It’s been a busy few months for general manager Jim Nill and the Dallas Stars brass, but when a club with top-tier talent misses the playoffs by a hefty 15 points, perhaps a flurry of change is expected.
But if Nill and the rest of the Stars front office have their way, next summer should bring a significantly different brand of hustle and bustle, as Dallas heads into the 2017-18 campaign expecting to claim its first Stanley Cup since 1999.
“We’ve been rebuilding for the better part of a decade. We’re through with that,” Stars president and CEO Jim Lites told SportsDay’s Mike Heika on Saturday. “If you look at what Jim Nill has done, we’re ready for this. The fact that he’s added players like Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza in previous years, the fact that he has drafted as well as he has, the fact that he did what he did this summer, we’re ready to win now.”
Dallas’ recent slew of additions especially positions it as a potential dark-horse contender this season, as the Stars seemingly hit every off-season target they had in their sights. Improved goaltending? Check. Revamped defence? New head coach Ken Hitchcock should take care of that. Throw in a few key offensive additions just for good measure.
“We got (Ben) Bishop, and I was like, ‘That’s awesome. (He’s) one of the best goalies you can get right now,'” said Seguin to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan on Friday. “We went out and got (Marc) Methot and I was like, ‘OK, we got the goalie and the D-man.’ Then we got (Martin) Hanzal, and I’m like, ‘Heck that’s a good summer.’
“I was ready to go and then I saw on Twitter that (Alexander) Radulov was following me on Instagram. There were rumours that he was coming to Dallas. So I called Jamie Benn and, sure enough, we got Radulov. That was the cherry on the cake. We got the feeling from the organization that, ‘Hey we’re kind of going for this.'”
It certainly seems that the rest of the Stars organization shares that sentiment, especially given that it has invested in a higher payroll this season than it has at any other time during Tom Gaglardi’s tenure as owner, according to Heika.
“When you look at what we needed to do, fix the goaltending, improve the penalty kill, we were able to get the pieces to do that,” Gaglardi said. “I think we had a great summer. You usually don’t get all of the things you want, but I think we did this year. I think we were able to target key people, and we were able to get them.
“We have always talked about leaving cap space, but we changed that this year. We knew what we wanted.”
Now with all of their desired additions in the fold, the Stars enter 2017-18 hoping for a championship amid a Western Conference growing increasingly tough to crack.
While many of the usual western powerhouses remain contenders, former basement dwellers in Edmonton and Calgary have continued their climb up the conference ladder, while the Nashville Predators look to build off their first ever Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Still, Nill believes his club has the tools to make waves this time around.
“As a GM, you’re always juggling, but we feel we’re in a very good place,” Nill said. “We have players in their prime, and we need to take advantage of that.”