advantage of the situation. Most notably between the pipes.
Goaltender Jake Oettinger was given his first taste of NHL action in the bubble and was perfect while on the ice. It will be interesting to see how much time he is given once the season begins as Anton Khudobin will now be considered the true number one goalie until Ben Bishop is deemed healthy enough to return. At 6 ft 4 in, Oettinger will mimic Bishop with their equally large statures and at 22 years of age getting NHL playing time will pay largely to his overall success down the road.
Ty Dellandrea is another name to look at. Although his path to the NHL may be a bit rockier. Not in a bad way, but the Stars depth at the center position will leave a small window for Dellandrea to make an impact at the NHL level this season. Check out my thoughts on Dellandrea here.
Lest we forget the names like Joel Kiviranta, who looks to continue his hot streak from the playoff bubble. Justin Robertson, who looks to find himself in the mix at left-wing on the NHL roster. Joel L’Esperance, who the Stars re-signed to a two-way contract worth $750,000. There is some kid named Thomas Harley who just helped his country win silver at the World Juniors Tournament. All names vying to be heard over the PA at the American Airlines Center when play is allowed.
Oh and one more name we are already fond of. You may remember him. Last seasons leading goal scorer, Denis Gurianov. The list of young players on the Stars roster is a promising one for the future of this franchise. (I could go on and on but yes I know I haven’t mentioned Miro or Roope. They are just implied at this point.)
Key to Success and Prediction
I think the biggest key to success this season is on full display right now. Staying healthy. At the end of the day, these players are still human. They, unfortunately, get sick just like you and me. This virus has turned all of our worlds upside down, and with the news coming our today of the positive test it shows that no matter what the circumstance is, we are all at risk.
If the Stars can get through this season without another major virus scare like this, and keep the ship steady without Seguin and more importantly Bishop, look for them to make a major splash in their newly aligned division. With your main threats being the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning, the Stars will have to play themselves out of a playoff spot in my opinion rather than in.
Look for the Stars to maintain the second or third playoff spot in the Central Division throughout the season and ultimately end up with the number two seed. The Hurricanes will be a pesky foe at the three seed but with suspect goaltending they will have to settle at three.
Regardless of where the Stars finish, I for one am ready for the season to get underway. Stay safe out there and be good to each other. Hockey season is upon us.