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Insider debate: Who should be next to get call for Hall of Fame?

As the offseason heats up, Mike Heika, Brien Rea and Owen Newkirk tackle 5 burning questions about the Stars

by Mike Heika, Brien Rea and Owen Newkirk / DallasStars.com

The start of free agency is just a few days away, but the offseason has already been a busy one for the Stars with the NHL Draft, Hockey Hall of Fame announcements and prospect development camp at Comerica Center in Frisco.

In this edition of our "Take 5" insider debate, Mike Heika, Brien Rea and Owen Newkirk discuss future Hall of Famers, which blossoming Stars might have an impact on the NHL club and, of course, the future of Mats Zuccarello in Dallas.

 

1. With Sergei Zubov and Guy Carbonneau finally getting their long-awaited election to the Hockey Hall of Fame, which former Stars player do you think will be the next to join them and why?

Mike Heika, DallasStars.com senior staff writer: I think Jere Lehtinen will be the next player off of that 1999 team to earn a spot. His career is similar to Carbonneau's with three Selke Trophies, and he already had his number retired in Dallas. He fills a lot of the boxes required by voters.

Two other possibilities are Pierre Turgeon, who has more career points (1,327) than any player not in the Hall, and Pat Verbeek, who had 522 goals and 2,905 penalty minutes, a rare combination.

 

Brien Rea, host of 'Stars Live' on FOX Sports Southwest: Jaromir Jagr -- if he ever retires. MVPs, scoring titles, All-Star Games, and Stanley Cups are scattered all over his resume. More than 1,900 points for his career make him the clear front-runner.

But, in case Jagr decides to play until he is 60, I'll offer an alternative -- Pierre Turgeon. He sits 32nd in NHL history with 1,327 points, the most of any eligible player for the Hall of Fame. Of the 31 players ahead of him, only Jagr and Joe Thornton are not in the Hall.

 

Owen Newkirk, Dallas Stars radio host: I think it should be Jere Lehtinen. Simply put, he was one of the best two-way forwards to ever play the game.

While it's not the only requirement, it seems as though winning a Stanley Cup (or two, or three) really helps on a resume for the Hall-of-Fame selection. If Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin can keep up their production pace over the rest of their current long-term contracts, and could win a Cup with the Stars, they would be excellent candidates. Not to get to far ahead of myself, but when I first read the question, my immediate thought was Miro Heiskanen.

Video: Jere Lehtinen's No. 26 was retired on November 24

 

2. It notably took Zubov seven years to get elected to the Hall of Fame, and Carbonneau waited even longer at 16. Why do you think it took so many years for them to finally get the nod?

Heika: The process to be named to the Hall is an interesting one, and there is not a ton of transparency with the selection committee, so we are forced to guess. Zubov has been on the radar for a while and "only" had to wait seven years. This was a light year in terms of slam-dunk candidates, so it was easy to consider his career and what he has done.

Carbonneau came out of left field for a lot of people, which would seem to indicate he had a person on the committee who made a strong case for him. It's a lesson that patience can be rewarded.

 

Rea: I'd really like to hear what #HeyHeika has to say, given his career covering the NHL and being a part of award voting ballots. For me, we live in a world where offense, points and headlines are what people look for. Being consistently good can actually turn on you at times. Sergei Zubov was one of the NHL's best when it came to consistent, offensive-producing blueliners during his career. But he only finished in the top five of Norris Trophy voting twice in his career.

The same can be said for Carbonneau. In 19 years, he only eclipsed the 50-point mark five times, and he never reached 60 points. However, he won three Selke Awards for his defensive play, was the runner-up two other times, and finished in the top five nine total times in his career. Carbonneau was a consistently productive, but defensive, forward for a long period of time in the NHL.

Being consistent doesn't get rewarded initially because what that player does on the ice almost becomes expected, not rewarded. That is for any sport. My favorite example is baseball's Hank Aaron, the true home-run king. He played 23 years, but only won one MVP award. He never hit 50 home runs in a season. He was a consistent 40-homer guy for his career, to the point where it became expected.

