Stars 2022 Free Agents, Draft Targets, Offseason Guide After NHL Playoff Loss

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 16, 2022

Stars 2022 Free Agents, Draft Targets, Offseason Guide After NHL Playoff Loss

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    The Dallas Stars' bid to win the 2022 Stanley Cup came to a close in Sunday's Game 7 loss to the Calgary Flames

    Dallas fought until the final days of the regular season to earn a berth in the NHL playoff field, holding off the star-studded Vegas Golden Knights for one of the wild-card spots in the Western Conference. It missed the postseason in 2020-21.

    The Stars previously reached the 2020 Stanley Cup Final before falling short against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The franchise's only championship came in 1999.

    With an aging core, it'll be interesting to see how aggressive the team's front office is during the offseason with an eye toward trying to make another title push within the next few years.

    Let's take a look at the Stars' summer outlook following their playoff elimination.

Dallas' 2022 Free Agents

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    LM Otero/Associated Press

    Unrestricted Free Agents

    • F Alexander Radulov
    • F Michael Raffl
    • F Vladislav Namestnikov
    • F Blake Comeau
    • D John Klingberg
    • D Andrej Sekera
    • D Alex Petrovic
    • G Braden Holtby
    • G Scott Wedgewood

                  

    Restricted Free Agents

    • F Denis Gurianov
    • F Fredrik Karlstrom
    • F Jason Robertson
    • F Marian Studenic
    • F Riley Tufte
    • G Jake Oettinger

                 

    The Stars don't figure to become a major player on the free-agent market because a majority of their available salary-cap space will be used to retain their own talent.

    It starts with figuring out what type of deal to give winger Jason Robertson, who's tallied 125 points in 128 career games. While a short-term bridge deal is an option, Dallas will probably do everything in its power to lock the 22-year-old in for the long haul with a lucrative extension.

    Jake Oettinger, 23, is also in line for a sizable raise after seizing the starting job between the pipes with a .914 save percentage in 48 appearances.

    The toughest call will be John Klingberg, who's going to attract ample interest if he hits the open market. His 374 points over the past eight seasons ranks eighth among all NHL defensemen. The Stars would love to keep the 29-year-old, but it may be tough to make it work financially.

    Once all the re-signings are complete, Dallas' free-agent pursuits figure to surround players who could populate the lower portion of the lineup or provide depth in the minor leagues.

    A marquee signing is unlikely as things stand. In turn, any blockbuster acquisitions are more likely to come via a cash-neutral trade.

Potential Stars 2022 NHL Draft Targets

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    Mike Mulholland/Getty Images

    The Stars already featured a pretty well-rounded prospect group but one area that could use a depth boost is right-shot defensemen.

    Here are a few names Dallas could target in Round 1 of the 2022 NHL draft on July 7:

                 

    Seamus Casey, RHD, University of Michigan (NCAA)

    Seamus Casey is a U.S. National Development Team product set to join the powerhouse Michigan program. He blends impressive high-end speed with small-area quickness that allows him to jump into the rush with ease. He's more of a playmaker at this stage with a still-developing shot.

    The main knock against the 18-year-old Florida native is his size (5'10", 162 pounds). He'll definitely need to add some more weight during his time with the Wolverines, and it would be helpful if he enjoys another growth spurt to hit the six-foot mark.

    Casey's offensive skill creates more potential for reward than any risk associated with his lack of an ideal frame at this stage of development. He had 33 points (five goals and 28 assists) in 47 games with the USNDT and should benefit from two or three years with the Wolverines.

             

    Ryan Chesley, RHD, University of Minnesota (NCAA)

    Ryan Chesley, another USNDT standout, is further along in his physical development (6'0", 195 pounds) and has shown impressive defensive ability, both in terms of protecting the net and starting breakouts. It gives him a high floor as a prospect on the fast track toward the NHL.

    What the 18-year-old has lacked so far is playmaking vision in the offensive zone. He tallied just 18 assists in 53 appearances for the national development team. That's the area where he'll want to showcase some steady improvement when he joins the Minnesota Golden Gophers.

    Chesley isn't tracking toward becoming an elite offensive producer, but even modest growth in that area paired with his defensive skill set could make him a second-pair defenseman for a long time. He could be ready as early as 2023, though an extra college season beyond that wouldn't hurt.

Early 2022-23 Season Outlook

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    Michael Ainsworth/Associated Press

    The Stars are in a promising position on all fronts. They reached the playoffs this season, they'll return almost all of their key contributors for next season, and their farm system was ranked 10th in the NHL by The Athletic in February.

    Yet, the question becomes how to thread the needle to end their 23-year title drought.

    Since Dallas likely won't have the financial resources to chase a top-tier free agent once its own re-signings are complete, making a true game-changing move would probably come at the expense of at least a few of its high-end prospects in a trade.

    That doesn't come without risk, though. If general manager Jim Nill makes that type of move and it doesn't deliver a Stanley Cup within the next few years, the second-guessing will begin, especially if those prospects develop into major contributors elsewhere.

    Of course, Nill would also face criticism if he decides to stand pat to retain those top prospects only to see the team take a step back next season and miss the playoffs. That's the life of a GM.

    The situation as a whole makes the Stars one of the most fascinating teams to watch this summer. It wouldn't be a surprise to see the team linked to a potential trade for a top-six forward.

    All told, it won't be championship-or-bust for Dallas in 2022-23, but anything less than another postseason appearance with a realistic shot to make a run at the Cup would be a disappointment.

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