April 15, 2018 | 2:00pm ET
BY DAVID PAGNOTTA, The Fourth Period
SEGUIN A PRIORITY FOR DALLAS
TORONTO, ON -- The Dallas Stars are in need of a new head coach, with Ken Hitchcock retiring after 22 seasons in the NHL as a bench boss, but that isn’t their sole focus this off-season.
While finding a new coach is a priority, and the club is already weighing its options, Stars GM Jim Nill has other areas of concern he must address before the start of the 2018-19 NHL campaign.
Dallas lacked extra fire power this season and adding secondary scoring is on Nill’s list. Outside of the team’s big guns up front – Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov – there wasn’t much out there that scared the opposition. That’s something management wants to change.
Nill and his staff will explore both the trade market and the free agent market this summer, and with the NHL Draft being held in Dallas (June 22-23), it wouldn’t be overly surprising to see the Stars make a bit of noise.
But hiring a new coach and adding a second-line scoring threat aren’t at the top of Dallas’ to-do list. Both are important, of course, but the club’s No.1 priority is determining what the future has in store for Seguin, who scored 40 goals this season for the first time in his career.
Seguin, 26, has now registered 70+ points for the fifth-consecutive season in Dallas and is a point-per-game player in a Stars uniform – must like Benn, who has also been a point-per-game player over the last five seasons.
The Brampton native has one-year remaining on his contract, and while he cannot officially sign an extension until July 1, the Stars and his agents can certainly discuss the parameters of a new deal.
And that conversation has to happen over the next two months.
Benn is the team’s captain and highest paid player, pulling in an annual average salary of $9.5 million. Based on the numbers and the output, Seguin should easily hit that market on his next contract – and having no state tax in Texas will help the Stars’ efforts, because his cap hit will certainly eclipse that figure on the open market.
It’s unclear if the Stars are willing to pay Seguin more than Benn, though some rumblings suggest that to be the case, and it’ll certainly be a point of discussion when Nill and Seguin’s representatives chat about next steps.
The Stars need to know where they stand with Seguin moving forward, and with teams more open to dealing bodies with term left on their contracts, if Nill comes to the conclusion than an extension isn’t in the cards, he’ll have to explore his options.
But Seguin thoroughly enjoys playing and living in Dallas, and that will also factor into any decision he makes. As will the moves Nill & Co. make to improve their hockey club.
And make no mistake, the Stars aren’t the only team faced with a possible difficult situation ahead.
The Ottawa Senators are the poster-child for this topic, with the future of captain Erik Karlsson hanging up in the air (insert dude shrugging emoji) – though his fate, despite what Sens owner Eugene Melnyk and GM Pierre Dorion told season ticket holders this week, may have already been decided.
The Arizona Coyotes have to figure out what star defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson is thinking, as do the Los Angeles Kings with Drew Doughty, the Columbus Blue Jackets with Sergei Bobrovsky, the San Jose Sharks with Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture, the Winnipeg Jets with Blake Wheeler, the Tampa Bay Lightning with Nikita Kucherov, and so on.
Some decisions are easier than others, but it’s a conversation a number of teams will start having this summer.
VIVA LAS VEGAS
I thought the Vegas Golden Knights looked good in the regular-season, but man did they ever look fantastic in Games 1 and 2 against the Los Angeles Kings. They controlled the pace of play for most of those two games, and had it not been for Jonathan Quick’s excellent performance on Friday, that game would have been over well before double overtime.
What’s impressed me most about Vegas this season, more so than their on-ice play, is how the city has embraced the team.
I was fortunate enough to cover their inaugural home game back in October, and with all of the emotions flowing at that time, I was curious to see how the in-game atmosphere would be later on in the season. After taking in their final three regular-season home games a couple of weeks ago, I was blown away.
Without thinking too hard, Vegas is in my Top 10 in terms of in-game atmosphere, crowd involvement, loudness, around-the-rink festivities, and pre- and post-game entertainment – the vibe and restaurants when you leave T-Mobile Arena are electric. As much as I believed, for years, this city would be a solid NHL market, I never imagined how intense things would be in Season 1. Vegas can compete with each and every market in the NHL, and put most of them to shame.
And if you don’t believe me, a) go check out a game next season, and b) where else does this happen:
CANUCKS, HURRICANES HAVE MONEY TO BURN
Without the salary cap going up, and it will, the Vancouver Canucks have around $24 million in available cap space for next season, while the Carolina Hurricanes have around $27.5 million.
Expect them to be very active this summer.
The Canucks are in rebuild/retool mode, which they’ve needed to be in for some time, but this new-found cap space, as a result of Daniel and Henrik Sedin retiring, should may them busy both in the trade market and in free agency.
Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon isn’t screwing around; he wants his team to be a playoff contender next season. He’s got money to spend, and he’s willing to spend it.
It would be great if he decided to spend some of that cash on a new GM, though. Word on the street is the salary being offered to fill their GM position is less than $500,000. That... uh... is probably why so many presumed candidates respectfully declined an interview.
But whoever takes over in Carolina will have plenty of room to add players, even with Dundon smack in the middle of things.
If John Tavares hits the open market July 1, and it’s starting to sound like he will, much like how Steven Stamkos when his opportunity arose, expect the Hurricanes and Canucks to be among the teams hot in pursuit.
Both teams will have other options, of course, and just because they toss a whack of cash his way doesn’t mean Tavares will accept.
Vancouver and Carolina will be interesting to watch this off-season, and I’m curious, like many, to see if the Hurricanes move out one of their defencemen for help up front.
Even if Dundon and management add a top-tier free agent this summer, their surplus of talented blueliners gives them an opportunity to add even more fire power up front.
Last summer, the Hurricanes were hot for Matt Duchene, but refused to part with Noah Hanifin in a package for him. Good decision, and I’d be very surprised if he’s dealt this summer – he will cash in on a heavy contract, though, as he’s set to become a restricted free agent July 1.
Could the new GM entertain calls for Justin Faulk, who has two-years remaining on his contract? Would a team be willing to move a top forward for him? It’s certainly worth the discussion, and teams like the Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs could use a player of Faulk’s caliber.
Whether Faulk or another defender is moved out of Raleigh for help up front remains to be seen, obviously, but the idea of Carolina, and Vancouver, being players in this summer’s festivities makes for an exciting few months ahead.
- Feb. 21, 2018 - Uneasy in Ottawa
- Feb. 09, 2018 - As Deadline nears, Predators are All-In
- Feb. 01, 2018 - Islanders’ Snow facing tough decisions
- Jan. 22, 2018 - Weaknesses evident in Maple Leafs play of late
- Dec. 04, 2017 - Seattle takes next step towards joining NHL
- Nov. 21, 2017 - Storm Brewing in Montreal
- Nov. 16, 2017 - How Swede It Is; Global Series Here to Stay