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Team Reset

Stars aim to end playoff drought with Montgomery as coach

Nichushkin returns to NHL; Comeau expected to help penalty kill

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / NHL.com Staff Writer

After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Dallas Stars:

The Dallas Stars hope a coaching change and the return of a skilled forward can help them qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

 

[RELATED: Complete Team Reset coverage]

 

Jim Montgomery was hired May 4 after Ken Hitchcock stepped down as coach, and forward Valeri Nichushkin, who played for Dallas from 2013-16, signed a two-year contract July 1 after playing two seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. The Stars also signed Anton Khudobin to add to their goaltending depth.

Dallas (42-32-8) finished three points behind the Colorado Avalanche for the second wild card into the playoffs from the Western Conference. The Stars have missed the playoffs eight of the past 10 seasons.

Here is what the Stars look like today:

 

Key arrivals

Anton Khudobin, G: After backing up Tuukka Rask with the Boston Bruins the past two seasons, the 32-year-old will work with starter Ben Bishop. Khudobin, who signed a two-year, $5 million contract July 1, was 16-6-7 with a 2.56 goals-against average and .913 save percentage in 31 games last season. ... Roman Polak, D: The 32-year-old brings size (6-foot-2, 235 pounds) and physicality to the Stars. Signed to a one-year, $1.3 million contract July 1, he had 131 hits in 54 games for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. ... Blake Comeau, F: Known for his work on the penalty kill, the 32-year-old was fourth on the Avalanche and first among forwards in shorthanded ice time per game last season (2:31). Comeau, who led Colorado with three shorthanded goals last season, signed a three-year, $7.2 million contract July 1. ... Valeri Nichushkin, F: The 23-year-old signed a two-year, $5.9 million contract July 1 after he had 51 points (27 goals, 24 assists) in 86 games for CSKA Moskva the past two seasons. A first-round pick (No. 10) by the Stars at the 2013 NHL Draft, Nichushkin had 29 points (nine goals, 20 assists) in 79 games for Dallas in 2015-16. ... Jim Montgomery, coach: After five seasons at the University of Denver, including an NCAA championship in 2017, the 49-year-old got his first job as NHL coach.

Video: OTT@BOS: Khudobin goes into a split to rob Dzingel

 

Key departures

Kari Lehtonen , G: After nine seasons in Dallas, the 34-year-old unrestricted free agent won't be back after the Khudobin signing. Lehtonen started at least 30 games each of the past eight seasons, and his 216 wins rank second in Stars history behind Marty Turco (262). ... Antoine Roussel, F: The bottom-six forward signed a four-year, $12 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks on July 1. Roussel, 28, had 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in 73 games last season. ...  Dan Hamhuis , D: The 35-year-old UFA had 24 points (three goals, 21 assists) in 80 games last season and was a staple on the penalty kill; he led the Stars in shorthanded ice time (213:00) and shorthanded ice time per game (2:40). ...  Ken Hitchcock, coach: He will remain with the Stars as a consultant after announcing his retirement April 13. In eight seasons with Dallas, he was 319-186-60 with 20 ties, including its only Stanley Cup championship in 1999.

 

On the cusp

Miro Heiskanen, D: The No. 3 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Heiskanen had 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists) in 30 games with HIFK in the Finnish Elite League last season. He turns 19 on July 18. ... Roope Hintz, F: The 21-year-old played last season with Texas in the American Hockey League and scored 20 goals. He had 12 points in 22 playoff Calder Cup Playoff games to help Texas reach the Calder Cup Finals. ... Riley Tufte, F: A first-round selection (No. 25) in the 2016 NHL Draft, Tufte had 29 points in his sophomore season to help the University of Minnesota-Duluth win the NCAA Division I men's ice hockey championship in 2017-18. The 20-year-old also had three assists in seven games for the United States at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. ... Denis Gurianov, F: The 21-year-old had 34 points (19 goals, 15 assists) in 74 games with Texas last season, his second in the AHL.

 

What they still need

Help on the power play. Dallas ranked 19th in the NHL last season (19.3 percent). Tyler Seguin (14), Jamie Benn (nine) and Alexander Radulov (seven) scored 30 of the Stars' 47 power-play goals.

 

Fantasy focus

Center Jason Spezza and the Stars' depth forwards had trouble staying fantasy-relevant under Hitchcock. Spezza, 35, failed to score at least 50 points for the first time in a full NHL season since his rookie season in 2002-03 (played five games in 2012-13 because of back injury). Spezza ranks 10th in the NHL in power-play points (307) since 2005-06 and could return to fantasy relevance on the top unit with elite forwards Benn, Seguin and Radulov, who each finished among the top 30 in Yahoo. Montgomery will be tasked with balancing the top-heavy forward group, making Spezza an intriguing late-round option in deep leagues. Nichushkin, who returns to the Stars after playing two seasons in the KHL, could help Spezza provide depth scoring and is a potential breakout candidate for one of the most intriguing teams in the Western Conference. -- Rob Reese

Video: MIN@DAL: Spezza backhands puck by Dubnyk

 

Projected lineup

Jamie Benn -- Tyler Seguin -- Alexander Radulov

Radek Faksa -- Jason Spezza -- Valeri Nichushkin

Blake Comeau -- Martin Hanzal -- Brett Ritchie

Mattias Janmark -- Devin Shore -- Tyler Pitlick

Esa Lindell -- John Klingberg

Miro Heiskanen -- Julius Honka

Marc Methot -- Roman Polak / Stephen Johns

Ben Bishop

Anton Khudobin

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