 

Newkirk: I have only been in Dallas for five seasons and a Texas resident for the past seven years. Right before I moved to Dallas, in the summer of 2014, Mike Modano was selected to the Hockey Hall of Fame. That was really the first time that I experienced firsthand the anger from the Stars fanbase over the "Zubov snub." Everyone was rightfully ecstatic for Modano, but they quickly followed with sentiments like "Zubie should be next." I will defer to Heika on the laundry list of reasons why it took so long for Zubov; after all he covered Sergei's entire Stars career. But my point above about only being in-state for less than a decade comes back to exposure to the national media. I grew up in Maine, so basically the only time the Dallas Stars were on TV was during the playoffs.

With Guy Carbonneau, shutdown, defensive players get their due, but they usually don't grab the headlines. Let's face it: goals and points are sexy, so they usually get all of the attention. But you don't win championship rings without guys like Guy and he won the Cup three times. It was not a coincidence.

Video: Stars legend Zubov elected to Hockey Hall of Fame

 

3. The Stars only had four selections in this year's NHL Draft, but it seems the organization filled its needs with young defense prospects and an intriguing fifth-round winger in Nicholas Porco. How would you grade this year's picks?

Heika: It's so hard to give an accurate grade on 18-year-olds, but I know the Stars liked what they got. They could have moved back to get extra picks, but they believed they retained value in the players they took. Thomas Harley has a great skating stride and a good frame, so the guess is he will be able to mature into an NHL defenseman. Porco is a highly-skilled forward who might be able to break through as another fifth round success story. He has natural speed, which seems to be the trend in today's NHL. If he can refine his game with more minutes in Saginaw, he could eventually turn into an impact player.

 

Rea: When it comes to the draft, you need to wait roughly three years before truly applying a grade to the draft class. Thomas Harley looks like a smooth-skating, but lanky, defenseman who can make plays. He has reach, but can he add a little size to that long body frame? Harley, and the other three picks (Samuel Sjolund, Nicholas Porco, Ben Brinkman), all are some level of a project for the Stars. All of them are 17-18 years old, so the maturation process is still ongoing. But, yes, Jim Nill wanted to replenish his prospect cupboard defensively, and he did that with three of his four selections.

 

Newkirk: Drafts are tricky to grade initially, because you really won't know how well a team did in a particular class until several years down the road. From my contacts who are much more plugged in with amateur scouting and the Draft than I am, they were very high on first-rounder Thomas Harley. Observing him during the first few days of Development Camp seem to suggest he has real potential.

One narrative that didn't play out was that Jim Nill wanted to add draft picks. Perhaps that was the only somewhat disappointing part of the Stars' 2019 Draft, but I was thrilled that Nill was aggressive at the trade deadline and went for it, so having fewer selections didn't bother me at all. That's just the price you have to pay sometimes to play the game.

Video: Harley's first hours after being picked by Stars

 

4. With the team's prospects in Frisco this week for Development Camp, which player has stood out to you the most on the ice? Who do you think has the most potential to impact the NHL club?

Heika: I like the calm of goalie Jake Oettinger. He is big at 6-5, 220, and he uses an economical style to make use of that size and let the puck hit him. He seems to be in a great spot to battle for the No. 1 goalie spot in the AHL. I also think Jason Robertson has a good attitude in starting his pro career. He is very athletic, but also tricky with his shot. He finds a way to slip the puck into the net with many different moves.

 

Rea: The player who stood out to me the most is Curtis Douglas. He's a 6-foot-9, 245-pound behemoth of a man. It's hard not to notice a physical presence like that.

Two players I am keeping an eye on are Nick Caamano and Ty Dellandrea. Dellandrea is the team's first-round selection from last summer, and Caamano made some noise in training camp two seasons ago. Both players could slot into a bottom-six role, and those are the spots that are going to be up for grabs among players on the bubble in training camp. If they can add a little offensive punch, that certainly helps their case.

Caamano began his pro career last season in the AHL, and can be optioned to and from Cedar Park with no risk. Dellandrea is a different case however. Because he would need to return to Flint in the OHL, Dallas could give Dellandrea a nine-game, regular-season tryout in the NHL before needing to make that decision.

