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Stars season preview: Opening night roster breakdown

Dallas enters 2017-18 as the league's biggest team, averaging 210.4 pounds

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Stars will enter the 2017-18 season with 23 players on the roster: 13 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders. Nine players are Dallas draft picks, eight are trade acquisitions, and six are free-agent signings.

According to rosters provided by the NHL, the Stars are the biggest team in the league with an average weight of 210.4 pounds. The Los Angeles Kings rank second at 206.9 pounds. With an average age of 27.6, the Stars are tied with seven other teams for eighth oldest in the league.

Here is a look at the 2017-18 Dallas Stars.

 

FORWARDS

14 Jamie Benn, LW

Age: 28
Cap hit: $9.5 million | Contract runs through: 2024-25
Acquired: Drafted 5th round (129th overall) 2007

Benn's numbers were down last season (26 goals, 43 assists in 77 games). Injuries were a factor, but he won't use that as an excuse. He had a good offseason and should be as healthy as possible coming into this season, so the expectation is he'll bounce back on the ice. Benn has had a lot of individual success in the NHL, but the Stars have made the playoffs only twice in his eight seasons. So, he is hoping 2017-18 begins a new trend.

"It's been ups and downs throughout my years here," Benn said. "The Stars had a pretty good run of making the playoffs right before I got here. I am hoping the bad days are behind myself and this team, and we can put consecutive seasons together and make runs at the Stanley Cup."


91 Tyler Seguin, C

Age: 25
Cap hit: $5.75 million | Contract runs through: 2018-19
Acquired: Via trade from Boston along with center Rich Peverley and defenseman Ryan Button in exchange for forwards Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser and defenseman Joe Morrow on July 4, 2013

Like Benn, Seguin battled injury issues last season, but still played in all 82 games and tallied 72 points (26 goals, 46 assists). He underwent offseason shoulder surgery, but came into camp healthy and said he feels great. Seguin, who flipped between center and wing the past few seasons, will be the No. 1 center under new coach Ken Hitchcock -- a role that will include killing penalties.

"Since I've come to Dallas, I've wanted to be a No. 1 centerman," said Seguin. "I still want to be. I want to be a No. 1 centerman and a two-way guy."


47 Alexander Radulov, RW

Age: 31
Cap hit: $6.25 million | Contract runs through: 2021-22
Acquired: Signed as a free agent on July 3, 2017

One of the key offseason acquisitions by GM Jim Nill, Radulov signed a five-year, $31.25 million contract in early July. He returned to the NHL last season, after spending four years in the KHL, and recorded 54 points (18 goals, 36 assists) in 76 games with Montreal. The play-making winger, who draws praise for his work ethic and enthusiasm, will start the season where everyone expected - playing right wing on a line with Benn and Seguin.

"I knew he could score goals, but I didn't know his play-making ability until now," said Seguin. "He is going to be a great fit."


13 Mattias Janmark, LW

Age: 24
Cap hit: $700,000 | Contract runs through: 2017-18
Acquired: Via trade from Detroit along with D Mattias Backman and a second-round pick in 2015 in exchange for forward Erik Cole and a conditional third-round pick in 2015 on March 1, 2015

Janmark returns after missing all last season with a congenital knee condition that required surgery. There were questions about his status coming into camp and the preseason, but there were no issues with the knee, and he played extremely well. The speedy forward excels at both ends of the ice, and his absence left a big hole in the lineup last season.

"He's zero maintenance. You don't have to worry about if he is ready to play," said Hitchcock. "He is a guy you can see how much was missed last year, because whoever he plays with he makes better. He makes the line better. He makes the players engage competitively."


90 Jason Spezza, C

Age: 34
Cap hit: $7.5 million | Contract runs through: 2018-19
Acquired: Via trade from Ottawa along with left wing Ludwig Karlsson in exchange for forwards Alex Chiasson, Alex Guptill, Nick Paul and a second-round pick in 2015 on July 1, 2014

Spezza had a rough 2016-17, struggling through some injury issues and scoring just 15 goals in 68 games after tallying 33 in 73 games the season before. Spezza probably missed Janmark more than anybody last season. The duo developed chemistry in 2015-16, and they've been reunited on a line heading into this season. That should be a boost for Spezza.

