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Hey Heika: Why did Stars sign Pavelski over Zuccarello?

DallasStars.com senior staff writer Mike Heika answers Twitter questions from fans in his latest mailbag

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Ah, the interaction with the fan is always something educational after a couple of big weeks. Here, in Hey Heika, we take your questions from Twitter, answer them, and combine them all in a package that hopefully entertains and informs.

Let's take a crack at it:

 

Why did the Stars pay Pavelski $7 million per season for ages 35-38 of his career instead of Zuccarello $6 million per year for his ages 31-36 seasons? Was it all about keeping the 1st round pick? -- @RockyMntRaider

Mike Heika: While I think keeping the pick is a good benefit, I think this was more about contract length and, in the long run, fit.

The Stars loved what Mats Zuccarello added to the team and would have surrendered the first-round pick in 2020 (moving up from the third-round pick that already is going to the Rangers) if Zuccarello would have agreed to a four-year deal. He wanted five, and he eventually got that from Minnesota, so he made the right decision. The Stars also feel they made the right decision, as they have longer term contracts coming up for Miro Heiskanen, John Klingberg and Roope Hintz and they did not want to clog up an extra year (and now they save two years).

I believe they actually found a player who will be more impactful than Zuccarello. Yes, Pavelski is turning 35, but he takes incredible care of himself and he plays a game that should age well. He's a center who can play wing, and that makes him more versatile, and he is a tremendous leader. The former captain of the San Jose Sharks leads both by example and with his words and actions, and I think that's going to be a great fit for the Stars.

I think he's exactly what they need at a very reasonable term.

Video: Nill happy with the Stars' moves in free agency

 

Any guess on line combinations? -- @RobertMerrillIV

Heika: Jim Montgomery will be changing lines all over the place, but I wouldn't mind something like this to start:

Roope Hintz - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov

Jamie Benn - Joe Pavelski - Corey Perry

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau

Mattias Janmark - Jason Dickinson - Denis Gurianov

 

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Miro Heiskanen - Stephen Johns

Jamie Oleksiak - Andrej Sekera

 

Ben Bishop

Anton Khudobin

 

Stars look great so far. Once the season starts do you think the Stars may do a midseason trade and get another big piece to got deep in the playoffs!? -- @jperez21jone

Heika: Yes, I think that is very likely. Because Martin Hanzal will almost assuredly go on long-term IR, the Stars will be able to exceed the cap and possibly make a deadline-type trade, the same way they did with Mats Zuccarello.

My guess is they could be in the market for a top-four defenseman at that time. The two things that could prevent that is if Stephen Johns is healthy and playing well or if Andrej Sekera returns to the top-four form he showed in Edmonton and Carolina.

The problem with the LTIR situation is it puts the Stars over the salary cap. When the Stars are over the salary cap, any bonuses slide to the next season. That means that if they exceed the cap with a deadline deal trade and players like Corey Perry and Sekera earn their bonuses, the Stars could be tighter against the cap in 2020-21.

But, if they need a defenseman and can add one, I think they will.

 

Are we expecting to see Pavelski as a center or wing opening night? -- @Chris_Armey

Heika: My guess is center, but he played a lot of wing in San Jose so he's flexible.

The great thing about Pavelski is he's right-handed and both Jamie Benn and Roope Hintz are left-handed. That means that if Pavelski is on a line with either, they can switch out faceoff duties and also some of the center duties in the defensive end.

I think you'll see him slide around a lot and be used in different roles.

Video: Pavelski excited for chance to win in Dallas

 

Who among the Texas Stars or other young players have a chance to make the big club this season? Thanks -- @scone099

Heika: I really like how this is starting to set up for the Stars. It's my belief that instead of keeping players like Julius Honka, Brett Ritchie, Gemel Smith and Remi Elie (who all required waivers), the Stars are going to allow players who do not require waivers to slide up and down between the NHL and AHL. That could be because of injuries or because of performance. But the good thing is they likely won't be healthy scratches in the NHL for long, because if they are not playing, they'll simply go back to the AHL.

As such, I think there is going to be a great battle between players like Denis Gurianov, Joel L'Esperance, Jason Robertson, Joel Kiviranta and Tye Felhaber to try to get into the NHL. If they play well, they get to stick. If not, they get to do the Roope Hintz thing and go back to the AHL and use what they have learned in the NHL to try to get better. I think it's a good situation to have.

