MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Kari Lehtonen is an absolute no-brainer pick here. The Finnish-born netminder was healthy for much of the season, except for a groin injury that sidelined him for most of December, but early in the season No. 32 helped carry the Stars to an 11-3-0 start. He tired late in the season and his performance at crunch time took a corresponding dip, so questions remain about him being a big-game goalie. Still, he was the Stars' MVP hands down.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER
Brenden Morrow is one of several players who could fit the bill here. Sure, the Stars' captain missed 25 games this season because of a string of injuries, but when he was on the ice, he just wasn't the same player he has been, especially last year when he led the club with 33 goals. Coach Glen Gulutzan moved him up and down the lineup after his second return from injury as he struggled to find the best spot for Morrow, who logged time on the second, third and even fourth lines. Maybe an offseason where he can rest and get completely healthy would allow him to return to his previous form. But maybe all those years of wear and tear have finally caught up with the 33-year-old.
The Stars clearly need a true No. 1 defenseman to anchor the blue line. Dallas' top pairing of Stephane Robidas and Sheldon Souray was solid but also showed how badly this club needs a true top blue-liner. Another need is atop-six forward who can help take the scoring load off the shoulders of Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder. Predators D Ryan Suter and Devils LW Zach Parise are considered their top targets in free agency provided they even reach that point.
FREE AGENT FOCUS
The Stars have a number of free agents. The list of restricted free agents includes RW Adam Burish, C Jake Dowell, RW Radek Dvorak, C Toby Petersen and D Sheldon Souray. Of that group, Burish, Dvorak and possibly Souray are the most likely to return. Dallas' unrestricted free agents include Richard Bachman, Jamie Benn, Jordie Benn, Mark Fistric, Ryan Garbutt, Philip Larsen and Tom Wandell. Getting Jamie Benn signed to an extension is clearly the top priority here, but it wouldn't be surprising to see Dallas bring back Bachman, Fistric, Garbutt and Larsen and maybe even Jordie Benn.
--C Jamie Benn continued his rapid ascension into the ranks of the top young skaters in the NHL. A first-time All-Star in 2012, Benn led the Stars with seven game-winning goals, and his 37 assists were tied for second on the club.
--D Alex Goligoski led the Stars in ice time last season, averaging 22:46 per game. "Goose" finished with 30 points (9-21-30) while skating in 71 games in his first full season in Dallas. He missed 11 games early in the season because of a hand injury.
--G Christopher Nihlstorp was signed by the Stars on June 5 after spending the last four seasons in the Swedish Elite League. The 28-year-old netminder played for Farjestad BK the last two seasons and was part of the 2011 team that won the league championship. Nihlstorp had a 1.60 goals-against-average and a .944 save percentage in those nine playoff games. He signed a one-year, two-way contract, but the most likely scenario is that he will play for the Texas Stars of the American Hockey League, likely alongside either Tyler Beskorowany or Jack Campbell, Dallas' top pick in the 2011 NHL Draft.
--RW Michael Ryder led the Stars in power play goals last season with seven. A member of Boston's 2010 Stanley Cup-winning team, Ryder also led Dallas with 35 goals and ranked second on the club with six-game winning goals.
--D Mark Fistric (groin) had a slight groin tear late in the season and missed the finale against the Blues.
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