 

Newkirk: First off, the answer is Curtis Douglas. He was a giant at 6-foot-8 at last year's draft in Dallas, but he's now listed on the Development Camp roster at 6-foot-9! It's difficult not to notice a mountain on ice skates.

Otherwise, there are a lot of players to notice and some very intriguing prospects. The team used to have a Development Camp scrimmage, which I have always found to be the best way to evaluate players, seeing them in game situations.

I could throw out a handful of names that I noticed this week, but for me, seeing Stephen Johns on the ice on Tuesday stood out to me the most. He went through an incredible ordeal last season, something to which very few of us can actually relate. Seeing him stand out as a man among boys in the drills (as he should), skating at full speed and with lots of energy (and smiles), was just fantastic to watch.

If he can continue on this road to full recovery, I think he will have a big impact for the Stars in the 2019-20 season.

Video: Caamano, Stars prospects take on ropes course

 

5. General manager Jim Nill confirmed during the draft weekend that Mats Zuccarello has made the decision to explore the free-agent market on July 1. Do you think that will affect the Stars' chances of re-signing him? If he leaves for another team, who might be available to fill his spot?

Heika: Several reports indicate Zuccarello would like a five-year deal, and the Stars would prefer a four-year deal, so the two sides decided it would be best if Zuccarello studied the rest of the league to see what was out there. The Stars, meanwhile are looking at other options such as Joe Pavelski.

I think there still is a small chance that Zuccarello comes back. I think he liked it in Dallas. But the Stars want to be prepared and want to study other options that might be even better.

I like Pavelski, and also think players such as Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Gustav Nyquist could be possible targets.

 

Rea: Yes, it will affect the Stars' chances. Could be for the better or worse, depending on what other teams are offering in terms of years and dollars. This is Mats Zuccarello's last NHL contract. He's earned the right to be able to test the market and see what's out there -- just like Dallas has the right to look at other options for themselves should Zuccarello move on.

On our last "Take 5," I suggested Michael Ferland or Brett Connolly as two names available that could help the Stars top-six forward group. They are productive forwards, both under 30 years old, and their cost could be manageable because they don't fall in that "big fish" category of this year's free-agent crop.

If Dallas does go hunting for a bigger fish, the Joe Pavelski reports are incredibly intriguing. A proven, pure goal-scorer that could be available for a shorter term, say three or four years. Coming off a $6 million cap hit, the money could be right and he's exactly someone Dallas could use in their top-six forward group -- but some cap gymnastics may be needed to make it all work because the Stars still need to re-sign Jason Dickinson and another defenseman.

The other big name I'm still curious about Ryan Dzingel. He is 27, and has tallied 20 goals or more each of the last three seasons. He is due for a big raise from his $1.8 million cap hit -- the question is how high will the market drive up that number?

 

Newkirk: I think that Zuccarello always intended to explore free agency and he have every right to do so. He turns 32 on Sept. 1 and this will probably his last big NHL contract. From a business standpoint, it makes total sense to at least talk to other teams in the UFA interview window. So I don't think that really changes the Stars' chances of re-signing the Norwegian winger. I still think both sides would like to find common ground, but we will see whether or not that actually happens.

If Dallas does not re-sign Zuccarello, there are several agreeable options out there. To me, adding Joe Pavelski would be a great move for the Stars. Among the multitude of reasons why: he scored 38 goals last season, he would bring great leadership on and off the ice and the reporting out there suggests the soon-to-be 35-year-old could be looking for a three-year contract, which would be a very team-friendly term.

Video: Nill discusses Harley, gives update on Zuccarello

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, and listen to his podcast.

Brien Rea is a contributing columnist for DallasStars.com and the host of 'Stars Live' on FOX Sports Southwest. Follow him on Twitter @BrienRea.

Owen Newkirk is a contributor for DallasStars.com and the host of Dallas Stars radio broadcasts on Sportsradio 1310-AM and 96.7-FM The Ticket. Follow him on Twitter @OwenNewkirk.

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