2017-18 season preview: Dallas Stars

Ben Bishop is a sight for sore eyes in Dallas. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas Stars: 34-37-11, missed the playoffs, $0 cap space.

Biggest changes: Few teams made bigger moves this offseason than the Stars, who dropped dramatically down the standings one year after winning the Central Division. They fired Lindy Ruff as coach and hired Ken Hitchcock, a defensive guru who led the organization to its 1999 Stanley Cup. Dallas tried to solidify its goaltending, a longtime weakness, by trading for the rights to Ben Bishop and signing him to a six-year, $29.5 million contract. The Stars also dealt for defenseman Marc Methot and then added depth down the middle by signing big two-way center Martin Hanzal to a three-year, $14.25 million contract. And as if that wasn't enough, a few days after free agency started, the Stars made their forward group even more dynamic by winning the sweepstakes for winger Alexander Radulov with a five-year, $31.25 million contract. Radulov effectively replaces Patrick Sharp, who signed with the Chicago Blackhawks. Dallas was partially able to make all this work after buying out the last year of goaltender Antti Niemi's contract.

Case for: Hitchcock should, at the very least, instill a defensive responsibility the Stars have been lacking in their own zone for some time. Winger Jamie Benn is one year removed from being a Hart Trophy finalist and two removed from winning the Art Ross Trophy. He's 28, but should still bounce back from a disappointing 69-point season. Center Tyler Seguin has notched 72 or more points since he came to the Stars in 2013-14, and is one of the top offensive talents around. He's a sure bet to again provide big numbers. The 6-foot-6 Hanzal will provide size and depth at center behind Seguin and Jason Spezza, 34. Defenseman John Klingberg's numbers dropped from 58 points in 2015-16 to 49 last season, but Methot's defensive nature should give Klingberg the confidence to roam again. A major monetary price was paid for Radulov, who had 18 goals and 54 points with the Montreal Canadiens, but he will provide an upgrade over Sharp, who had just 18 points in 48 games last season. Although Radulov's signing received much of the fanfare, Bishop will provide the biggest boost. With Kari Lehtonen and Niemi as their main tandem the past two seasons, the Stars posted the fourth-highest goals-against average in the NHL at 2.98. Bishop struggled last season with a 2.54 goals-against average and .910 save percentage between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings, but he's just 30 years old and has twice been a Vezina Trophy finalist.

Case against: A team doesn't go from being a bad defensive team to a good defensive team overnight. Plus, outside of Klingberg and Methot, the Stars are pretty thin on the blue line. Also, it's not a sure thing that Bishop will return to form, and if he doesn't, Lehtonen hasn't proven to be much of a safety net. Benn's struggles in 2016-17 came after a second straight offseason that involved major surgery, for a hip problem in 2015 and a core-muscle injury in 2016. His drop-off last season creates concern that his most prolific seasons are behind him. Hitchcock can wear on some of his best offensive players, and Benn and Seguin haven't needed to play two-way hockey for some time. This could lead to a major adjustment for the two with their new coach. Also, Radulov struggled with structure early in his career with the Nashville Predators, and although he resurrected his image to a degree last season, he and Hitchcock could take some time finding common ground.

Trade bait: The Stars would love to turn Lehtonen and his expiring $5.9 million contract into a longer-term asset. With Bishop in goal, they don't need to spend that kind of money on a backup goaltender.

Goalie situation rating: 8. Bishop finally gives the Stars a legit No. 1 goaltender. Lehtonen is fine as a backup and both should benefit from Hitchcock's defensive structure.

Scout's take: "I think if Bishop can play the way Bishop played in Tampa when he was the No. 1 guy -- I think that was their biggest acquisition because clearly they needed that. They had problems all last year in goal. Neither one [of their goaltenders] performed consistently. I think that was a problem. It hurts the team's mindset. They lost confidence in what they were sometimes. They had a couple of injuries and then, bang, the next thing you know, the goalie's not winning games and instead he's losing games for them."

Prediction: 1st in Central

Depth chart/Combos


Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Alexander Radulov

Mattias Janmark-Jason Spezza-Brett Ritchie

Radek Faksa-Martin Hanzal-Tyler Pitlick

Antoine Roussel-Devin Shore-Curtis McKenzie


Marc Methot-John Klingberg

Dan Hamhuis-Julius Honka

Esa Lindell-Stephen Johns


Ben Bishop

Kari Lehtonen

Mike McKenna