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AARP Week In Dallas

The scene in The Hunt For Red October when Sean Connery and Scott Glenn are attempting to outrun the evil Russian sub helmed by Stellan Skarsgaard in one of his notable pre-Good Will Hunting roles features a line by Courtney B. Vance, sonar operator on the Red October that sums up what could be heard by the current members of the stars: "Way to go Dallas." Vance says this emphatically when the USS Dallas directs a torpedo away from Red October, but you have to imagine Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk being almost as excited with several of the moves his squad made today. Dallas finished six points out of the final playoff spot and their 89 points was good enough for 10th in the West. The Stars made a move quickly after free agency began on Sunday, July 1 by signing 41-year old Ray Whitney to a two-year, $9 million contract. They followed that up on Monday by jettisoning agitating center Steve Ott to Buffalo in a deal for veteran pivot Derek Roy. Ott's name was bandied about at the trade deadline, as rumors had him heading to Vancouver at that time anyway. The Stars locked up former Canuck blue liner Aaron Rome for three years at $1.5 per and then threw $4.5 million at Jaromir Jagr to bring the 40-year old to Big D on Tuesday.

Dallas lost Mike Ribeiro to Washington and happily let Sheldon Souray walk to Anaheim, where the Ducks, for reasons passing understanding, gave him a three-year deal worth $11 million. It should be noted that Souray was largely invisible from December on for Dallas. These recent signings by Dallas by no means vault them to the top of the Pacific Division, considering the talent Los Angeles has returning and San Jose being a playoff team, but the Stars are very pleased with their moves, as Nieuwendyk told the Dallas Stars' website that the team is "back to being a relevant franchise." At least in terms of top-six forwards, Dallas is going to have a quality group, but can the Stars rely on Alex Goligoski and others to shut down the opposition. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who should be ready to training camp following a meniscus injury at the World Championships, is capable of taking a team to the playoffs, but the health of their players is a concern. Jagr missed a handful of games last season, 13, but 41-year old Ray Whitney has missed just seven games the last two seasons.

How the Stars pair up their forwards will be interesting, as it's safe to assume that Jagr will be on Jamie Benn's wing with either Michael Ryder or the massively underrated Loui Eriksson alongside the pair. (Eriksson has consecutive seasons of 71, 73 and 71 points while missing just three games over that stretch). Throw in Derek Roy as a potentially productive second line center with Whitney on his wing. The only player in this group with big fantasy upside is Jamie Benn, who should have some more room to maneuver with Jagr on his wing. Don't sleep on Loui Eriksson in his contract year either, he is a sneakily productive player, conversely, Derek Roy has hardly been consistent in his career, so measure his value relative to the players left in the draft, ie find someone with more upside first. If Jagr can stay healthy, there's little reason to think he will not challenge the 54 points he put up last year with Philly, even if Jamie Benn is not Claude Giroux.

As much as last year's 63 points in 71 games was a breakout for Jamie Benn, this season could see him being even more productive. The 6-2 pivot will turn 23 in two weeks and has to be a target for people after the elite centers are gone. Benn is a potential 30-goal scorer at center and will have one of the NHL's all-time best wingers on his line, albeit toward the end of his career, and the Stars believe that Jagr is still a "world-class player". One of the only concerns for Jagr is Dallas' travel schedule in the Western Conference, but that hasn't affected Ray Whitney too much the last few seasons with the Desert Dogs.

Dan Pennucci
Twitter @dpennucci