Dallas GM Jim Nill has had a brilliant summer, and may have made his best move yet on Monday, signing Alexander Radulov to a five-year, $30.25-million deal.
The summer is far from over, but it would be fair to say the Dallas Stars, at least for the time being, are topping the list of off-season winners.
Stars GM Jim Nill got busy early. In April, days after the season concluded, he replaced outgoing coach Lindy Ruff with former Dallas bench boss and Stanley Cup champion Ken Hitchcock. Less than a month later, Nill addressed his team’s greatest need, landing Ben Bishop in a deal with the Los Angeles Kings and promptly inking the netminder to a six-year, $29.5-million contract. Little more than a month after Bishop was locked in, Nill then went out and beefed up the Stars’ blueline by trading for Marc Methot, and gave Dallas more help down the middle by signing Martin Hanzal as free agency opened on Saturday.
But Nill’s latest move may be the most exciting when it comes to the pure on-ice product, because the Stars have added another piece to their already potent offense by inking Alexander Radulov, one of the most prized free agents, to a five-year, $31.25-million contract.
The signing is a brilliant one by Nill, and it could very well become the best contract that is signed all summer for a number of reasons. First, and most obvious, is the fact that Radulov stands to come into town and immediately produce alongside some of Dallas’ already impressive offensive talents, not to mention potential for him to exceed his production from this past season. Radulov was good in Montreal — who are no doubt disappointed they couldn’t retain the winger’s services — and posted 18 goals and 54 points in his first full season in the NHL since 2007-08. But that may have only been a small window into what Radulov can achieve.
Heading into Dallas, which has been much more freewheeling in recent years, will give Radulov even more options as a setup man, better teammates to play with on the power play and a chance to put up absolutely gaudy point totals if he finds a fit in a hurry. The potential line combinations alone have to have Hitchcock considering the possibility of a near point per game season out of Radulov. Think of it this way: with Radulov signed, there exists the possibility for the Stars to load up with a line of Radulov on the right wing, Jamie Benn on the left wing and Tyler Seguin down the middle. The mere mention of the trio is enough to give opposing defenders and goaltenders nightmares, and if the Stars ride with that line, is there any reason to doubt Radulov’s ability to post a 60- or 70-point season in that scenario?
Calling it a need for Dallas to go out and land a top-flight winger to bolster the top six might be a stretch, but it was certainly a want and desire for the club as Patrick Eaves, Patrick Sharp and Ales Hemsky have moved along. And while Eaves had a dream season in 2016-17 ahead of the trade that sent him to the Anaheim Ducks, not even the biggest Eaves fan would suggest that he possesses more offensive potential than Radulov. There’s no doubt that Radulov brings more to the table than either Sharp or Hemsky, too.
It’s not as if Nill had to hand out an absolutely bonkers contract to land Radulov, either. While some early reports and speculation pegged down Radulov’s ask as a seven-year contract worth $7 million per season, his actual deal is much, much more palatable. The money, at $6.25 million per season, isn’t so much that the Stars are facing immediate cap concerns, as they have more than $4 million in cap space at this point and will enter next off-season, when Seguin and Jason Spezza are up for new deals, with $22 million-plus to spend. Equally as important as the money, though, is the term, and five years is perfect.
As a 30-year-old entering free agency, the concern about a lengthy, seven-year deal is that Radulov’s effectiveness would be gone near the back end of the contract, making it an ugly deal to work around. At five years, though, Radulov will be 35 when his contract comes up and could only be starting his true decline. If the signs of that happening are there, the Stars can walk away from Radulov when his deal is up. If he’s still productive, there’s nothing stopping Dallas from looking into a short-term deal when the contract is near its end.
In almost every conceivable way, this contract is a win for Dallas, and after the disappointment of the past campaign, every single move made by Nill this summer has it looking the Stars will be front and center in the Stanley Cup conversation.
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