On defense, there are a couple of young D who are outside shots in Ben Gleason and Joseph Cecconi, but the guess is the first line of depth will be in players like Taylor Fedun, Joel Hanley, Emil Djuse, Gavin Beyreuther and Dillon Heatherington.

 

I know the Stars got Pavelski and Perry, and are bringing back Benn, Seguin, Rads and Hintz for a tentative top 6 (assuming health and skill). It seems the re-occuring theme from previous seasons is not enough depth scoring. Do you think these moves fix that? -- @MilesButtrill

Heika: They are not slam-dunk moves, but yes, I think this helps.

Even at 35, I think you can pencil Pavelski in for at least 25 goals. He's great on the power play and he should get plenty of chances in front of the net to tip shots from John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen.

Perry seems very hungry. The knee injury was a tough one, but he really wants to bounce back and play well, and he brings elements of grit and skill that should be welcomed.

Mix in the fact that I think the young forwards who might get called up seem to have some offensive skill, and I do think they should be a better offensive team.

 

Where do you see the Stars ending up in the standings come playoff season? -- @MissChrisLB

Heika: I think the West and Central are going to be really hard to decipher, and that the point difference will be minimal. I'll go with Dallas as second in the Central behind St. Louis and fourth in the West behind the Blues, Golden Knights and Sharks. My guess is they play Colorado in the first round of the playoffs.

 

With the Sekera signing, it feels like Honka is the odd man out again for the blue liners, and even more so if Johns is healthy. Is this the year the Stars try to move him? Or will a spectacular training camp bump his odds of regular ice time with the big club? -- @chrislw25

Heika: There's no place for him now with Polak, Sekera and Johns in the mix, and the Stars have pretty much been determined to trade him for a while.

I think he gets dealt later in the summer. He still would be a great pickup for a team that is tight against the cap. He's a right-handed defenseman who is 23 and has 200 games of AHL experience and he costs under $1 million.

I think he just needs a fresh start, and the guess is a team will finally see that. I hope he does well.

 

What are options with Hanzal this year? -- @MPW8881

Heika: He is not expected to play. They will either let him sit on the payroll so they don't incur any extra costs or they will put him on LTIR to make space for a trade later in the season.

I don't think it makes sense to trade him to a team that would take on his cap hit unless you could do it for a relatively low cost in regard to draft picks.

Video: DAL@VGK: Hanzal redirects shot for power-play goal

 

What are your thoughts on the likelihood of Johns returning? -- @marklock71

Heika: It's so tough to say with head injuries. We have seen players have miraculous recoveries, and the brain is a complicated thing. I hope he does, because he's a good guy and a very good defenseman. But you have to be ready in case he can't play.

 

We still trying to move Honka? -- @ShaneBeavers

Heika: Yes. I think they believe the market will pick up when teams see they have a need and not much money to fill that need.

 

What other moves do you foresee the Stars doing the rest of this offseason in order to form the best lineup they can? -- @essalindell

Heika: I don't think they are really looking right now. Because Pavelski plays center, and because both Jason Dickinson and Roope Hintz can also play center, you could use Radek Faksa to study getting a different defenseman. But I wouldn't do that right now. I think they should stand pat.

 

Is there any hope of getting Jere Lethinen inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in the next decade? What can Stars fans do to lobby for him? -- @MSaad_Writer

Heika: Now that Guy Carbonneau is in, Lehtinen definitely can be a comparable. Take to Twitter and bang the drum. I think the Stars retiring his number helps a great deal in that cause.

Video: Jere spent his entire 14-year career in Dallas

 

Any chance we get a summer Rinky Dinking episode to help us get through until September? -- @briantatum

Heika: Nah. Razor typically heads to Canada, so we'll wait to dice this all up in October. It will be a beautifully painful wait. :)

 

If you had to grade the Stars compared to the rest of the league how did they fair with all the free agency moves? Is there anything else left to do? -- @Douglasbeezy

Heika: Comparatively, it's not as big a splash as getting Bobrovsky or Panarin or Duchene, but I like it. It fits their payroll and contract structure and addresses needs. I also like the fact that the necessary clear-out to open up cap space rotates the bottom six and forces some different decisions on new players.

I give them an A for what they needed to do.

Have a question for a future Hey Heika mailbag? Tweet it to @MikeHeika and use #HeyHeika.

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.

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