The fourth in a series looking at how a potential year-long lockout would affect the Dallas Stars as a team and an organization.
Dallas was in a difficult position after the past season finished. They were a non-playoff team filled with older players on the downside of their careers or young guys who just weren't ready for the NHL just yet. The organization had to find a way to put out a team that could contend for a playoff spot while still allowing the young guys to grow at their own pace.
By the end of the offseason they had done a magnificent job in completing that plan. The older players that they brought in (Jagr and Ray Whitney) are better than what they sent away (Mike Ribeiro and Sheldon Souray). They would have gone into the season with a solid top-six group of forwards and watched their solid young prospects grow at the AHL level or as a fourth line player in the NHL. The team of the future would have been set to go next year with this plan in place.
That plan goes out the window if the season is locked out. Jagr and Whitney have been around since Moses parted the Red Sea and while they may still be in good shape; I can't imagine them going for another year, especially Jagr.
At least one, probably two of the top-six forwards on the team are gone next season and the expectation would be for the young players to step up.
Would they be ready though? A lockout in the NHL won't cancel anything in the AHL, but it could really jumble up rosters. Current NHL players that have two-way contracts could conceivably spend their time in the AHL next year if they wanted to. Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators absolutely tore up the AHL during the 2004-2005 lockout and was the MVP that year (he had already been in the NHL for two years).
Guys with two-way contracts that had expectations of playing in Dallas this season include: Reilly Smith, Tomas Vincour, Cody Eakin, Brenden Dillon and Jordie Benn. I'd imagine that all of them would head down to play in AHL. Dillon, Vincour and Eakin are guys that shouldn't be spending any time in AHL anymore as they all are NHL ready (possibly Smith as well).
As it is at the moment, the AHL roster looks to have a solid collection of youngsters that will all get ample playing time. Throwing in a mix of five more NHL players could mean less time for the new kids. It may not change the Stars plans that much, but I'd still prefer that guys like Jamie Oleksiak, Radek Faksa and Alex Chiasson get as much time in the AHL as they possibly can. They're the guys that need the time and experience to get used to the higher speeds of the pro game.
An influx of NHL talent in the AHL levels should raise the intensity of play and could help out the young guys. I just feel that the team actually had a great plan for the future and I'm worried how a lost year changes it.