As a shortened and hectic offseason approaches, Last Word on Hockey is looking ahead towards how teams will deal with the reality of a flat salary cap. 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. This series attempts to examine what choices teams may have to make. We’ll operate going from worst to best. Today’s piece focuses on the Dallas Stars offseason.
Dallas Stars Offseason Primer
Pending Free agents
The Dallas Stars have nine pending free agents, six of which are unrestricted. The Unrestricted free agents include Jamie Oleksiak, Andrew Cogliano, Sami Vatanen, Mark Pysyk and Justin Dowling. The restricted free agents include Miro Heiskanen, Jason Dickinson, Joel Kiviranta, and Rhett Gardner.
The Stars have no goaltenders as free agents, so they will have to decide on their defense and forwards. Their defense is the most interesting because two of their top four defencemen in Heiskanen and Oleksiak need new deals. Heiskanen is one of the top young defensemen in the game, and Oleksiak provides the rare combination of enormous size at 6’7 and excellent play. They will also have to make decisions on depth guys like Mark Pysyk and Sami Vatanen.
Upfront, Dickinson is a young 25-year-old forward who provides good secondary scoring for the Stars. Kiviranta and Cogliano are reliable bottom-six players. Cogliano is nine years older than the 25-year-old Kiviranta but is a trusted penalty killer with skill. Kiviranta had a solid rookie season with the Stars.
Salary Cap Outlook
CapFriendly projects the Stars to have $15,930,000 in salary cap space. This cap space will most likely grow by two or three million as the Dallas Stars could lose either Anton Khudobin or Denis Gurianov in the expansion draft. There appears to be a lot of cap room for the Stars, but with many free agents on the team, this cap space will close quickly once they start re-signing players.
Major Likely Departures
Unless Ben Bishop’s health is still a serious question this summer, the Stars should move on from Anton Khudobin, whether through the expansion draft or trade. The Stars have a three-way logjam in net with Bishop, Khudobin and young gun Jake Oettinger. They don’t have the roster room to keep all of them. Khudobin is likely to depart because his strong play, low cap hit, and lack of an injury history like Bishop make him easier to move.
Major Likely Re-Signings
We’re going to use Evolving Hockey’s contract projection tool to project the contracts for the players Dallas has to re-sign. We will start with their two most significant offseason contracts in Miro Heiskanen and Jamie Oleksiak. At 21-years-old, Heiskanen is arguably Dallas’s top player. Evolving Hockey has him signing an eight-year contract worth $8.5 million. Oleksiak will probably remain a free agent until after the expansion draft with Dallas only protecting three of their top four defensemen. Oleksiak is projected to sign a five-year deal worth $4.2 million. Those two signings eat up $12.7 million. Taking Khudobin’s departure into account, that leaves Dallas with $6.5 million in cap space.
Dallas will re-sign restricted free agent forwards Dickinson and Kiviranta. Dickinson is projected to sign a three-year deal worth $2.8 million a year. Kiviranta is expected to sign a one-year contract worth $966,900. Leaving Dallas with $2.7 million remaining. Giving them just enough space to squeeze in Cogliano if they want to give him a $1 million contract that Evolving Hockey predicts. This gives Dallas $1.7 million of wiggle room.