Dallas Stars Season Preview

Finally, the Dallas Stars have financial freedom. Tom Gaglardi has given GM Joe Nieuwendyk the ability to spend money—and did he ever. He dished out pretty good money to sign some free agents, and pick up a few assets over the summer. Let's take a look at what happened after another heartbreaking season.

In with the new:
Jaromir Jagr - one year, $4.5 million
Ray Whitney - two years, $9 million
Derek Roy -  acquired in Ott trade
Cody Eakin - acquired in Ribeiro trade
Aaron Rome - three years, $4.5 million

Out with the old:
Sheldon Souray - to Anaheim
Mike Ribeiro - to Washington
Steve Ott - to Buffalo
Adam Burish - to San Jose
Andrew Raycroft - to Milano Rossoblu
Jake Dowell - to Minnesota
Nicklas Grossmann - to Philadelphia

Staying put:
Toby Petersen - two year deal
Mark Fistric - one year deal
Richard Bachman - one year deal

Two years in a row, this team collapsed at season's end. Two seasons ago, it was much more heartbreaking, with the final blow struck on the final game of the season. This last season felt more like a slow burn towards disaster. Four straight seasons, the playoff picture has excluded the Stars, even with a fairly solid team on paper.

Transition can be fickle in sports, and that factor alone seemed to plague this team's development the most. The 2008 team that ran into the Detroit Red Wings was the best chance this team had at a title in years. It contained the right mix of vets and young guys. Mike Modano still played at an elite level. Brad Richards supplemented that team with perfectly-timed offense. Sergei Zubov anchored the defense. Marty Turco made the key stops.

All in the past now. The Stars have had to depend on their up and coming youth movement in Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson. Those reins are being passed rather quickly, as Mike Ribeiro packed his bags, and trade rumors included the captain, Brenden Morrow. This team is destined to be Jamie Benn's in the very near future. The question is, when is that date for sure?

GM Joe took several risks this summer. Most notably, he signed two players who have eclipsed 40 years old. Whitney had a career year with the Phoenix Coyotes last year, scoring 77 points. Jagr played very well with a budding centerman, Claude Giroux, and scored 54 points. Question is, can they repeat that production? Jagr slowed down at season's end. Age will be a factor.

Additionally, Derek Roy, acquired in the Steve Ott deal, has been on the decline over the past several seasons. Roy will also be out of the lineup until mid-November, and when he returns, he will likely fill the second line center role. Can he reclaim that magic he possessed with the Sabres back in 2007?

Nieuwendyk has been quoted as saying that Jagr will likely start the season beside a great duo in Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson. In his last year with Philadelphia, Jagr taught Giroux plenty about becoming a real star. Hopefully, Jagr can do the same for Benn.

So now that the Stars have fixed the scoring situation, they have left defense by the wayside. Right now, they own Goligoski, Robidas, Daley, Rome, Fistric, and Larsen. Nobody screams "elite" other than Goligoski, who had a very subpar season. Some defensive prospects are on the way, including Jamie Oleksiak and Brenden Dillon. Very few UFA defensemen remain for the Stars to do anything with, and they may be happy with that group as it stands.

Goaltending is set. Kari Lehtonen and Richard Bachman have this year to show they are worth their mettle. After this year, both become free agents. Lehtonen a UFA, and Bachman an RFA. Hopefully this season does not rely entirely on goaltending. After Lehtonen succumbed to injury, Raycroft could not pick up the spilled crumbs. Bachman admirably stepped in and did wonders to put the train back on track.

In a way, this season is a real must to make the playoffs. The Stars made a splash to attract key free agents and veteran leadership to prevent the stretch run collapse that has plagued the Stars for years. Many unknowns remain, however. Especially the biggest one, will the season start on time? 

Stars fans deserve to be rewarded for their patience. Excitement seems to be higher for this season than in seasons' past. Can this team come together? Will there be Cup hopes in Big D? It all starts October 13 on the road against the Phoenix Coyotes.