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Could Dallas be a big player this week?

Jun 26, 2014, 10:39 AM EDT

Jim Nill Getty Images

For all the rumors and speculation being bandied about, things have been awfully quiet out of Dallas over the last week or so.

And perhaps that’s intentional.

Last year, his first on the job, Stars GM Jim Nill let his actions to the talking — he acquired the rights to Sergei Gonchar and inked him to a $10 million deal, orchestrated the Tyler Seguin blockbuster and acquired Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff within weeks of being on the job.

The result? Dallas made the playoffs for the first time in five seasons and Nill received four first-place votes as NHL GM of the Year.

Nill should be watched with great interest as he readies for an encore performance. Calgary GM Brad Treliving has already tabbed this as “volatile of a draft week as we’ve seen in recent memory,” and it’s clear all 30 NHL clubs hold the potential to do something big.

Earlier this week, PHT spoke with Jarret Bousquet of Titan Management, the agent for Dallas defenseman Brenden Dillon and forward Cody Eakin. While he did confirm he’s spoken with Nill about new deals for both clients — Dillon and Eakin are pending RFAs — it sounds as though extensions aren’t imminent as the Stars are intently focused on the draft and UFAs right now.

Makes sense, given how Dallas is positioned at the moment.

Nill’s spent this offseason mostly clearing the decks — he used one of the club’s two compliance buyouts on defenseman Aaron Rome and informed veterans Ray Whitney and Tim Thomas they wouldn’t be brought back. The Stars also made an offer to versatile center Vern Fiddler, which was rejected as he plans to test free agency.

As such, Dallas now has 15 players under contract for next season at around $48 million — meaning it has roughly $22 million in available space. Nill has played coy about what sort of budget he’s working with (“We’re not a cap team or a floor team,” he told the Dallas Morning News) and it’s clear from last summer he’s got the green light to be aggressive and make big moves.

At this point, it’s probably worth mentioning the guy who signs Nill’s cheques — Dallas owner Tom Gaglardi. This past year was Gaglardi’s first full 82-game season as owner since purchasing the club in November of 2011 and while snapping the club’s playoff drought pleased him, Gaglardi sees it more as the first step in turning things around. He hasn’t been shy about doing whatever it takes to accelerate that process — from the new uniforms to aggressive ticket marketing plans to reconnecting with the club’s history (remember the epic Mike Modano jersey retirement ceremony?) — and he re-iterated as much following the team’s opening-round loss to Anaheim.

“It was a special moment, because I know how important it is to make the playoffs, and the fans know that too,” Gaglardi explained. “That’s the first step, and you want to take it as soon as possible, because everything gets accelerated after that.”

So yeah. Maybe keep an eye on Dallas this week.

  1. darksidecowboy - Jun 26, 2014 at 10:52 AM

    Get ready NHL for Jim Nill this draft. It’s his first full draft where he’s involved from start to finish without previous managements fingerprints. I expect he nets either Kessler, Spezza, or Statsny before all is said and done. Addressing the Stars defense would be next and I bet a blockbuster style trade could be in the works. The ownership is willing to outbid another team if needed if Jim thinks it’s worth it.

    Getty Up Stars, time to shake the NHL world again

  2. hockeydon10 - Jun 26, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    After all those years in Detroit you can bet Nill knows how to build a team, knows how to run a great scouting department and knows how to wheel and deal at the draft or for free agency.

    I wish he had never left.

  3. ewampus - Jun 26, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    You gotta like the Stars chances. IF they can sign Stansky and make a move for a quality defenseman. They will instantly be a contender. Granted those are a few pretty big ifs with every team wanting basically the exact same thing.

    • darksidecowboy - Jun 26, 2014 at 2:10 PM

      Love my Stars, but most Stars fans aren’t too confident in the goaltending. Kari really had a nachos bell grande meltdown game 6. However, getting a real 2C and a top pairing defenseman they’ll be able to hang with the cream of the western conference.

      • mattryannolan - Jun 26, 2014 at 2:17 PM

        First of all, game 6 was not all Kari’s fault and if that’s the only reason you don’t have confidence then you must not watch them play much because he caries the team so many nights. You should realize that with a real defense Kari is a more than capable goalie. It’s a lack of defense that has hurt the Stars. Thus why we are getting rid of crap like Rome and such.

      • darksidecowboy - Jun 26, 2014 at 3:23 PM

        umm well then… I do watch every Stars game with NHL center ice. And yeah Kari did have a meltdown, he doesn’t have much playoff experience and he caved in the end. Hopefully he’ll handle this years playoffs. Plus I did acknowledge the Stars need in defense. However, letting in two goals in the last couple minutes and letting a third in OT is not cutting it. Sorry if I offended the Kari fanclub.

    • 19to77 - Jun 26, 2014 at 4:15 PM

      Eh. Lehtonen’s a good goalie, but not exactly a guy who’ll carry a team into the Finals. With a strong defense and a good possession team in front of him he’ll get the job done, but he’s not the Rask/Lundqvist/Quick-level guy who can steal you a game the rest of the team deserved to lose. Basically, he’s always been good, but when has he ever been a gamebreaker?

      It’s not necessarily a problem. Following darkside’s suggestions would leave Dallas with a very balanced team that may not need him to stand on his head and steal games. Chicago won a Cup with Niemi for Christ’s sake. When the team in general is good enough, the goalie doesn’t have to be a wizard. Lehtonen can be the guy for Dallas. They just need to keep improving the roster elsewhere.

  4. safaber3 - Jun 26, 2014 at 5:13 PM

    well said 19to77. Kari can keep things under wraps and get things done to get the win. He just needs help in the defense side of things and the scoremakers need to keep the puck in the other end of rink as many games were played right in front of Kari. Given that, you will let a few through.

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