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What might Stars' improved lineup look like next season?

With its roster close to complete, here's who could be in and out for Dallas entering the 2019-20 campaign

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Stars forward Jason Dickinson filed for arbitration Friday, so the team still has to deal with that negotiation or case, as well as what it will do with defenseman Julius Honka. But, other than that, the 2019-20 roster is close to finished.

There still are some battles that will be waged in training camp, but let's take a look at how all of this might play out on the ice:

 

Forwards

Video: STL@DAL, Gm4: Benn dishes to Hintz on rush for goal

The Stars made some significant moves in this department, getting Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry and saying goodbye to Mats Zuccarello, Jason Spezza, Valeri Nichushkin, Brett Ritchie and Tyler Pitlick. So how might the new lines look? I'm a fan of going with 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

 

My logic is that Hintz would be a nice complement to Seguin, and the two could create some real speed up and down the ice. The Pavelski line would be a bit more methodical, but I think there could be chemistry and a chance to change up the pace. Benn had nice chemistry with Perry and Ryan Getzlaf when they played for Team Canada, and it would be interesting to see if that could be rekindled with Pavelski. All three are smart, all three can be prickly, I just would like to see what that line can do.

I'm also a fan of Perry's comeback. If he is healthy, the Stars need to see how high he can go. I just think he's best used as a top six forward to start out with. If he needs to slide down, so be it, but you need to see if he can get his mojo back.

The third line is the same as it was for the playoffs last season. You can always tweak this group, especially with the push of players up from the AHL, but I think they understand their role and they play smart. I like the veteran wingers and think they can be a key to this being a good defensive team again.

The fourth line has all sorts of possibilities.

In addition to Janmark-Dickinson-Gurianov, you have the ability to test any number of other forwards. Joel L'Esperance and Justin Dowling likely get first crack after they helped the Stars in the NHL last season. Nick Caamano also had a nice rookie season in the AHL and has to be a candidate. That leaves a mix of players who will be fighting to prove themselves in the AHL and also fighting maybe to make their NHL debuts.

 

[RELATED: Perry, Sekera aim to 'prove people wrong' with Stars next season]

 

Joel Kiviranta is a 23-year-old free agent from Finland, who is a good skater and solid two-way winger, so the Stars want to see how his game translates to North America.

In addition, skilled forwards Jason Robertson and Tye Felhaber will be given a chance to impress. Robertson led the OHL in scoring with 117 points (48 goals, 69 assists) in 62 games, while Felhaber (who signed with the Stars as a free agent) was third with 109 points (59 goals, 50 assists) in 68 games. It's a big jump from Major Junior, but those are impressive numbers and it will be interesting to see if this duo can bring some of that skill to the fourth line.

The Stars also have a wild card in 2018 first-round pick Ty Dellandrea.

While he is just turning 19 on July 21, Dellandrea could benefit by stepping up to the NHL this season. The agreement between the OHL and NHL is that a player in his first three seasons of the OHL cannot play in the AHL. The rule was agreed upon to allow the OHL to keep its best players as long as possible. That means, if Dellandrea is going to leave Flint, he has to play in the NHL. League rules allow him to play nine NHL games before he burns the first year of his contract, so the Stars could try Dellandrea for nine games to see if he earns a spot on the NHL roster.

All of that said, Dellandrea would have to earn the nine-game tryout with a good training camp, so there are a lot of steps that have to be taken before he is considered as an NHL contributor this season.

 

Defensemen

Video: NSH@DAL, Gm6: Klingberg scores in OT for series win

The Stars signed Esa Lindell to a six-year contract extension that averages $5.8 million, so they made a big commitment to this group of three that they hope will carry the defense for years to come. Miro Heiskanen should be even better after getting his rookie season under his belt and averaging 25:31 in time on ice in the playoffs, while John Klingberg should continue as the leader of the defense after getting 45 points in 64 games last season while dealing with a hand injury.

That leaves the bottom three wide open.

The Stars have some great options here, but there are some caveats. Stephen Johns is a big (6-foot-4, 234 pounds), right-handed defenseman with a hard shot who tallied 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 75 games in 2017-18. However, he missed all of last season with post-traumatic headaches, and while he is skating now, there is no indication if he will be ready for training camp -- or if, when he does return to the ice, he will be able to become a relied upon regular.

Because of that, the Stars have taken a chance on another potential top four blueliners who also has some risk involved. Andrej Sekera was bought out Oilers, because he was scheduled to have a salary cap hit of $5.5 million for the next two seasons and is recovering from knee and Achilles tendon injuries.

