Welcome to Last Word on Hockey’s 2022 summer series, exploring the best and worst free agent signings for each NHL team of the post-lockout, salary cap era. With this past offseason seeing some big splashes (and potential gambles) like Johnny Gaudreau, Claude Giroux, John Klingberg, and others, it’s time to take a look at how teams have boosted and stunted their progress in recent history. Today, we take a look at the Dallas Stars free agent signings history.
Dallas Stars Free Agent Hits and Misses
Best Signing: Joe Pavelski
— theScore (@theScore) July 1, 2019
In the summer of 2019 the Stars signed 34-year-old Joe Pavelski. They signed him to a three-year, $7 million AAV deal. Pavelski had been with the San Jose Sharks for the first 13 seasons of his career. And was their captain for four of those. The Stars were looking to add some veteran presence to the locker room, while also looking to add some offence to line up. And despite being 34 years old, Pavelski has shown no signs of deteriorating in skill.
He is an elite two-way forward and has mastered tipping the puck in from the front of the net. Pavelski is a hard-working, first one to practice, last one to leave kind of player. Additionally, his leadership qualities speak for themselves. Pavelski’s first year was off to a slow start, in 67 games, he only scored 14 goals and recorded 31 points. However, the Stars would go on to make their first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 2000. In 27 games, Pavelski led the team with 13 goals during their Cup run.
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Though Dallas would miss the playoffs the next season, Pavelski was a few points shy of being a point-per-game player. This past season Pavelski hit a new career high with 81 points. Not only was he good on a personal level, but he was also on one of the best top lines in the league. Pavelski was on a line with Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson. Together the line produced 105 goals and 232 points. While his production alone would make him the best of the Dallas Stars free agent signings, his impact extends beyond just points and stats.
Moulding the Stars Future
However, his impact goes beyond what he was able to produce offensively. He has been able to help mould the young players around him. From learning skills to work ethic, he has been able to show them what a good player on and off the ice is. One could argue that Robertson doesn’t have a break-out sophomore year without Pavelski on his line. The three of them work well together and the organization will see Pavelski’s impact pay dividends in the years to come. The now 38-year-old signed a one-year extension with the team so his impact on the team is not over yet.
Best Signing Honourable Mention: Alexander Radulov
Dallas signed Alexander Radulov to a five-year, $6.25 million dollar AAV deal in the summer of 2017. During his time with the Stars, Radulov quickly became a fan favourite. Radulov plays with everything he’s got and his celly is one that will always be remembered. Radulov was paired with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin and they were a force to be reckoned with during their prime.
Some of his biggest moments were his four game-winning goals during the 2020 Cup run. Or his goal that gave the Stars the lead in the Winter Classic game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas. That goal had 85,000 people cheering in one of the biggest outdoor hockey games in NHL history. He was a 70+ point scorer for the team the first two years until injuries and age caught up with him. He has since left the NHL and will be playing in the KHL next season.
Worst Signing: Sean Avery
Sean Avery was signed to a four-year, $15.5 million dollar deal in the summer of 2008. He already had a pretty bad reputation in the league and was even dubbed the most hated player in the NHL. But the Stars and co-general manager, Brett Hull took a chance on him. His game and style of play were exactly what they needed a the time. The Stars were missing grit and Avery was known for being a nuisance. Avery had led the league in penalty minutes twice in his career. Unfortunately, that is not what the Stars got when he signed. He became the worst of the Dallas Stars free agent signings.
He had a lot of on and off-ice issues and he wasn’t the best player on the team, but something about him made his team better. During his first stint with the New York Rangers, they were 50-20-16 with him in the line-up. When he was not in the lineup, they were 9-13-3. One of Avery’s most infamous moves was when he stood in front of the New Jersey Devils goalie, Martin Brodeur. He was waving his hand and stick in front of his face to block his view. The next day, the league implanted the “Avery rule” and prohibited that behaviour.
Not Worth the Trouble
The final straw for the Stars was when Avery went to the media and made some inappropriate comments about other players in the league. The quote from Avery was “I just want to comment on how it’s become like a common thing in the NHL for guys to fall in love with my sloppy seconds.” The league quickly decided to suspend Avery for his comments. Stars owner, Tom Hicks stated that if the league did not take action, the team would have.
On December 14, 2008, the team decided to part ways with Avery after his six-game suspension was up. He only played 23 games in Dallas. In those 23 games, he scored 3 goals and recorded 10 points. He also had 77 penalty minutes. After being released he sought help from the NHL Players Association for anger issues.
Worst Signing Honourable Mention: Ryan Suter
The Dallas Stars are expected to sign defenseman Ryan Suter to a 4-year deal, per multiple reports.
The 16-year NHL veteran spent the last nine years with the Wild, who bought out his contract this month. pic.twitter.com/mX7ztXZ7qu
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) July 28, 2021
During the summer of 2021, the Stars signed 36-year-old Ryan Suter two a four-year, 3.65 million dollar AAV deal. This was after the Seattle Kraken signed Jamie Olesiak, so the stars had a hole to fill on the blue line. Suter was a very good defenceman back in his prime when he was with the Minnesota Wild. But that was a long time ago and he was just bought out by the Wild. Dallas loves adding veteran presence. But one could assume Joe Pavelski has given the front office a false sense of what older players can do.
On face value, his Miro Heiskanen padded stats don’t look that bad. His main asset is throwing the puck to someone who can put it in the net and creating rebounds from lobbing the puck near the net. But his defence has deteriorated, as well as his skating. His refusal to play on his weak side has also forced the Stars to play Heiskanen on his weak side, limiting what the elite defenceman can do.
And unfortunately for the Stars, their other defensive options required Suter to be on the first pairing this past year. With Dallas getting a new coach, one could hope they find a better role or can get more production out of him. The Stars gave Suter a no-movement clause, so trading him if they don’t get better results is not an option.