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Shap Shots Mailbag: Stankoven in Dallas next season? And would the Stars be ok with an NHL team in Houston?
You asked questions, I attempted to answer.
What would your off-season plan be if you were Jim Nill? What moves could be made to keep this team contending?
Are Bourque and Stankoven on the opening night roster next year? (From Mike)
We’ve got a bunch of questions about the Stars offseason plan, so I wanna focus on Mavrik Bourque and Logan Stankoven to start.
I think both are key parts of the Stars future, vital cogs alongside Wyatt Johnston as Dallas creates a secondary core behind Roope Hintz, Miro Heiskanen, Jason Robertson, and Jake Oettinger.
Bourque to me is ready to play in the NHL. He reminds me of John Klingberg, a player who was good in the AHL, but because of his playmaking will be better in the NHL when playing with players that better read off of him.
Stankoven will be good, he’s a steal, but I also want to be careful with expectations for next season. With his size and experience, I think he’d benefit from time in the AHL to at least start the season if he doesn’t seamlessly pass preseason tests. Stankoven, with all the hype, could be destined to fail next season if expectations surpass reality. Having him start with the Texas Stars and then moving up to the NHL when ready, even if that’s after five AHL games, could be the ideal setup in my view.
For the rest of the offseason I would prioritize buying out Ryan Suter, and we’ll talk more about that later in this mailbag, and either finding a No. 3 goalie the Stars coaches trust or convincing Pete DeBoer that Matt Murray can play NHL games if needed.
Re-signing Evgenii Dadonov would be a priority for me, I think his transition game brings more a key element to the Stars and I think his contract with a shorter term will be a better investment than Max Domi.
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2 Questions that I've sat on for a while:
1) Do teams take out insurance policies on player contracts to protect themselves financially if an injury occurs? If so, are the policies active only if there is a career ending injury or do they pay out even if a player misses a couple of weeks or even a game?
2) What is the entire behind-the-scenes process that has to take place for a trade to go through? How do physicals, cap compliance, etc. get everything done so quickly? (From Jason)
Two good ones.
1. Teams take out insurance policies to cover player contracts in case of injury. For example, Ben Bishop’s remaining contract was primarily paid out by insurance. The Buffalo Sabres basically acquire him for the cap hit, but didn’t really have to pay much because of the insurance coverage.
These really only apply for career-ending injuries, where a player isn’t able to play and is done. If a player has a chance to return, the insurance company has protections in place to limit the team from taking advantage of that.
2. For a trade to go through teams have to agree (obviously) and then things go through the checklist of requirements. The league will check these things in the trade call, cap compliance and roster compliance will come up in that call. A player passing a physical for a trade isn’t required, which is why players on LTIR can be traded.
If you're Jim Nill, do you consider buying out Suter's contract? Running the numbers, he's the one player it could actually make sense to buy out. (From James)
I’ve thought about this and gone back and forth on the best path forward with Ryan Suter. I’ve personally come to the conclusion that the best option for the future of the Stars is buying out Suter to free up the roster space for younger defenders to grow and thrive.
In theory Suter would be a fine third-pairing defender, having him play 13 to 15 minutes a night wouldn’t be a bad thing. But in reality an NHL coach is going to trust the veteran and when it comes to a close game in November, he’ll defer to Suter instead of playing Nils Lundkvist or sticking with the long-term development plan.
It’s a space where I believe Nill needs to be the adult in the room. DeBoer could say he’ll limit Suter’s role, but Nill needs to eliminate any question of that and simply remove him from the equation.
1) Do hockey coaches share intel with their friends in the playoffs once they’re eliminated? For instance, Will Paul Maurice call up Pete DeBoer and get insights on playing Vegas now?
2) Can you explain how line changes work in real time on the ice? When there is a stoppage, a coach can easily send out their preferred line, but during continuous play, do players just know when Line 1 Player comes off the ice Line 2 player enters, etc., or is the coach constantly calling out who should go out? (From Jason B)
1. Hockey coaches chat more than people realize, they also already have a ton of the intel. The Florida Panthers watched Dallas-Vegas closely, there’s not much that a call between Paul Maurice and DeBoer could give the Panthers that they haven’t already recognized themselves.
One thing that does come into play is past familiarity on a staff with individual players. For example in the series between Vegas and Dallas, former Stars assistant coach John Stevens played a vital role for Vegas on how to handle individual players.
Stevens and Bruce Cassidy had discussions about how to push certain players, to test their breaking points and who responds well or poorly to certain situations.
2. In the game each team will have their own verbiage, but often it’s the coach calling out the center on a line to tell them who’s up next on the fly. It depends on the flow of the game and the situation, but in general coaches are acting like conductors for an orchestra.
Seems to be a couple defense questions already but let's just throw another. *Realistically* what would you look to do with the defense if you were Jim Nill? I am of the opinion that:
1. the only two guys who played playoff games that should be guaranteed to be back are Heiskanen and Harley.
2. You have the figure out a way to make sure Lundqvist is an every night guy by the time playoffs arrive, whether that's taking lumps early and riding it out or what have you.
3. You need to position your roster so that Miro is on his strong side on a regular basis.
The free agent market is not good for D, which seems like it will be a significant limiting factor. But it also feels like they need a fair amount of fresh faces filling out the bottom half of the defense corps so they aren't wearing Miro into the ground on a nightly basis again. (From Ryan)
This is all fair, especially the caveat about Lundqvist being a regular player night to night going into the playoffs.
I think Heiskanen playing on his strong side is important, but not the most important thing for me.
As stated earlier, I would buy out Suter and open some spaces there. I would then look to the free agency market to find a partner for Harley or Heiskanen, with Lundqvist or Lindell filling out the other spot in the top-four.
