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Zuccarello, Lindell in Stars' long-term plans

Dallas will work to sign pending free agent forward, defenseman

by Jeff Miller / Correspondent

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars want to sign pending unrestricted free agent forward Mats Zuccarello and pending restricted free agent defenseman Esa Lindell, following a season when the Stars qualified for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in three seasons and nearly reached the Western Conference Final for the first time since 2008.

The Stars were defeated 2-1 by the St. Louis Blues in double overtime in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round on Tuesday after defeating the Central Division champion Nashville Predators in six games in the first round.

Zuccarello, acquired in a trade with the New York Rangers on Feb. 23, played two of Dallas' last 21 regular-season games because of a broken arm sustained in his first game with the Stars. The 31-year-old was more of a force in the playoffs, with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 13 games, tying center Tyler Seguin for Dallas postseason scoring lead.

Stars general manager Jim Nill said he plans to talk with Zuccarello's representatives in the next 2-3 weeks.

Video: Which pending free agents will stay with the Stars?

"Getting him back just before the playoffs was huge," Nill said of Zuccarello on Thursday, following Dallas' exit meetings. "He fit like a glove. I think he was a big part of our success, and we'd like to keep him here."

Zuccarello has 355 points (114 goals, 214 assists) in 511 games through nine NHL seasons with the Rangers and Stars. He has 42 points (15 goals, 27 assists) in 73 playoff games, and reached the 2014 Cup Final with New York.

"Right now I'm unemployed, so you don't know what you're going to do," Zuccarello said. "There's a lot of things you've got to think about. You want to win. That's probably the No. 1 thing that you look at.

"This is my team now, you know, and we'll see what's going on. I'm the kind of guy that I like when someone believes in you and wants you."

Stars coach Jim Montgomery said, "I think Jim will do what's best for the Dallas Stars, and I've already told [Zuccarello] that I'd like to have him back."

Zuccarello said he has enjoyed his time in Dallas, a place that he was unfamiliar with having spent his entire NHL career in the Eastern Conference.

"If I get back, there's a big, bright future here for this team," he said. "A lot of good players, a good goalie, good leadership."

Video: DAL@STL, Gm7: Zuccarello scores off favorable bounce

If Zuccarello returns to the Stars, the third-round conditional draft choice in 2020 that was sent to the Rangers will become a first-round pick.

Lindell, who will turn 25 on May 23, joined John Klingberg on the first defense pair and also played on the penalty kill for Dallas, which lost one top-six player before the season began (Stephen Johns, headaches) and another 12 games into the season (Marc Methot, knee). The Stars ranked second in the NHL in goals-against average during the regular season (2.44), were fifth during the season in penalty killing (82.8 percent) and are first in penalty killing during the playoffs (94.6 percent).

"He's a big part of our future," Nill said of Lindell. "I want to get him signed up. We're going to start talks right away. I hope it's long term."

Lindell has 77 points (24 goals, 53 assists) in 239 games through four NHL seasons with Dallas, and had four points (one goal, three assists) in the 2019 playoffs, his first postseason appearance.

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