As the NHL moves ahead with its Return to Play plan, Last Word on Hockey is taking a look toward the offseason. In terms of building a franchise, the offseason is the most crucial time of the year for front offices. However, due to COVID-19, the short-term future of how this operates has seen sweeping changes. How teams respond to a multitude of changes this fall remains to be seen. This series attempts to examine what choices teams may have to make.
The third batch of Offseason Primers moves to the Western Conference, featuring Central Division teams. Today’s edition delves into the possibilities surrounding the offseason for the Dallas Stars.
Dallas Stars Offseason Primer
Pending Free Agents
General manager Jim Nill has the Stars’ core locked up long term. However, Dallas still has multiple depth assets who are on expiring deals. There are potential departures at every position, meaning Nill will be a very busy boy this offseason as he tries to retool the roster. In terms of their unrestricted free agent talent, Anton Khudobin, Mattias Janmark, Roman Polak, Corey Perry, Andrej Sekera, Oula Palve, Reece Scarlett, and Michael Mersch. Gavin Bayreuther and Dillon Heatherington are Group Six UFAs. Martin Hanzal‘s dead-weight contract is also expiring. Polak has already signed for to play with HC Vítkovice of the Czech Extraliga.
Salary Cap Outlook
The Stars, like their rivals in Colorado, are in quite a good place for a contending team. Dallas enters the off-season with $19.46 million in cap space (via CapFriendly), quite a healthy amount. It allows them to not only retain the talent they wish to retain but add in free agency as well. That luxury isn’t afforded to many high-calibre teams.
After a 2017-18 season which saw Janmark nearly hit 20 goals, his stock has taken a serious nosedive over the past few years. He’s only tallied 12 goals combined over the past two seasons, less than the 19 he recorded in that 2017-18 campaign. It’s a troubling sign for a player who’s seen his totals and ice time steadily drop, and Dallas will likely not be interested in retaining him.
While Janmark is still NHL-calibre talent, Dallas wouldn’t want to burden themselves with a deal for a player who may just not fit in their system anymore. Another team will likely sign him to fill out their fourth line.
Dallas’ one-year gamble on the longtime Anaheim Duck didn’t flop, as Perry was still relatively productive in a depth role. 21 points in 57 games is still a far cry from Perry’s former glory, though, and at age 35, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for a contending Stars team to continually invest in him.
Perry likely isn’t done in the NHL quite yet. He has used his stint with Dallas to show that he could still hang at an NHL level. He’d be a valuable piece on any team’s fourth line, and will likely take a cheap deal to stay in the league.
One player who is likely done in the NHL is Sekera. After a lengthy 14-year NHL career, the Czechoslovakian native hasn’t been the same since a nasty knee injury sustained in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs with the Edmonton Oilers. He posted only eight points in 57 games with Dallas, playing largely a third-pairing role. His defensive game hasn’t really made an impact in recent years, and his lack of offensive upside at 34 years old will likely cost him the remainder of his NHL career.
‘Dobby,’ as he’s affectionately called in Texas, has quietly emerged as one of the premier backup goaltenders in the league. He’s collected a combined .926 save percentage over his two seasons in Dallas, and has been invaluable to the team’s success. He’s allowed them to stymie teams with a one-two punch in net with him and Ben Bishop, helping Dallas become one of the best defensive teams in the league.
As teams will be strapped in cash this summer, few will have room to add a goalie, especially one of Khudobin’s calibre. Khudobin has expressed his desire to stay in Dallas and will likely do so on a short-term pact. He’ll likely earn a modest raise on his current deal, so a one-year pact at $3 million seems about right. Dallas is left with $16.46 million in cap room.
While never quite living up to his 12th-overall-pick pedigree, Faksa has grown into an ideal third-line centre in the NHL. His two-way game is extremely beneficial to the squad and has supplied the team with consistent offensive production. Up until this year, he had collected three straight 30-point seasons. His point total dipped this year, however, posting only 20. He battled an injury this past year, and his totals were abbreviated due to the season stoppage as well.
Dallas needs Faksa to serve as a centrepiece for the team’s bottom six, and they’ll give him a nice deal in return. Evolving-Hockey’s contract projection model (subscription required) pegs Faksa at a $3.91 million cap hit for four more years. Dallas would have $12.55 million in space remaining.
Hintz is quickly growing into an important part of the Stars’ offensive attack. Hintz nearly scored 20 goals this year in 60 games, and was in and out of the lineup with injuries. His performance in the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Playoffs boosted his stock as well. He posted eight points in 13 games. He’s still quite young at age 23, and the Stars’ 2015 second-round pick still has plenty of room to grow.
For that reason, Dallas will extend him. Evolving-Hockey’s model projects a two-year bridge deal worth $3.05 million a year as he tries to develop into a bonafide top-six forward. Dallas would have $9.5 million in cap room left.
After years of underperforming in the minors, Gurianov finally took a real step towards becoming a full-time NHL player this season. He was the Stars’ first-round pick all the way back in 2015 but didn’t make a full-time jump to the big leagues until this season. He was actually one of the team’s better forwards this season, posting a 20-goal campaign. Gurianov can obviously shoot the puck and still brings a solid potential value at 23 years old.
Gurianov projects to be an important part of the Stars’ attack moving forward. His contract extension should be two years at around $2.12 million, per Evolving-Hockey. Dallas hypothetically still has $7.38 million in cap room.
Potential Free Agent Additions
With over $7 million dollars to play with this off-season, Stars general manager Jim Nill can take huge steps to alleviate the team’s offensive issues. There are multiple high-end forwards in Dallas’ price range.
A likely addition seems to be that of Tyler Toffoli. While he’s had a successful run with the Vancouver Canucks, the Stars may be able to lure Toffoli away with a larger contract. Toffoli could slot in easily on the team’s first or second line, providing them with additional versatility. He’s scored 30 goals before and has scored at least 20 goals three other times. He brings Cup-winning experience to this Stars team as well, winning in 2014 with the Los Angeles Kings.
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