"For me, it gives me a steady linemate," Spezza said. "I feel we haven't lost a step [as far as chemistry]. When you have good chemistry, it comes back pretty instantly. Even the first day we skated pre-camp you could tell we had played together and liked playing together."


25 Brett Ritchie, RW

Age: 24
Cap hit: $1.75 million | Contract runs through: 2018-19
Acquired: Drafted 2nd round (44th overall) 2011

Ritchie played his first full NHL season in 2016-17 and tallied 16 goals in 78 games despite averaging just under 13 minutes per game. Ritchie is expected to start the season playing right wing on a line with Janmark and Spezza, and he'll see power play time as well. Ritchie was among the leaders on the team last season in shots on goal and scoring chances and is looking for a little more finish this season.

"I would have liked to have found the net a little more, but I think the chances were there," Ritchie said. "You don't worry when they don't go in, you worry when you don't get the chances. When you get the chances, it will usually even out."


17 Devin Shore, LW

Age: 23
Cap hit: $870,000 | Contract runs through: 2017-18
Acquired: Drafted 2nd round (61st overall) 2012

Shore shook off an ankle injury in training camp one year ago, made the Dallas roster and played his first full NHL season in 2016-17, recording 33 points (13 goals, 20 assists) in 82 games, tying for 14th among league rookies in scoring. Shore was impressive in the preseason this year and had Hitchcock looking for ways to move him up the lineup. Shore is expected to get time on the power play as well, perhaps on the point.

"He's an efficient player who is going to help us in a number of areas," said Hitchcock. "He's on the right side of everything. He's on the right side of pucks, he's on the right side offensively, he understands concepts, he understands how to create offense from his own plays. He's a very smart player."


10 Martin Hanzal, C

Age: 30
Cap hit: $4.75 million | Contract runs through: 2019-20
Acquired: Signed as a free agent on July 1, 2017

Another key offseason acquisition for the Stars, Hanzal signed a three-year, $14.25 million deal on the first day of free agency. He missed the start of camp and most of the preseason due to an ankle injury, and finding linemates for him got a late start. But he's expected to center Shore and Tyler Pitlick to start the season. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound center will be a key player for the Stars because he'll play in key situations.

"You can use him in a lot of different areas," said Nill. "He can play against the best players on the other team. He's very good on faceoffs. He can kill penalties. And because of his size and the way he handles the puck he's also good on the power play."


18 Tyler Pitlick, RW

Age: 25
Cap hit: $1 million | Contract runs through: 2019-20
Acquired: Signed as a free agent on July 1, 2017

Pitlick, who played in Edmonton last season, was an under the radar addition in the summer, signing a three-year, $3 million deal on the first day of free agency. He's been slowed by injuries in his career, including an ACL injury that cut short his 2016-17 campaign. But the speedy winger, who scored eight goals in 31 games last season before the knee injury, could be a good addition if he can stay healthy.

"He's a perfect role player for us," said Hitchcock. "He's great on the penalty kill. He protects the puck well, great on the forecheck, hunts. We don't know where he's going to be scoring-wise, but he's a great fit for the tempo we want to play."


21 Antoine Roussel, LW

Age: 27
Cap hit: $2 million | Contract runs through: 2017-18
Acquired: Signed as a free agent on July 2, 2012

Roussel was on his way to a career-year offensively last season until he broke his thumb in early March and missed the final 18 games. He ended up with 12 goals in 60 games, one short of his career-high of 13. Roussel will bring what he always brings: energy, grit, a knack for irking the opposition and the ability to pop in a few goals. Roussel is expected to start the season on the fourth line with Radek Faksa as his center.

"At the start of last season we played a lot together, and it was perfect. We played really well together," Roussel said of Faksa. "He's a fun player to play with, he's got some grit, and we're a bit similar in some ways."


12 Radek Faksa, C

Age: 23
Cap hit: $2.2 million | Contract runs through: 2019-20
Acquired: Drafted 1st round (13th overall) 2012

Faksa played his first full NHL season in 2016-17, tallying 33 points (12 goals, 21 assists) in 80 games and ranking second on the team in shorthanded time played (156:54). The Stars rewarded the big, two-way center with a three-year, $6.6 million contract extension in the offseason. The Stars are looking for Faksa to take a step forward this season.