That leaves a third pair with Jani Hakanpaa and Colin Miller, which I think is viable. Joel Hanley to me has played his way out of Dallas, someone will sign him to play regular minutes, which is great for Hanley, but Dallas shouldn’t make that mistake.
With the Walleye postseason officially over, what are your bold predictions for the Griffins' coaching staff (do they promote Dan Watson?) and Cossa's placement in 23-24? (From Aaron Lee)
I don’t think Dan Watson taking the Grand Rapids job is a bold prediction, if anything I think it’s the expected action. Derek Lalonde has been hinting at his want to promote Watson throughout the season.
With Watson, it’s important to note that he’s only leaving Toledo for certainty. He has incredible job security in Toledo and his wife has a high-ranking job at a hospital in Ohio — he’s a family man, and that’s highly respectable — so I almost think an assistant job in Detroit would be more viable than a head job in Grand Rapids based on geography.
As far as the goaltending, I think it’s time the Red Wings let Sebastian Cossa and John Lethemon run with the crease in the AHL. Both could go through a learning curve, they certainly did last season, but both need that proving ground to show where fit in the long-term plan
Cossa to me needs to go through some adversity and battle through it. That may sound like old-school hockey thinking, but I do believe there is some credence to building mental fortitude that way.
The ice in Vegas looked to be a bit rough at times. Does the NHL still have an "Ice Guy", and if so, how does that work with the playoff teams? For example, do they just provide consulting or do they completely take over ice resurfacing responsibility? And at what stage of the playoffs does that happen?(From David & Stacy)
The NHL has an ice guru, but in general their role is more specific to outdoor games and acting as a consultant compared to taking over fully from the ground that manages the ice all season.
Vegas, and Florida, deal with climate impact on the ice. It’s a reality of the situation and with how late the NHL schedule goes into May it’s hard to avoid in many cases.
Did the Golden Knights change something in their systems for game 6? or were they just that much better and Stars took a step back? GK’s seemed to be able to defeat the forecheck and breeze through the neutral zone and enter the zone with possession so much more easily than previous game (From Daniel)
I personally didn’t see a systems change for Vegas in Game 6.
I saw a Golden Knights team that came out with speed, a fourth-line that seized opportunity, and a Stars team that was both physically spent and expecting more of an emotional boost from Jamie Benn’s return.
I don’t like harping on the Benn factor, but the reality of the situation is that the Stars rely on him for so much emotional drive, and in Game 6 they needed him to set the tone after the rest of the team had worked so hard to make it so he could play again that season.
There seem to be a few teams that may shake up their cores this off-season with big trades, such as Winnipeg, Toronto, Vancouver, etc.
Which change-of-scenery player would you go after if you were Dallas? Doesn’t have to make cap sense for hypo purposes. I think Ehlers would make an excellent Dallas Star fwiw.
Thanks for your excellent coverage this season! (From DT)
I’m gonna pivot this to a league-wide discussion, because I think teams should be pushing hard to acquire Kyle Connor right now.
Connor to me is the change-of-scenery player that will fit with any team. He’s a pure sniper, a goal scorer, and would fit in the top-six on an NHL team. Nikolaj Ehlers is a fine player, he would make Dallas better, but I would focus more on Connor if I were an NHL GM.
Hey Sean! First things first thanks for all your continued coverage even in a period of relative uncertainty, and I and a lot of Stars fans are really thrilled that you were able to land on your feet - both from a great human angle and a great Stars coverage angle. My question is specific to Dallas and how Jim Nill and Pete DeBoer approach this off-season and next regular season:
How do you feel Nill & co will grade/review the defensive corps coming out of the playoffs this season, and (how) do you see GMJN being aggressive in re-structuring? I'm not sure if it was fan bias, but it seemed like everyone outside of 4, 55, and 44 were a trainwreck in the western conference final and Heiskanen was clearly gassed. With 5 dmen who, from a skill/body/age perspective, fit into the category of 5th or 6th d-men and one young player who will either be a top 4 guy or not in the NHL, what is the plan? I'm sure it involves building on Lundkvist's solid first season and hoping he gets into all 82+ playoffs next year, but do you think the Stars would be comfortable running Heiskanen, Harley, Suter, Hakanpaa, Hanley, Miller + Lundkvist in the playoffs? If not, do you see any of the Stars' top prospects like Stankoven, Bourque and/or Bichsel as prime candidates to be packaged for help? (From Ismael)
I touched earlier on my ideology, but from a Stars perspective, I think they are more content than Stars fans would like.
Dallas was good enough to win the whole thing, I fear they might be blinded by that. Because being too content is a recipe for being, well, content and allowing other teams to pass them.
If the Stars role back the same defensive core, but have just subtracted Suter, I would be fine with that. Not happy, I’d like another move, but a Suter buy out for me would be key addition by subtraction.
I also think the Stars aren’t willing to part with those prospects you mentioned, especially the forwards.
I know the Stars have had more important issues to deal with recently, but have you heard what the general feeling is among the executives about the possibility of the Coyotes moving to Houston or KC? Would the Stars support a move into their fan base? (From Tiffany)
So Dallas would be happy to embrace an NHL team in Houston, as long as they got the financial payout that would come with another team cutting into their territory.
One of the Stars marketing pushes right now to sponsors and brands is the fact that they penetrate five NBA markets (Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, New Orleans, Oklahoma City) and a team playing in Houston would cut into that territory and potentially some net profits.
The “one state one team” branding I believe has a secondary motive, where Dallas wants to remind everyone, most importantly NHL execs, that if the league comes to Houston, Tom Gaglardi and Co. will have to be made whole financially.