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Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill has not only helped the Stars become one of the heavyweights in the Western Conference now, but he has also amassed the talent to help them stay contenders for years to come.

Last year the Dallas Stars finished first in the Western Conference and that’s not easy to do when playing in the Central Division. They jumped teams like the Chicago Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues to capture the Division title and were only one win away from advancing to their first Western Conference Final since 2008. Dallas was the highest scoring team in the league last season and if they can get better numbers from their goaltending they have the ability to not only contend for the Stanley Cup next season, but for many seasons to come.

Antti Niemi amassed a record of 24-13-5 with a GAA of 2.67 and save percentage of .907%, but finished the postseason with a save percentage of .865%. Kari Lehtonen totaled a record of 25-10-2 with a GAA of 2.76 and save percentage of .906%, but finished the postseason with a save percentage of .899%. This is simply just not good enough goaltending to bring a team to the Western Conference Finals, regardless of the amount of goals a team is scoring. All final four teams playing in the Conference Finals had goaltenders that registered save percentages of above .920%. Currently it’s unclear whether of not a trade is coming for one of the Stars’ goaltenders, but if they play the pair of goalies again next season and can get better numbers come the playoffs, watch out.

The way that Jim Nill and Stars’ management have set this team up is almost in the form of a two-step process.

Step One: The Present

The team is currently structured with a mixture of both young players and veterans. Players such as Patrick Sharp, Jason Spezza, Johnny Oduya and Ales Hemsky are all veterans that can help the team win now. All of these players also have no more three years remaining on their contracts which benefits the Stars greatly. Tyler Seguin will need a new contract at the end of the 2019-20 season so if these players don’t elevate the team to the level management wants them at, they can let them walk or trade them clearing up space to give Seguin a big extension. Nill only has three players signed to deals longer than three years at the moment and all of these players are critical to the present and future of the franchise.

Jamie Benn was signed to an eight year contract extension with an annual average value of $9.5 million which kicks in at the start of the 2017-18 season. Benn is one of the cornerstones of the franchise, the captain and arguably their most important player. He has had back-to-back 80 point seasons and is more than a point-per-game player in the playoffs. At 27 and entering the prime of his career it’s important the Stars locked him up long-term.

Jamie Benn

20 points in 19 playoff games, yeah you could say Jamie Benn is pretty important

John Klingberg is the second of these three players and has emerged as one of the NHL’s rising defensive stars. Klingberg is signed at $4.25 per year until 2022 and will be a staple on the Stars’ blueline for years to come. He registered 58 points in 76 games last year and according to Jim Nill may start the season with a new partner on the top defensive pair, Dan Hamhuis:

“There’s a chance he could play with John Klingberg,” Nill said, per Today’s Slapshot.“John’s got great offensive skills. I think Dan Hamhuis might be a great fit for him, to be the guy back there moving the puck out, giving the puck to him.”

Lastly, Cody Eakin is under contract until the end of the 2020 season at $3.85 million. Eakin is still young at only 25 and in the past three seasons has chipped in between 35-40 points and around 15 goals. This is excellent scoring depth to have behind superstars Benn and Seguin.

The plan moving forward at least for the next two to three years is to try and win the Stanley Cup with the mixed roster they have now. They’re certainly in talks of being one of the favorites for next season after the incredible regular season/postseason run they had in 2016, but if they are unable to capture the greatest trophy in hockey within that time, this is when Jim Nill will move into step two of his management plan.

Step Two: The Future

This part of the process begins with the extension of Tyler Seguin. If he maintains or increases his point totals he is likely to get a contract similar to Jamie Benn with the max 8 years and an AAV of somewhere between $8-$9 million. With the veteran players on their way out this paves the path for new, younger players to step into bigger roles as Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin lead the way. Players such as Nick Ritchie, Radek Faksa, Mattias Janmark, Valerie Nichuskin can replace the aging veterans that the Dallas Stars intend to part with during this time. This not only helps Dallas remain a winning team, but keeps their Stanley Cup window open for as long as possible. Also by this point draft picks such as Riley Tufte and Denis Gurianov should be cracking the lineup adding to the Stars’ offense.

Jim Nill has put the Dallas Stars in a perfect position. Not only has he helped them ascend to one of the best teams in the NHL, but he has also given his team a fantastic opportunity to win the Stanley Cup every year for many years to come. The Dallas Stars have arrived as contenders and are here to stay for quite some time.