With minimal roster moves this offseason, the Dallas Stars have an interesting path ahead of them. Dallas will be hard-pressed against the NHL’s salary cap for the 2022-23 season, having just over $6 million in cap space remaining, but still need to sign top-line winger Jason Robertson. The remaining money will be used to re-sign Robertson, but it will likely be a short deal based on how well he’s performed over the last two seasons.
Regardless of how long Robertson’s new deal is, the Stars have eleven players, including Robertson, without contracts for the 2023-24 season. Dallas’ projected cap hit for next year is already closing in on $55 million, 65% of the projected $84.5 million salary cap. That leaves general manager Jim Nill with around $29.5 million to fill nearly half his NHL roster. Nill will have a tough fielding a playoff roster with a squad like that, so here are ways the Stars can “fix” their messy cap situation.
Dallas Stars Salary Cap Situation Needs Attention
Getting Rid of Bad Contracts
Of the players who are signed through next season, the Ryan Suter and Radek Faska deals seem to do more harm than good. The Stars added Suter last offseason after the Minnesota Wild bought him out. Suter had the 8th-most points on Dallas this past season, but his 25 points fell short of his $3.65 million cap hit. Suter averaged the second-most minutes on ice but was fourth in penalty minutes. John Klingberg, who the Stars lost in free agency, outplayed Suter while playing eight fewer games. Klingberg became publically frustrated with Nill and the Stars’ front office after talks of a contract extension fell apart. Klingberg saw Suter and Miro Heiskanen sign long-term, likely causing him to leave Dallas when his contract expired.
Radek Faska is a hard player to interperate. His biggest asset is puck control, ability on the penalty kill, and faceoff wins. However, Faska lost ice time and faceoff work in 2021-22. Nill brought in Luke Glendening in free agency, then former coach Rick Bowness used Benn as a center on the third line. Both Glendenning and Benn ate into Faska’s time in the faceoff dot. Faska faces a new challenge for the 2022-23 season, as he needs to earn a role with new coach Peter DeBoer. With a $3.25 million cap hit and a diminished role, Faska’s contract has turned into one of the worst on the current roster.
Suter and Faska will be hard to move. Both are signed for the next three seasons and have no-trade clauses attached to their contracts. In terms of production, the money spent on Suter and Faska would be essential for next year’s roster turnover. While Suter has a clear role on the defence, Faska may struggle to stay dressed on a game-to-game basis. If Nill has a chance to clear either contract next season, he needs to take the opportunity to free up the cap room.
Finding Good Depth Value in Free Agency
While the Suter and Faska signings fall short of expectations, Nill found great depth in free agency last year. Michael Raffl and Glendening turned into great signings for the Stars. Glendening was reliable on faceoffs, winning about 59 percent of his draws, while Raffl contributed two short-handed goals on the penalty kill. Any production from the bottom six will be necessary for a successful season. The Stars’ top line of Joe Pavelski, Roope Hintz, and Jason Robertson accounted for 36 percent of the team’s point totals last year. Glendening and Raffl were at least consistent, bringing leadership and filling holes in the lineup nicely.
Over the last two seasons, the Stars have lacked the depth needed to be a legit contender. Jacob Peterson, Denis Gurianov, and Joel Kiviranta rotated in and out of the lineup due to inconsistent play. The Stars placed too much faith in some of their younger players, which shows with these three. The trio was expected to take a step forward in production last season, but none of them did so. Glendenning and Raffl scored around the same points as Peterson and Gurianov and were arguably more effective. 2022-23 will be a make-or-break season for Peterson, Gurianov, and Kiviranta, as all three need new contacts at the season’s end. If the inefficiencies continue, Nill could find better options in free agency for probably a lower price.
Decide on a Direction for the Stars
Stars management needs to commit to creating a playoff roster. Signing Mason Marchment this offseason was a great move, but Nill can’t stop there. At last year’s deadline, Nill traded a fourth-round pick in 2024 for Vladislav Namesnikov and a 2023 third-round pick for Scott Wedgewood. Dallas also added Marian Studenic off of waivers. Wedgewood was the best acquisition of the three, yet still largely ineffective come playoff time.
Nill doesn’t need to go after the most valuable trade deadline asset, either. The problem is on the third and fourth lines, which seem easier to fill. Jake DeBrusk openly asked for a trade from the Boston Bruins last season. DeBrusk would have been a great contributor for the Stars, and he had a late-season resurgence and finished with 25 goals and 42 points. Considering Dallas gave up a third-round pick for Wedgewood, DeBrusk for even a second-round selection isn’t too steep a price. DeBrusk eventually re-signed with Boston with a two-year $8 million contract. Being a GM is complex, but management’s approach to waiting for a miracle isn’t justifiable. Too many things need to happen for the current team to be considered a dark horse for the Cup. Nill can make the moves to keep the team competitive, address holes in the lineup, and keep player salaries low.
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There is no easy fix to the Dallas Stars’ salary cap problem. Two bad contracts seem immovable, and eleven players will need contracts next season. General manager Jim Nill needs to clear out cap space and improve the team’s depth. Dallas is an above-average team and still in a playoff window. The salary cap and a possible significant roster turnover threaten the Stars’ future. However, these fears cannot deter Nill from making moves as the GM of a competitive hockey team. While making the playoffs is an attainable goal, the Stars must set their eyes on another Cup run or the not-so-distant future.
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