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Modano deal proves future is now

By MAC ENGEL Star-Telegram Staff Writer

DALLAS - As the Philadelphia Flyers retool with All-Stars and ex-Stars, and the rest of the NHL plays out real-life fantasy league free-agent draft, the Dallas Stars surprise even themselves during this period of chaotic turnover.

Namely, they didn't have much turnover.

Thursday's announcement of center Mike Modano's five-year, $17.25 million contract does not conclude their off-season moves, but signifies that the Stars should remain contenders.

"This means we're going for it," Stars president Jim Lites said.

And that was paramount for Modano. At 35, he doesn't have time to lose, or groom others. Maybe in five years, but not this year.

"When I was looking at those other teams (that pursued him), I didn't know what to expect," said Modano on Thursday, referring to the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks. "I don't like not knowing what's going on. I know what I have here. I know who the players are, and I know what the potential is here. That was a bit of a factor (where he signed)."

Yes, the Stars will have sime young and mostly unproven players, including defensemean Trevor Daley, center Niko Kapanen, forward Steve Ott and wing Antti Miettinen sprinkled throughout their lineup. They still hope those players will become the core of this team in the next five years.

"I know they are banking on guys like Ott and Miettinen, and guys like that making a big impact," Modano said.

But the Stars will also have Modano, goalie Marty Turco, defensemen Philippe Boucher and Sergei Zubov, and fowards Jere Lehtinen, Brenden Morrow, Stu Barnes, Bill Guerin and Jason Arnott.

That alone should allow them to remain contenders in a vastly different looking Western Conference, in which it no longer appears that the top three spots are reserved for Dallas, Colorado and Detroit.

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