The 2021-22 NHL season starts Oct. 12. With training camps open, NHL.com is taking a look at the three keys, the inside scoop on roster questions, and the projected lineup for each of the 32 teams. Today, the Dallas Stars.
Coach: Rick Bowness (third season)
Last season: 23-19-14; fifth in Discover Central Division, did not qualify for Stanley Cup Playoffs
1. Goalies galore
Anton Khudobin, Jake Oettinger, Braden Holtby and Ben Bishop could all be competing for playing time. Khudobin and Oettinger split time last season; Bishop could be healthy after missing the entire season because of knee surgery; and Holtby signed a one-year contract July 28, the day after the Vancouver Canucks bought out the final season of his two-year contract.
Holtby was 7-11-3 with a 3.67 goals-against average and an .889 save percentage in 21 starts last season, but brings experience, having won the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals in 2018. He has the inside track to back up Khudobin.
2. Suter’s impact
Ryan Suter signed a four-year contract July 28 after he had the final four seasons of his 13-year contract bought out by the Minnesota Wild on July 13. The defenseman scored 19 points (three goals, 16 assists) in 56 games last season, averaging 22:11 of ice time per game.
Although the 36-year-old scored his fewest points since scoring 16 (one goal, 15 assists) in 71 games as a rookie with the Nashville Predators in 2005-06, he has scored 607 points (93 goals, 514 assists), including 237 power-play points (32 goals, 205 assists), in 1,198 regular-season games.
3. Health concerns
Tyler Seguin missed all but three games last season after having hip surgery Nov. 2. In each of his first six seasons with Dallas (2013-19), the forward scored at least 26 goals and 72 points. Alexander Radulov, who was limited to 11 games before having core muscle surgery, scored 12 points (four goals, eight assists). The forward scored at least 27 goals and 72 points in each of his first two seasons with the Stars (2017-19).
Their absence was a big reason the Stars finished 18th in the NHL in scoring last season (2.79 goals per game), and how they adjust to playing a full season again will factor into Dallas’ success.
In addition to backup goalie, the Stars could have some competition for the final forward spots. Luke Glendening and Michael Raffl, who each signed this offseason, could round out the group. Tanner Kero, who scored 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 39 games with the Stars last season, and Ty Dellandrea, who scored five points (three goals, two assists) in 26 games, could be options. Defenseman Thomas Harley also should get a look in camp. The 20-year-old, who was the No. 18 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, scored 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in 38 games with Texas of the American Hockey League.
Most intriguing addition
Goaltending was not an area the Stars needed to improve — they tied for seventh in goals-against average (2.64) — so the addition of Holtby came as a surprise. His GAA and save percentage last season were each the worst of his 11-season NHL career but he provides a veteran presence. Oettinger, who was seventh in GAA (2.36) among goalies to play at least 25 games, had an impressive rookie season (11-8-7, .911 save percentage, one shutout in 29 games) but could be the third goalie. If Bishop is healthy, the Stars likely will need to move someone.
Biggest potential surprise
Denis Gurianov scored 20 goals in 64 games as a rookie in 2019-20 and an NHL career-high 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) in 55 games last season. Although he likely will start on the third line, he should see time in the top six. Gurianov has shown flashes of what he is capable of, including a four-goal, five-point game in a 7-3 win against the Calgary Flames in Game 6 of the first round in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Ready to break through
Dellandrea could see a larger role this season, even if he isn’t in the opening night lineup. The 21-year-old, who was the No. 13 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, scored 70 points (32 goals, 38 assists) in 47 games with Flint of the Ontario Hockey League in 2019-20. A full season with the Stars, rather than splitting time in the NHL and AHL as he did last season, should speed up his development.
Suter is 14th among defensemen with 256 points (41 goals, 215 assists) in 449 games since 2015-16 and brings exposure to valuable forwards Seguin, Radulov, Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz, Jamie Benn and Joe Pavelski at even strength. Suter is a safe option in later rounds at a scarce position and has potential to return to his previous level of production with Dallas. — Rob Reese
Jamie Benn — Tyler Seguin — Alexander Radulov
Jason Robertson — Roope Hintz — Joe Pavelski
Blake Comeau — Radek Faksa — Denis Gurianov
Joel Kiviranta — Luke Glendening — Michael Raffl
Esa Lindell — John Klingberg
Ryan Suter — Miro Heiskanen
Andrej Sekera — Jani Hakanpaa