"His next step is to play through people on a consistent basis. He's a hardworking guy, he's dedicated and he's a good competitor but he can control the game by playing through people," Hitchcock said. "If he's going to the next level as a player, which we anticipate, he's got to play through the competition. In other words, he's got to make people chase him and he's got to be in other people's kitchen."  


27 Adam Cracknell, RW

Age: 32
Cap hit: $675,000 | Contract runs through: 2017-18
Acquired: Signed as a free agent on July 3, 2016

Cracknell was expected to play with the Texas Stars (AHL) last season, but when injuries hit in Dallas he seized the opportunity, grabbed a roster spot to start the season and ran with it. He played in 69 games and set career highs in goals (10), assists (six) and points (16). He can play center or wing, and it appears he is an option on the fourth line with Roussel and Faksa. The Stars gave him a one-year, one-way deal over the summer.

"Just because I got a contract it's not about settling. I want to get better every year," Cracknell said. "I want to show Jim and management that they made the right decision."


46 Gemel Smith, LW/C

Age: 23
Cap hit: $650,000 | Contract runs through: 2017-18
Acquired: Drafted 4th round (104th overall) 2012

Smith had a strong showing in camp last year and earned himself some call-ups to the NHL. He logged a total of 17 NHL games, tallying six points (three goals, three assists). He impressed again this year and earned himself a roster spot on opening night. Hitchcock said the speedy Smith still has to prove he can stick in the NHL.

"He has the necessary speed to play in the National Hockey League," Hitchcock said. "Whether Gemel can keep up from the tenacity standpoint, time is going to tell."

 

DEFENSEMEN

3 John Klingberg

Age: 25
Cap hit: $4.25 million | Contract runs through: 2021-22
Acquired: Drafted 5th round (131st overall) 2010

Klingberg got off to a slow start last season, but got on track and finished strong, finishing 10th among NHL defensemen with 49 points (13 goals, 36 assists) in 80 games. Since entering the league in Nov. 2014, Klingberg ranks fifth among NHL defensemen in scoring with 147 points (34 goals, 113 assists) in 221 games. It appears Klingberg will play on a pair with Esa Lindell to start the season. Those two played together a good portion of 2016-17.

"That's where my game started to change a little bit and picked up a little better," Klingberg said of playing with Lindell. "Esa's a great player, and I like playing with him."


23 Esa Lindell

Age: 23
Cap hit: $2.2 million | Contract runs through: 2018-19
Acquired: Drafted 3rd round (74th overall) 2012

Lindell is coming off a solid rookie NHL season in 2016-17. He played 73 games and ranked second among Dallas defensemen in both goals (six) and points (18), and he was tops with a plus-eight rating. There's nothing fancy about Lindell. He is a steady defender, who quietly goes about his business and gets the job done.

"He is zero maintenance. He comes to the rink ready to play," said Hitchcock. "He's also the perfect example of a young player who understands the importance of practice. That allows him to be a really consistent player during the competition."


33 Marc Methot

Age: 32
Cap hit: $4.9 million | Contract runs through: 2018-19
Acquired: Via trade from Vegas in exchange for G Dylan Ferguson and a second-round pick in 2020 on June 26, 2017

The Stars acquired Methot from Vegas in late June in a move to help upgrade the defense. The veteran brings size (6-foot-4/233 pounds) and strong defensive play. He'll help on the penalty kill as well. The thought was Methot could play with an offensive defenseman like Klingberg, but it appears that he'll start the season paired with Jamie Oleksiak.

"Marc's best when he plays against the other team's top players. We've got to find a way for him to have an impact in the game that way," Hitchcock said. "[Oleksiak] and Methot both make good plays under pressure. It's allowed us to have way more sturdiness than people realized that we could have back there."


5 Jamie Oleksiak

Age: 24
Cap hit: $964,688 | Contract runs through: 2017-18
Acquired: Drafted 1st round (14th overall) 2011

Oleksiak has been one of the pleasant surprises of camp and the preseason. After being in and out of the lineup the past few seasons and re-signing for the amount of his qualifying offer in the offseason, Oleksiak worked his way into the top four of the Dallas defense. The 6-foot-7, 255-pound Oleksiak, a left-handed shot who will play on the right side to start the season, has been drawing rave reviews from Hitchcock.

"He's a big man, doesn't lose many board battles, comes up with loose pucks, and he makes calm plays under pressure," Hitchcock said. "He's exactly what we need right now."


