The off-season came much sooner than any in the Dallas Stars’ franchise would have preferred, missing the Stanley Cup playoffs for the sixth time in seven seasons.
The extra time away from the rink will give players and the front office time to evaluate what happened and formulate a plan for the future.
Here are five off-season storylines to watch:
1. Notable surgeries
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Stars captain and Art Ross Trophy winner Jamie Benn and right wing Ales Hemsky are slated to have surgery to repair injured hips. The procedure will have Benn, the team’s leading scorer, out four to five months, but should have him ready to resume play for training camp next fall. “It’s a major surgery, but he’ll bounce back from it and probably be a better player than he is now,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said.
2. World Championships
Nill will be the general manger for Team Canada in the upcoming IHF World Championships. His team includes Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and Cody Eakin. Stars forward Antoine Roussel will represent his native France. Several of the Stars’ American and Swedish players have been requested by their respective countries. Stars defenseman John Klingberg has been invited to play with Sweden, but will wait to sign a contract before making a commitment as to not play in the tournament without insurance. The world championships are May 1-17 in Prague and Ostrava, Czech Republic.
3. Free agency
The Stars locked up their big fish earlier in the year in Spezza, who tallied 62 points in his first season in Dallas, so free agency isn’t quite as urgent as recent years. However, a decision must be made on veterans Shawn Horcoff and Patrick Eaves. In two seasons with the Stars, Horcoff has registered 18 goals and 31 assists in the regular season as well as a goal and five assists in the Stars’ short playoff run last season. Eaves joined the Stars prior to this season and recorded 14 goals and 13 assists. Klingberg is also a restricted free agent. Negotiations between the Stars and his agent have already begun, Nill said.
4. Lehtonen’s off-season
Goalie Kari Lehtonen, 31, was the first to admit his play this season was a roller-coaster. He said he will stick to the same off-season plan he’s used the past three summers with slight adaptations to work on small problems he faced this season, namely pressing when things weren’t going his way. “When you get scored on a couple of times, it’s easy to start being more aggressive and going crazy and trying to do too much. I think that’s not usually what helps. I need to stay calm and believe in this group and believe in myself to get the job done,” Lehtonen said.
5. Backup goalie evaluation
After a trade that brought him to Dallas this season, backup goalie Jhonas Enroth posted a 5-5 record with a .909 save percentage and a 2.88 goals against average. Now a free agent, it’s up to Nill to decide if Enroth is worth bringing back or to look elsewhere. It’s been an unsolved problem for the Stars since Nill took over and has resulted in overworking Lehtonen as the Stars chased playoff berths the past three seasons.