It's the 11th annual off-season look at each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. In keeping with tradition, I run through the teams alphabetically - but switch starting points each year. This year I began with Anaheim and will finish up with Winnipeg in early September. Time to take a look at the Stars and Red Wings.
Pending UFAs - Eric Nystrom, Jordie Benn, Christopher Nilstorp
Pending RFAs - Colton Sceviour, Richard Bachman, Tom Wandell, Lane MacDermid, Cameron Gaunce, Matt Fraser
Looking to add – Some scoring punch on the wing. At this point, Ray Whitney and Loui Eriksson are the only options and Whitney is 41 years old. Yes, they have Erik Cole, but his season was a train wreck and I hold little confidence he'll bounce back. They do have Alex Chiasson, who had six goals in seven games, but that's the extent of his NHL resume. More on Chiasson later. The point is, another winger, or perhaps two, will be added.
Cody Eakin has proven himself to be a capable third-line center and eventually he could be the second-line guy. But he's probably not ready for that next season, so the Stars may sign a center for two or three years if they can. The problem is two of the best pivots on the free agent market - Mike Ribeiro and Derek Roy - were already on Dallas within the past year.
Ready for full time: As I alluded to above, Chiasson has proven during his cup of coffee that he is a capable NHL player. A shoulder injury cut his seventh game short, which leads to the only issue that could stop him from becoming a full-timer next year: injuries. Although he's 6-foot-4, he's a twig at just 187 pounds. More bulk is needed - the NHL isn't filled with a bunch of kittens.
Kevin Connauton is a defenseman whom the Stars picked up from Vancouver in the Derek Roy trade. He has to clear waivers to be sent down, so consider him all but on the team. With Alex Goligoski, Sergei Gonchar and Stephane Robidas already on the power play, Connauton will be competing with another young puck-moving rearguard in Philip Larsen for secondary ice time. Connauton is more of a long-term fantasy own, despite the strong odds that he’ll be on the team in the fall.
With a lack of wingers on the pro team, the Stars are sure to sign a couple of veterans. But if they don't, their skilled winger prospects may be rushed. I wouldn't put too much hope on the likes of Brett Ritchie or Matej Stransky making the team - but if they do, it would absolutely have my attention. Ritchie is coming off a 41-goal season in the Ontario League (often playing alongside Ryan Strome), while Stransky is coming off of a 40-goal season in the Western League.
Fantasy Outlook: I love the defense corps in Dallas, but that's more for the long-term future. Imagine Goligoski, Brenden Dillon, Trevor Daley, Jamie Oleksiak, Connauton, Cameron Gaunce and Joe Morrow. Up front, if Chiasson pans out the Stars will still need another scoring winger. Their forward prospects are average on the whole. Depending on who they sign in the summer, I don't see a lot of offense next year from this team after Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson…and perhaps in 2014-15 as well. At this point, there are quite a few other NHL teams I would rather build my fantasy squad around. Fantasy Grade: C- (last year was C-)
Pending UFAs - Valtteri Filppula, Ian White, Danny Cleary, Jan Mursak, Damien Brunner
Pending RFAs - Thomas McCollum, Jakub Kindl, Joakim Andersson, Brendan Smith, Gustav Nyquist
Looking to add – Depending on if the Red Wings use their compliance buyouts on the likes of veterans Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson, they may or may not need a winger or three. Nyquist (and Andersson, for that matter) will get one-way contracts so they will be full-timers next season and Tomas Tatar is also NHL-ready. Re-signing Brunner is a must and if they get him back, the team may only need a third-line veteran.
Since losing Nicklas Lidstrom and Brad Stuart last summer, all eyes have been on the defense corps. All year, the Red Wings tried to patch up this weakness - from signing Carlo Colaiacovo and Kent Huskins to calling up Brian Lashoff to inking collegiate Danny DeKeyser. But injuries, along with the colossal disappointment of Ian White, conspired to kill this team's hopes. I doubt the organization will make this mistake again, so expect management to be active in landing a free agent rearguard. There is not a lot to choose from after Mark Streit (whom the Flyers acquired and will probably sign), but Jordan Leopold, Toni Lydman, Ryan Whitney and Andrew Ference should all be on the short list.
Ready for full time – As noted already, Nyquist and Andersson are on the team already. Both earned more responsibility with each game and I have a feeling they will have big impacts in 2013-14. Nyquist's impact will be more on the scoresheet, while Andersson's will be from his two-way play.
Tatar should also make the jump, but he'll be brought in slowly as a 40-point third-liner out to prove himself. The conveyor belt of high-upside prospect forwards for Detroit continues to turn.
Fantasy Outlook – Give Detroit a round of applause for keeping it up for so long. This is an organization I point to as the best-run in hockey. Success in sports is cyclical, but some cycles are longer than others. Detroit is an example of a long cycle. I can barely remember when this team sucked. Up front, there are plenty of fantasy-worthy players in the NHL and in the pipeline. On the back end, after Niklas Kronwall and Brendan Smith, there is little to choose from a fantasy standpoint. But in the pipeline a couple of kids are appealing, but they will just need two or three more years. Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was B+)
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.
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