The vault in Dallas was closed this summer, which, for free
agents, was the equivalent of Old Faithful's failing to blow. In
off-seasons past the Stars dispersed cash like so much steam,
spending lavishly not only on salaries but also on their sales
pitches. In 2002, for example, they lured winger Bill Guerin from
Boston thanks to a visit from owner Tom Hicks and a recruiting
presentation on DVD. The $45 million over five years helped too.
Not so this year. Chastened by the embarrassment of a
second-round playoff loss to the Mighty Ducks and by the league's
uncertain labor future, Hicks made fiscal responsibility the
watchword this summer.
Free agent Derian Hatcher, the team captain and a Norris Trophy
finalist, was allowed to sign with conference rival Detroit.
General manager Doug Armstrong tried unsuccessfully to trade
Guerin, winger Pierre Turgeon ($7.5 million salary this season)
and center Jason Arnott ($3.9 million). The front office also
played hardball with holdout Vezina Trophy runner-up Marty Turco,
whose 1.72 goals-against average was the lowest in the league
since 1940-41. A week into camp Turco signed a three-year, $12
The Stars' $62 million payroll ultimately was not slashed, but
the lineup wasn't demonstrably improved either. Teppo Numminen,
35, acquired from the Coyotes as part of a three-team deal for
defenseman Darryl Sydor, and free-agent signee Don Sweeney, 37,
are capable veterans, but they will be hard-pressed to replace
Hatcher's looming presence on what had been one of the league's
elite blue lines. "We don't feel we're deprived in that area,"
says coach Dave Tippett. "We feel we have people capable of
playing very physical and very hard."
The brilliant Turco and a deep group of forwards should make up
for any drop-off in the defensive zone. The Stars will make the
playoffs, but it's unlikely that they can overcome revamped
conference powers Detroit and Colorado. --S.C.
COLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO (TURCO) MARTY TURCO
( 1 Best - 30 Worst )
POWER PLAY 7
PENALTY KILLING 4
G.M. AND COACH 8
Puck-moving D Sergei Zubov is the most underrated player in the
NHL.... Despite losing Derian Hatcher, the Stars' rugged and
mobile defense can still shut down the opposition....
In-your-face forecheckers Rob DiMaio, Manny Malhotra and Brenden
Morrow give Dallas the nasty streak that teams need to win.... If
the powerful new first line of Jason Arnott, Bill Guerin and Mike
Modano, who moves from center to left wing, stays together, it
should be among the league's best units.