With stockpiling prospects at the NHL Draft completed, the Dallas Stars now turn their attention to the current roster with free agency set to open Tuesday at 11 a.m. CDT.
“We’ve done our homework, we’ve talked to all the teams, we’ve talked to agents,” Stars GM Jim Nill said. “When we hit July 1 we are going to see what direction that takes us.”
The Stars have 15 players under contract for next season and three restricted free agents – Brenden Dillon, Cody Eakin and Antoine Roussel – who will push the roster to 18 players once signed. There are some prospects pushing for roster spots as well. And the Stars have plenty of room to work under the NHL’s salary cap, which is $69 million this season.
While free agents hit the market on Tuesday, the trade market is already open and the Stars have been working on that front.
“We’re looking at all options,” Nill said in an interview Monday morning on The Ticket. “There are some big names out there and I’ve been in contact with teams about these big name players, everybody knows who they are. We’re speaking with them trying to get some deals done.”
But talking about trades and making one are two different things. There was speculation there could be a flurry of trades over the weekend at the NHL Draft in Philadelphia, but there were just a few trades completed.
“I think what we are starting to see with this new CBA, with the salary cap in place, is it is hard to do trades,” Nill said Saturday after the draft concluded. “When you try to do a trade there are so many different factors that have to line up. It’s player for player; is it a good or bad trade? It’s the contract for the contract; it’s the money for the money. Then you factor in no-trade and limited-trade clauses that are in contracts in which players control their destiny, and it throws another wrinkle into it.”
But with this year’s cap coming in at $69 million – a little lower than some teams expected – that could spur more deals as teams face some tough cap decisions, or at least put more free agents on the market as teams buyout players.
And Nill continues to talk with teams about deals, and he’s been talking to agents about unrestricted free agents who will hit the market on Tuesday.
“Anybody that’s got a free agent has given me a call. That’s their job,” Nill said. “They’re trying to find their market value, and we’re trying to do the same thing.”
At the top of Nill’s list is a second line center. There are some big names who could be potential targets. During his interview on The Ticket Monday, the name of one of those big name players – Jason Spezza – came up and Nill was asked if he would be interested in that type of player.
“We are definitely intrigued by those type of players,” Nill said. “I’ve been in contact with every team in the league and I know who is getting moved, who is available to come to us if we can make a deal. Those are definitely the kinds of things we are looking at.”
The Stars also are in the market for a backup goaltender with Tim Thomas, who will be departing via free agency. Cristopher Nilstorp, who helped lead the Texas Stars to a Calder Cup championship, is out of the mix as well since he signed to play in Sweden next season. That leaves Jack Campbell, but the 22-year-old missed a good part of last season due to injury issues and the Stars want him playing games. If he’s not ready to play a lot of games as a backup in Dallas, then he’ll be playing in the AHL.
“We need to add a backup goaltender,” said Nill. “Jack is getting close, but he needs to play. I don’t want him sitting on the bench (as a backup in the NHL).”
Nill is happy where his defense sits right now. The Stars have five defensemen – Trevor Daley, Alex Goligoski, Jordie Benn, Sergei Gonchar, Kevin Connauton – under contract and that number will climb to six when the Stars sign restricted free agent Brenden Dillon. Prospects Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, John Klingberg and Jyrki Jokipakka are all pushing for NHL playing time, so Nill believes the Stars are in good shape on the blue line.
Nill could look to make other additions to the roster, but he has options with Dallas prospects. The Stars GM liked what he saw of the team’s youth and depth when the Texas Stars made their run to the American Hockey League’s Calder Cup championship this past season.
“It puts us in a good position. We know we have four or five defenseman we know can come up and play and are pushing for jobs,” Nill said. “It is going to create opportunities, and it is going to create competition. We’ve got three to five forwards that are knocking on the door, too. We know we have good depth, so I know I don’t have to make a deal just to make a deal to fill a roster spot. I know I have players available.”
But there are still some holes, and Nill will try to fill those over the next several days.
Fiddler, Whitney, Thomas to hit market
Forwards Vernon Fiddler and Ray Whitney and goaltender Tim Thomas all will become unrestricted free agents on Tuesday. The Stars were interested in re-signing Fiddler and made an offer, but Fiddler decided to hit the free agent market.
“I made an offer to Fiddler way back in April after we finished the season and nothing happened,” Stars GM Jim Nill said.
Stars announce qualifying offers
The Stars announced Monday that they issued qualifying offers to restricted free agents Brenden Dillon, Cody Eakin, Cameron Gaunce, Scott Glennie and Antoine Roussel. The Stars retain negotiating rights to all five players.
The Stars did not issue qualifying offers to Ryan Button, Dustin Jeffrey, Tristan King, Hubert Labrie, and Austin Smith. Those five players all become unrestricted free agents on Tuesday.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.