2 Dan Hamhuis

Age: 34
Cap hit: $3.75 million | Contract runs through: 2017-18
Acquired: Signed as a free agent on July 1, 2016

Last season was the first in Dallas for Hamhuis, and he struggled early to fit in with what the Stars were trying to do, but he settled in and became a steady player on the blue line as the season moved along. He brings experience and a solid defensive game to the lineup, and it looks like he will start this season on a pair with Stephen Johns.

"Dan brings a veteran presence," said Nill. "He came in last year and was new. Now, he is more comfortable. That's good to see."


28 Stephen Johns

Age: 25
Cap hit: $725,000 | Contract runs through: 2017-18
Acquired: Via trade from Chicago along with right wing Patrick Sharp in exchange for defenseman Trevor Daley and forward Ryan Garbutt on July 10, 2015

Johns was an impact player for the Stars when he made it to the NHL late in the 2015-16 season but last year was up and down. He spent several nights watching from the press box, and there was a brief stint in the AHL as well. But Johns, who brings size (6-foot-4/221 pounds), physicality and mobility, had a strong camp and preseason and will start 2017-18 among the top six defensemen.

"He has to be consistent with the puck," Hitchcock said. "If he makes the good plays and he is solid with it, and he's crisp with it, he can be an impact player, a top four guy."


29 Greg Pateryn

Age: 27
Cap hit: $800,000 | Contract runs through: 2017-18
Acquired: Via trade from Montreal along with a fourth-round pick in 2017 in exchange for defenseman Jordie Benn on February 27, 2017

Pateryn joined the Stars at last season's trade deadline, coming to Dallas as part of the deal that sent Jordie Benn to Montreal. Pateryn, a good defender with good size (6-foot-3/225 pounds), played in 12 games after the trade. He is more comfortable with the organization heading into this season. He was solid in the preseason and appears to be the seventh defenseman.

"I am pretty confident in my game, and I know what I have to do," Pateryn said. "I am not going to try to be something I am not. If I keep my game simple, I'll be good."


6 Julius Honka

Age: 21
Cap hit: $863,333 |Contract runs through: 2018-19
Acquired: Drafted 1st round (14th overall) 2014

Honka will start the season on the Dallas roster, but he won't be playing. The goal is for Honka to work with assistant coach Rick Wilson, who handles the team's defensemen, and try to work his way into the group of top six defenders. The highly skilled Honka is close, but not quite there yet, and the Stars want to get him playing either in the NHL or send him to the AHL.

"He's got to play all the time or on a regular basis or we're better off with him playing in the American Hockey League. Depending on how quickly Rick can get him up to speed, he has an asset that we need," Hitchcock said. "He's not in our top six, but he's got a chance to be a top four guy. We want to see how far we can get him in the first ten days here."

 
GOALTENDERS

30 Ben Bishop

Age: 30
Cap hit: $4.917 million | Contract runs through: 2022-23
Acquired: Via trade from Los Angeles for a fourth-round pick in 2017 on May 9, 2017

Bishop was the Stars' first big player move of the offseason, acquired from Los Angeles for a fourth-round pick and then signed to a six-year, $29.5 million contract to be the team's No. 1 goaltender. The 6-foot-7 netminder, a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist, ranks fourth in goaltender wins over the past four seasons. His goals against average during that span (2.26) ranks sixth among goaltenders with at least 100 games and his save percentage (.920) ranks eighth. He had an up and down preseason, but Hitchcock isn't concerned.

"The goaltending is the least of our worries right now. We're in great shape there," Hitchcock said. "We know how good Ben is and we know how good he can play."


32 Kari Lehtonen

Age: 33
Cap hit: $5.9 million | Contract runs through: 2017-18
Acquired: Via trade from Atlanta in exchange for defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy and a fourth-round pick in 2010 on February 9, 2010

Lehtonen, who shared the goaltending duties with Antti Niemi the past two seasons, will move into a backup role. Lehtonen had a rough 2016-17, but he could bounce back playing behind a team that should be better defensively under Hitchcock. Sharing the net the past two seasons should help him handle what is expected to be less playing time, although Hitchcock has said the team will need both goaltenders with the travel in the West and the schedule. Lehtonen looked sharp in his final two preseason starts.

"Of all the players on the team I would say Lehtonen has had the best camp of anybody including forwards and defensemen," Hitchcock said. "He's been outstanding."

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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