After the buyout, the Stars convinced Sekera, 33, that his best chance at a comeback was on a one-year deal for $1.5 million with another $500,000 in incentive bonuses. If Sekera can indeed play the way he did in 2016-17 when he had 35 points in 80 games, the Stars have another top-four defenseman and a potential partner for Heiskanen.

 

[MAIL CALL: Will the Stars make more offseason moves? Mike Heika answers that and more in his latest chat with fans]

 

So there is plenty of intrigue there.

Also in the bottom-three group are Jamie Oleksiak and Roman Polak, who both showed signs of being dependable depth defenders with a little bit of edge last season. In a perfect world, Johns would be a right-handed player beside Heiskanen, while Oleksiak and Sekera would play on the third pairing and Polak would be your seventh. Injuries enter into it, and Sekera might be a better fit with Heiskanen, so there still is a lot to learn about this group.

Beyond that, Dallas has Taylor Fedun, Emil Djuse, Joel Hanley, Ben Gleason, Joseph Cecconi, Gavin Bayreuther and potentially Dillon Heatherington. The Stars hope they don't have to deal with so many injuries to defensemen this season, but if it happens, they know they can survive.

The other wild card in all of this is the fact that Dallas can put Martin Hanzal on long-term injured reserve and use his potential cap space to acquire another defenseman in a trade later in the season. That decision could be a tough one, as the Stars' performance bonuses would slide into the 2020-21 season, and it would like cost more draft picks.

But if Johns and/or Sekera don't pan out, it's an option that could be used.

 

Goaltenders

Video: DAL@VGK: Bishop spins, makes no-look blocker save

The Stars were ecstatic with their goaltending last season.

After struggling for nearly a decade with netminding that was in the bottom half of the league, Dallas was second in goals against at 2.44 and second in save percentage at .923. Ben Bishop was named to the Second All-Star Team and was a Vezina Trophy Finalist, while Anton Khudobin played in 41 games (the most in his career) and was eighth in save percentage (.923) and 15th in goals against average (2.57).

Bishop has battled injuries throughout his career and did again last season. The fact that Khudobin was quietly spectacular was a huge factor in Dallas getting to the playoffs, so there will be a lot of pressure on him to do the same. Still, Bishop was healthy and impressive in the playoffs, and Khudobin seems on top of his game at age 33, so this really is about as good as the team's net has looked before a season in quite some time.

The interesting twist in all of this is the role that rookie Jake Oettinger might play. The 2017 first-round draft pick finished his junior season at Boston University and is ready to start his pro career.

Oettinger, 20, played six games in the AHL last spring and went 3-2-1 with a 2.47 GAA and .895 save percentage. He is expected to battle Landon Bow for top playing minutes in the AHL this season. Those two should provide the goaltending depth if the NHL Stars are battling injuries, so fans will likely have an eye on the AHL net throughout next season. Bow played in two NHL games last season.

 

Other decisions to be made

Video: BOS@DAL: Dickinson cashes in on loose puck for OT win

Dickinson's arbitration case should be pretty matter-of-fact. The act of filing often is a tool to help the negotiations, and most cases get settled before the arbitration hearing. Plus, having a scheduled hearing pretty much ensures that Dickinson will be in training camp, so that's a good thing.

Dickinson made $875,000 last season and likely is in line for a raise to between $1.5 million and $2 million, so he will fit under the cap and that contract is expected to finish out the roster before training camp.

Honka received a qualifying offer, but the Stars' plans are to trade Honka. The former first-round draft pick in 2014 was a healthy scratch for the final three months of the season, but the Stars believe another team could use the right-handed defenseman, so they still are shopping him.

When teams get tight against the cap, the Stars believe the interest might increase for a player who could make less than $1 million on a one-year deal.

Either way, the team does not seem to have a place for Honka on the roster at this time, so the guess is this will get done before the start of the 2019-20 season.

Hanzal is on the roster right now, but the 32-year-old center is expected to not play in the NHL again as he continues to battle back pain. Hanzal is owed $4.75 million in the final year of his contract, so he will not retire. Instead, the Stars will allow him to stay on the roster and will take his cap hit so that they do not have to incur any cap issues next season.

As stated earlier, they have the option to put Hanzal on LTIR if need be, but that decision would be made later. While there are also options to trade Hanzal's cap hit to a team that has space and would require a draft pick or prospects from the Stars for doing that favor, the Stars do not have plans to seek that path at this time.

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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