Dallas Stars- Record 50-23-9, 109 points. 1st Place
At the beginning of last season, in our preview on Dallas, we said that having two slightly better than average goaltenders and a poor defense would be their undoing. We were kind of wrong during the regular season. Antti Niemi had a .905 save percentage and Kari Lehtonen had a .906 save percentage during the regular season.
That led to a division championship for the Stars, beating out the Blues in the final few days. They played the depleted Minnesota Wild in the playoffs and moved on although the defense was starting to struggle.
The Stars advanced the Western Conference semifinals against the Blues. The Stars’ downfall was their below-average goaltending. Those plus .900 save percentages in the regular season didn’t translate well. In the playoffs, the duo was very bad. Lehtonen had a .899 save percentage during the playoffs, and Niemi had a save percentage of .865.
So now the Stars have all of their money wrapped up in their offense. They have nine contracts to settle this season and nine next season. Defenseman Kris Russel is one they really need to keep but it’s going to be tough to squeeze him in as they already are against the Cap. They already traded the rights to D-man Alex Goligoski to Arizona for a fifth round pick because they couldn’t afford him.
The Dallas Stars desperately need to upgrade their goaltending next season, but it will be near impossible. Niemi is due $4.5 million a year for the next two years and Lehtonen is due $5.9 million for each of the next two seasons.
It will be interesting to see what happens with Free Agency and the Salary Cap with several of these teams.