The Stars’ biggest need is at defense, as they are expected to lose star defenseman John Klingberg, and they don’t have as much depth in their farm system at that position. But they could also use a bottom-six forward to help round out the offense.
Before you grab your pitchforks and start throwing heat at me, yes, Klingberg is not on this list. With the signing of goaltender Scott Wedgewood and the money needed (probably around $11 million) for restricted free agents Jason Robertson and Jake Oettinger, Klingberg would have to take a team-friendly deal to return. Considering he’s on his last bid for a major payday, that probably will not happen.
So in no particular order, here are six guys the Stars could potentially add or keep on the squad this summer.
Josh Manson (Defenseman)
Manson is fresh off of a Stanley Cup victory with Colorado where he scored three goals with five assists and posted a plus-6 rating in 20 playoff games. He spent seven and half years in Anaheim before being traded to the Avalanche at this year’s deadline. His large frame makes him a physical, tough player who would add strength and experience to the Stars’ blue line, along with being another penalty-killing defenseman. His offensive numbers haven’t been the same as they were when he was younger, but his defensive abilities and physicality would make up for what he lacks offensively.
Marian Studenic (Forward)
You may very well remember Studenic from his time with the Stars this past season. He was claimed by the team off waivers from New Jersey in late February and played 33 games, including four in the playoffs against Calgary. Studenic’s stats don’t pop out, but his speed and aggressiveness showed the signs of a solid player. He also displayed flashes of Roope Hintz-type maneuvers and an ability to fly around defenders. At only 23 years old, Studenic would be an economical option to help the bottom six in 2022-23 with the possibility of developing into an everyday two-way forward in the NHL. He’s an restricted free agent, so it can be assumed that the Stars will extend his $787,500 qualifying offer to him.
Justin Braun (Defenseman)
Two things stand out about Braun: He’s a veteran in the league, and he’s played under new head coach Pete DeBoer before. DeBoer stood at the helm for Braun for four seasons in San Jose, where they took a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals together in 2016. Braun is no stranger to the postseason. He’s appeared in 119 career playoff games, including 19 this past season with the New York Rangers. Braun could fit well on the second or third defenseman line rotation for the Stars, where he will have the opportunity to provide a veteran presence to young gun Thomas Harley. A Braun reunion with DeBoer could very well help round out the defensive lines for the Stars.
Michael Raffl (Forward)
Raffl is the obvious — or you could even say laziest — choice on the list. This just shows the value he brought to the Stars this year. Raffl was a tough second or third line, hard-forechecking, defensive forward. He was valued by his teammates, and it showed during the Stars’ first playoff game when he dropped the mits with Calgary forward Matthew Tkachuk. When head coach Rick Bowness mentioned the fight, he said, “What he did the other night, sticking up for John [Klingberg] when he got hit, sent a strong message to not only their team, but our team.” He added, “When we say ‘all in,’ that’s all in.” That’s the kind of player Raffl is, and adding him back would solidify a defensive-forechecking line along with Radek Faksa and Luke Glendening. Raffl also had significant time on the penalty kill and scored two goals and an assist in the Round 1 series against Calgary, showing his offensive ability and passion.
Jan Rutta (Defenseman)
Rutta saw his first full action in 2021-22 with the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he has spent the past three and a half seasons. The biggest takeaway from that sentence is Tampa Bay. Rutta was a part of three Stanley Cup Finals squads, two of which hoisted the Cup. In that time, he played in a total of 45 playoff games. This means the sturdily built defenseman has playoff experience that the Stars would value. He also has a strong shot from the point, which would benefit DeBoer’s style of getting the puck down low and letting the forwards clean up the mess. If Rutta can learn to use his size to his advantage a little better, he could be a solid defenseman in the Stars rotation.
Mattias Janmark (Forward)
Janmark spent the first four years of his career in Dallas and had some success but left the team with a sour taste after only scoring one goal during the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals run, which some fans felt was an underachievement. Regardless, a return to Dallas would likely benefit both sides. Janmark has spent the last season and a half playing for Las Vegas under DeBoer and saw success, having spent some time on the top two forward lines for a talented Vegas squad. Janmark fits into a style of play that matches others on the Stars, which is fast and down by the net. His experience, speed and knowledge of DeBoer’s system would make him valuable on a third or fourth line with younger, less experienced players such as Jacob Peterson and rising prospects Fredrik Olofsson and Fredrik Karlstrom.