As expected, the Dallas Stars were quiet on the first day of free agency.
It may have cost them.
The Stars entered this offseason with one glaring need that required addressing. With the team openly uninterested in keeping Tobias Stephan, Dallas had hoped to sign Swedish goaltender prospect Jonas Gustavsson to backup Marty Turco next season. If they weren't able to sign The Monster, then the hopes were that they would be able to at least sign one of several talented goalies set to hit the open market on July 1. Even with a frugal budget for the 2009-10 season, the Stars would still be able to afford to bid on one of the backup goalies that were becoming free agents.
It was initially believed that Gustavsson would announce his decision before July 1, giving the teams he did not choose fair warning so that they could move on and do what was needed in free agency. Yesterday however, it was announced that Gustavsson would wait a few days and "see how things shook out in free agency" before making his choice. The teams still in the race for Gustavsson could now either wait on his choice and risk him not choosing their team, or sign one of the available goaltenders and risk him not choosing their team, but at least they'd have addressed their goaltender situation. Colorado went with option #2.
Dallas decided to wait and see, and saw the top goalie free agents get signed by other teams across the NHL.
Jason LaBarbera (Phoenix; 2 yr, 2 mil), Scott Clemmensen (Florida; 3 yr, 3.6 mil), Ty Conklin (St. Louis; 2 yr, 2.4 mil), and Craig Anderson (Colorado; 2 yr, $3.6 mil) all were signed for relatively inexpensive and affordable contracts. Joe Nieuwendyk knows an opportunity was missed, but says the team is still confident in Gustavsson.
``It's a bit frustrating, but we have confidence in the player and we want to see if he picks us,'' said Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk. ``We're hoping the decision will come (Thursday).''
``There are some good players who are gone, but you just have to stay patient and believe it's going to work out."
There were numerous reports Wednesday that Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke had traveled to Sweden to visit with Gustavsson in hopes to sway him to his side. It's believed that Toronto and Dallas are the front runners and have been since last week. While Nieuwendyk was still in Dallas, the Stars certainly have a team presence in Sweden just like they've had the past couple of years.
If Gustavsson does indeed choose Toronto, then the Stars are faced with having to scramble for a backup among the remaining free agents. Top names remaining include Martin Biron, Manny Fernandez, Antero Niittymaki, Kevin Weekes and Manny Legace; all decent backups but not as enticing as the younger goaltenders signed on Wednesday.
The other area of concern or the Stars is on defense, although the Stars have the depth to enter the season with their roster as is. Yet the team would like to sign a veteran, puck moving blue-liner to balance out the defenseman, a goal that starts with Sergei Zubov. Dallas is expecting Zubov to approach the Stars with any offer he might recieve from another team.
``I expect him to do that,'' Nieuwendyk said. ``I think he'll keep us in the loop, and I think he definitely considers us an option.''
If the Stars do not sign Zubov, they could still be in the market for one of several defenseman still available after day one. Alexei Semenov, Robert Scuderi, and Jordan Leopold are still available although its questionable whether the Stars are interested in getting into a bidding war with other teams.
Quick note: Steve Begin was the only UFA from the Stars to sign with another team, signing with Boston for one year, $850,000.
Were the Stars right in waiting on Gustavsson or were they taking too big a risk and missed a prime opportunity to sign a more than decent backup? Who should the Stars target on defense, if at all?
Be sure to leave your thoughts below.