Howdy folks, it’s been a while since we’ve done a “Hey Heika,” but now seems like a perfect time.

First, I just wanted to say how much fun this season has been. A lot of us have been following this team for a few decades, and we know how tough it is when they’re battling to just get into the conversation or when they are clearly on the outside looking inward. This was the second-best regular season in franchise history. This was a group that produced a ton of great and historic moments, smashed plenty of franchise records and produced a lot of fun sports watching. It’s a 10-month process to get to this point, so you have to appreciate the journey even if you’re not happy with the final destination.

Bottom line, it took a lot just to get to this spot, so let’s remember the good times and be motivated by the not-so-good. The hope is this team is in the middle of conjuring up something that could be pretty special.

Onto your questions:

@QWinner96: Hey Mike, what do you think the chances are that Duchene resigns with us on a team-friendly deal?

HEIKA: At first glance, it seems a no-brainer for both sides. Matt Duchene was a great fit, Joe Pavelski might not be back and scoring depth was a big part of this team’s success. As long as you can make the numbers work, finding a way to keep him makes sense. But then you saw that the coaching staff worked hard to keep Mavrik Bourque as a center whenever they used him and you look at the fact that Roope Hintz and Wyatt Johnston are the team’s top two centers, and you wonder how this all fits together. Yes, Bourque could play the wing. With Tyler Seguin a potential replacement for Pavelski on a line with Hintz and Jason Robertson, then keeping Jamie Benn with Johnston and Logan Stankoven, you could put Bourque on the right wing on a line with Duchene and Mason Marchment. But if the numbers for Duchene don’t work out, it would be easy to see Bourque take over at center and then a right wing like Evgenii Dadonov or Ty Dellandrea or even someone from the AHL might work. You could even dip into free agency or a trade if you wanted to improve the winger position. This will be an interesting negotiation, and maybe a lot trickier than it first appears.

@TEXASHOCKEYWOO: hey mike, do you think that jim nill views tanev as a necessary piece to resign this offseason? it seems like he could slot in with anyone in any pairing and he would still look great.

HEIKA: I would say he is the most important player in the conversation this summer. One, he was very good. The Stars went 15-4-0 in the regular season after acquiring him, and he posted solid numbers in the playoffs. He is the perfect fit for this team. Mix in the fact that he is right-handed and two major question marks in two other right-handed defensemen (Jani Hakanpää’s health and UFA status and the trust that the coaching staff has in Nils Lundkvist) and it seems like Tanev is a must to re-sign. Tanev is 34 and the market will probably be pretty hot if he hits free agency. But he seemed to have a good experience in Dallas, the Stars are a legitimate contender and the front office has a head start on the rest of the league to get him signed. It makes sense to bring him back, so then it’s just a matter of making the numbers work.

@2MINIHULK: Obviously emotions are still raw, but what are the odds Pavelski actually comes back during the season for 1 more attempt at a Cup?

HEIKA: That’s an interesting debate. We have no idea what Joe Pavelski is going through or what he would like from his post-playing career, but the Zach Parise story is an intriguing one. Parise was a free agent after last season and pondered a possible return. He eventually signed with the Avalanche mid-season in hopes of making a run at the Stanley Cup. Could Pavelski do the same thing? Only he knows for sure. Taking the first half of the season off could be good for a player who is nearing 40. Adding his leadership and skill could be good for a team that wants to make that push. He has not officially announced his retirement, so it’s not out of the question that Pavelski could come back. But a lot would have to go right for that to actually materialize.

@ctisbell: What are your thoughts on Pavs coaching the PP? I know the season stats are good but they can't seem to make adjustments when they get figured out in the playoffs.

HEIKA: Coaching is a hard job. I don’t know what Joe Pavelski thinks, but it seems (if he wants it) he will have the choice between coaching and management if he so chooses to stay in hockey. Most high-level players choose management when given the option. The Stars special teams have been among the best in the league for the past two seasons - fourth on the penalty kill at 82.7 percent and fifth on the power play at 24.6 percent - and Stars coach Pete DeBoer takes a lot of pride in those stats. The guess is Dallas will simply try to learn from what happened in the playoffs and make tweaks with the same people in charge.

@ultramike18: Is Wedgy done and now it’s Matt Murray time to help create cap space?

HEIKA: I honestly believe that Scott Wedgewood is the perfect backup for this team. He likes to describe himself as an “emotional support goalie” in that he really does give positive vibes to everyone around him, particularly the goal-scorers who stay after practice and shoot on him. He has been great for the younger players on and off the ice and is also a fantastic sounding board for Jake Oettinger. He went 16-7-5 (granted, with a 2.85 GAA and .899 save percentage) and helped create the positive momentum when Oettinger was out with an injury back in December. Murray is 26 and had so-so numbers in the AHL at 14-15-2 with a 3.02 GAA and .896 save percentage. Remi Poirier is 22 and played all seven AHL playoff games, so he seems to be moving into the No. 3 goalie spot for the organization right now. Either way, it seems like the best option is to keep Wedgewood as long as they can get the numbers right on a new contract.

@jkrikava83: I’m a huge fan of PDB & believe he’s a big reason we’ve gone as far as we have these past 2 seasons. Seems crazy to see so many fans saying we need to fire him. Would love your thoughts on this. Also, how likely is it that we look for a new head coach?

