Partly to explain for their third-period, two-goal collapse against the Ducks late in Game 6 is a group of defensemen that remains a weak link for this franchise. Of the many items Stars GM Jim Nill must address when the Stanley Cup Finals are over, improving this blueline is the first priority.
Tops on the list, flusing defenseman Sergei Gonchar and his $5 million salary for next season. Gonchar was the worst offseason acquisition the Stars made last summer, and it's clear he is done. He did not score one point in the playoffs. In 76 games in the regular season, Gonchar scored 22 points and was a minus-12.
At one time, this was a premier puck-moving defenseman. That guy is gone. He is 40, and just hanging on.
Veteran defensemen such as Alex Goligoski and Trevor Daley are nice players that have improved and, with a better supporting cast, can be productive players on good teams. Neither may be top pair material, but they are not liabilities.
Brendan Dillon looks like he could be a tremendous player in a year or two.
The Stars have the cap room to add a veteran defenseman in free agency, but this is not a deep class.
The top "young" free agent D-man will be none other than Matt Niskanen, the same player the Stars dealt as part of the trade that brought Goligoski to Dallas.
The other attractive names are Dan Boyle (35), Andrei Markov (35), Brooks Orpik (33), and Nikita Nikitin.
Do not expect the Stars to sit on this group and try again. Nill has to improve this area for this team to make a jump in the standings.
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