2009 NHL Free Agency: The Dallas Stars current roster and budget situation

With free agency fast approaching (the horn sounds at Noon EST, tomorrow), and the Dallas Stars committed to keeping a lower budget than normal and not making a big splash in the free agent pool, Defending Big D takes a look at exactly who is currently on the team.

Listed below is a possible depth chart for next season based on who currently has an NHL contract with the Dallas Stars.

Forwards:

Left Wing Center Right Wing
Brenden Morrow Mike Ribeiro Fabian Brunnstrom
Loui Eriksson Brad Richards Toby Petersen
James Neal Mike Modano Steve Ott
Brian Sutherby
Krys Barch

Defensemen:

Trevor Daley Stephane Robidas
Ivan Vishnevskiy Matt Niskanen
Mark Fistric Nicklas Grossman
Andrew Hutchinson

Goalie:

Marty Turco

First off, Krys Barch is the only player currently on the NHL roster that is listed as a right-winger. The Stars have several players in the system that are true right wingers, including Sergei Korostin, Colton Sceviour and Ray Sawada. Sawada is the only one with any experience in the NHL and he is not much more than a big, bruising fourth liner. Second, only 19 players are listed above as having NHL contracts. Add in a backup goaltender, and the Stars still have three spots to fill on the 23-man active roster.

The first option is to promote from within the organization. Follow the jump for a list of the rest of the players with contracts with the Stars:

Tyler Shelast, F
Jamie Benn, LW
Sergei Korostin, RW
Colton Sceviour, RW
Raymond Sawada, RW
Perttu Lindgren, C
Brent Krahn, G
Matt Climie, G
Aaron Gagnon, C
Tom Wandell, C
Dan Jancevski, D
Garrett Stafford, D
Maxime Fortunus, D
Guillaume Monast, D
Trevor Ludwig, D
Francis Wathier, LW
Richard Bachman, G
Luke Gazdic, LW

Unlike Dave Tippett, Marc Crawford has always been known for stacking the top three lines and using his fourth line sparingly. If all the forwards are healthy, then the Stars could conceivably have a very competitive group of forwards this next season without having to make many any changes. Steve Ott has proven that he is capable of being a dangerous goal scorer and Fabian Brunnstrom showed immense improvement in his game the last half of the season. With Richards and Morrow healthy and back on the ice, the Stars have two very formidable top lines and one of the best players to ever hit the ice anchoring the third line. The Stars will most likely look within the system to fill out the roster, and Sawada is the most likely candidate going into camp.

I know a lot of you are eager to see Jamie Benn in a Dallas Stars uniform but he needs time in the AHL to develop and get used to the more physical play of the NHL. Luke Gazdic, Benn and Sceviour are future players on this team (and could be great), but unless something drastic happens we won't see them until next year.

Defense is a different story altogether. While the Stars have a group of young, talented players they are lacking depth in the system and most notably lacking a big veteran to calm things down on the blue line. As I mentioned yesterday, Stephane Robidas could not handle the load of being the #1 defenseman and wore down as the season progressed. The Stars need a player who can fill that role so that Robidas can be at his best, which would balance out the defensive corps. Ivan Vishnevskiy is shaking with anticipation at being unleashed upon the NHL for a full season, but the Stars would like to ease him in a bit before throwing him to the wolves.

There are a few talented prospects in the minors that could help out at the top level, but none would come close to filling the need that the Stars have. Guillaume Monast is a rising star in the system, and veteran Maxime Fortunus is a serviceable defenseman with a nice shot. Yet the Stars need an experienced, NHL defenseman and that is where their focus should lie.

After they've taken care of the backup goaltender situation, of course.

Depending on where you look, the Stars either have $14.7 million or $17.3 million in cap space (Mark Stepneski has the current cap hit at $42.1 million; Cap Central has it at $39.5 million). That would seem like plenty of room for the Stars to sign whomever they need to shore up an already solid roster. Unfortunately that isn't necessarily the case.

Tom Hicks has said the Stars will operate with a much lower budget than in past season, most likely in the $43 - $46 million range. This is almost directly tied to the HSG financial struggles and Hicks' need to sell the Texas Rangers. And while he's said it's not related, Hicks is also struggling under the weight of owning the Liverpool football club as well. If the Rangers are sold then that could free up some of the burden on the Stars but that's not going to help with the initial rush on free agents starting tomorrow.

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