HEIKA: Coaches are “hired to be fired” as the old saying goes, and hockey seems to do it quicker than any other sport. But Pete DeBoer and his coaching staff have led the Stars to the Western Conference Final in two straight years. They also produced the second-best regular season record in franchise history, so it seems illogical to even entertain a thought like that. Now, there are areas that can cause fans to start talking. You probably were concerned with the emotion in the press conference after Game 5, and you do wonder if the use (or lack thereof) of Nils Lundkvist caught up with the defense by the end of the playoffs. Those are real things. But an organization has to be able to manage ups and downs in all areas, and the guess is that’s what the Stars will do. The mantra of adversity making you better is something that is true at all levels.

@gkstars3: What’s it take to keep Tanev and would Nils accept a minor league assignment to work on his game?

HEIKA: I’m not sure on what the Tanev contract will look like, but the guess is it needs to be the first priority for the team – and needs to get done before July 1. Once that’s done, a lot of other things can fall into place. I agree a minor league stint would be good for Nils Lundkvist, but he would have to accept it and he would have to clear waivers. As a former first-round pick (who cost a first and fourth round pick), the guess is he would get scooped up by somebody. It looks like the Stars will have to make a commitment to get the most out of Lundkvist or move him along. He can’t just sit on the fringes.

@Mo_Bock: do the Stars have the tools to make another run for the cup, or are we at the point of "rebuilding"?

HEIKA: I believe they are set up to be competitive for years to come. They have key pieces like Jason Robertson, 24, Miro Heiskanen, 24, Jake Oettinger, 25 and Roope Hintz, 27, on good contracts. They will see Jamie Benn’s $9.5 million cap hit reduced after next season. They have very good players in Thomas Harley, 22, Mavrik Bourque, 22, Wyatt Johnston, 21, Logan Stankoven, 21, and Lian Bichsel, 20, just starting their careers. Jim Nill has done a great job of getting the Stars to a place where they should be consistent contenders every year for the foreseeable future.

@jkrikava83: After coming so close two seasons in a row, what do you think is the one main thing the Stars need to get us over the hump for next year? What’s that missing piece that will get us the Cup?

HEIKA: Even with retaining Chris Tanev and even if Nils Lundkvist sticks around, they still could benefit from a right-handed partner for Miro Heiskanen. That would allow Heiskanen to move back to the left side and would give the Stars defense the balance it needs with lefties and righties. If it cost taking some of the forward depth money to get that guy, I think it would make sense to really try to find a top pairing right-handed defenseman.

@CaniacBombs: What do you think happens to Nils Lundkvist? Do they keep him as an RFA and wait for to blossom his development or do you think they’ll move on from him for another draft pick or 4th line or 7th d man player?

HEIKA: He has a qualifying offer of about $875,000, so the guess is they qualify him and own his rights and then have internal talks about whether it can work for him in Dallas. The Stars gave up a first-round pick and a fourth-round pick to get Lundkvist from the Rangers, so they would want some value in return if they do try to trade him. He is a skilled right-handed defenseman, so he would seem to have value. But we saw with Julius Honka that sometimes the market just isn’t there. My guess is they keep him and try to make it work here.

@stewy771: How do you see Radek Faksa’s future with Dallas? Is he trade-able? More valuable as a “13th” forward?

HEIKA: I like Radek Faksa and I think he’s a useful player. He is 6-3, 220 and a fantastic penalty killer. He had below average numbers last season with 19 points (7 goals, 12 assists) in 74 games, and he was a healthy scratch at times in the playoffs. He’s 30 and he has one more year left on a contract that pays him $3.25 million. The guess is in signing players like Sam Steel for $850,000, the Stars feel they can find a cheaper option than Faksa to play a similar role. So then the question becomes whether they could trade him or not. It’s certainly worth discussing. I actually think he could be a solid checking line center (probably on the third line) on a team that wants a player in that role. He’s big, good on faceoffs and very strong defensively.

@cancealing: Assuming we re-sign Duchene, and we sign RFA’s Steel and Dellandrea, does Bourque go to right wing on the Hintz line? They say we like Wyatt at center so there won’t be a spot at center. Plus Bourque should be a top 9 forward.

HEIKA: If Duchene stays, Bourque would have to move to a wing. Roope Hintz, Wyatt Johnston and Duchene are natural centers. Johnston can switch, but he might be your best overall center. The guess is they would move Bourque around until they find the right fit. You have Seguin, Stankoven and Dadonov who also can fill that role on the right side, so injuries and performance would dictate.

@MBTendy: What are the chances Benn gets an extension this offseason to avoid any potential distractions during the year seeing as he’ll be an UFA after next season. And what would be your guess on his next contract?

HEIKA: That actually makes sense. He’s coming off a strong playoff season, and his leadership is all the more important with Pavelski potentially leaving. They signed Pavelski to a one-year extension in March of 2022 for the following season. They signed another one-year extension in January of 2023 for this past season. If Benn, who will turn 35 next month, is interested in going to one-year deals, it might be something that would be good to get done either before or during next season.

@JakeOffield: why do you think the Stars struggled at home in the playoffs?

HEIKA: It’s one of the most important questions they are facing in looking back at this. My guess is they are not sure, so it’s tough to find answers for that at this time. You work all year for what seems to be an advantage and then don’t use it? That’s a real concern going forward.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.