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Cullen: Stars could have some new offensive leaders

Scott Cullen
9/10/2011 11:37:35 AM
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The Dallas Stars don't have elite talent, so they're not going to draw a lot of early attention on draft day, but there if value to be found; it may just require a little digging beyond the surface.

Perhaps the best candidate on the Stars roster is promising young forward Jamie Benn, the 22-year-old who scored a point-per-game in his last 36 games of the season when the reigns were taken off and he started playing 20 minutes a nigh instead of 15. It's a lot to ask Benn to help make up for the departure of Brad Richards, but he's capable of becoming Dallas' next franchise forward.

Winger Loui Eriksson is the Stars' top returning scorer, coming off a career-high 73-point season. There has been some concern over what Eriksson might do without Richards feeding him the puck, so it's worth looking at the ten games that Richards missed last season. In those ten games, Eriksson had five goals and three assists -- a higher goals-per-game and lower assists-per-game rate in that small sample -- so it's reasonable enough to think that Eriksson can continue to produce at a high level.

One of the most important players for the Stars going forward will be mobile defenceman Alex Goligoski, who provides an element that has been lacking. Goligoski can handle the puck and handled big minutes, more than 26 minutes per game for Dallas, after he was acquired from the Penguins. Goligoski's ability to generate offence from the blueline will be crucial to the rest of the Stars' offensive hopes.

Veteran Brenden Morrow may not be quite the fantasy superstar that he was when he was racking up 100-plus penalty minutes, but he did score a career-high 33 goals last season while playing in all 82 games.

Morrow has spent quite a bit of time in recent seasons alongside Mike Ribeiro, a veteran pivot who has topped 50 assists three times in the last four seasons. While it's easy to overlook Ribeiro, he's one of just nine centres in the league to have at least three 70-point seasons in the last four years.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign for the Stars last season was that goaltender Kari Lehtonen managed to stay healthy all year, playing in a career-high 69 games. Lehtonen is an above-average starting goaltender, though he's facing the prospect of having below-average support from the team in front of him.

Following a season of exile in the AHL, Sheldon Souray is a 35-year-old defenceman with something to prove. If he can stay healthy, which has been a challenge, Souray has a rocket shot from the point and has scored a total of 76 goals in the last four years that he played at least 60 NHL games. He's also a physical presence, with 1020 penalty minutes in 650 games so the best facets of Souray's game can make him quite valuable. On the other hand, he's frequently injured and a minus-64 over the last five seasons, so there is bad that comes with Souray's potential good.

In leagues that count penalty minutes, Steve Ott is an asset. He'd be more of an asset with wing eligibily, but Ott is one of just two players (Philadelphia's Scott Hartnell is the other) to have at least 30 points and 130 penalty minutes in each of the last three seasons.

Veteran blueliner Stephane Robidas may not have the value he's held in recent years because he's no longer required on the first power play unit, thanks to the presence of Goligoski and Souray. In deep leagues, Robidas may still provide value, thanks to decent penalty minute totals, but expect his point totals to drop.

Enigmatic winger Michael Ryder had some productive years in Montreal, including time that he played with Ribeiro, so the Stars will hope that their chemistry can be recaptured. Another potential positive for Ryder is that, in Dallas, he may get more ice time than the 14:29 per game he received in Boston last year.

The Stars don't have a great crop of prospects on the way, so if there is an injury to one of the top six forwards there could be trouble, unless 2009 first-rounder Scott Glennie makes a super-smooth transition to the pro game.

It could be a challenging season for the Stars, but teams with relatively low expectations can be fertile ground for finding value.

NHL Depth Chart - Dallas Stars

Scott Cullen can be reached at Scott.Cullen@bellmedia.ca and followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tsnscottcullen.  For more, check out TSN Fantasy Sports on Facebook.

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