The season may be over, but for the Dallas Stars, planning for the draft and the subsequent hockey version of Black Friday has already begun. With the current ownership situation casting a shadow over hopes of new additions, Dallas still has options.
So, assuming they have the same operating budget from 2009-10 for the upcoming season (or at least until new ownership takes over), Dallas has to operate on the cheap. They can, however, take from one area to improve another. Both the defense and the offense of the Stars are well-stocked. Though the defense does need some improvements, given the current makeup of a young, inexperienced and imbalanced core. Supplanting one stalwart defenseman could make all the difference and even on a tight budget, the Stars have options:
Anton Volchenkov- probably the best option available. He does, however, come with a potential price tag that would take the Stars out of the bidding war for his services.
After A.V., you have Dan Hamhuis of the Nashville Predators, Zybnek Michalek of the Phoenix Coyotes, Kurtis Foster of Tampa Bay, Willie Mitchell of Vancouver, Denis Seidenberg of Boston, Paul Martin of New Jersey, and a few others to boot. Personally, I think that Foster is probably the best backup option available. He's got size (6'5"), offensive skill (was in the 40 pt range this season) and is only 28. He could command a significant raise, but even then I think he'd be affordable. Seidenberg and Martin would be nice backup plans as well, though the presence of a more physical specimen on defense is probably preferred. This doesn't mean Dallas should give up after acquiring 1 guy. How about some insurance with someone like an Adrian Aucoin, who- if signed for 1 year at a discounted price tag, could be a nice #4 on the point for the Stars, with his big point shot. Just a thought...
As for forwards, there aren't many available that Dallas could afford who would significantly help with scoring. I'm sure that Nieuwendyk and co. would be just as satisfied with sticking with the group from last year, with the addition of some of their younger players gaining additional icetime. They could sign someone who could help on the checking line and provide an improvement in the faceoff circle as well. Manny Malhottra of San Jose could fit the bill as a depth checking line centre/forward. Aside from acquisitions, Dallas has several options from within the system.
Aaron Gagnon is possibly the most hopeful of the Stars prospects to get a callup this upcoming season. Approaching his mid-20's, he's barely thought of as a "prospect", but he did have an excellent minor-pro season this year, leading the Texas Stars in points. He'd be a nice addition to the 4th line. Other players possibly making the jump include Francis Wathier, a fiesty winger who could fit in nicely on the 4th line, should the Stars opt out of re-signing forward Krys Barch. Wathier can fight, but make no mistake, he's not exactly a top tier pugilist. Do the Stars really need one though, given exemplary castoffs like Minnesota cutting Boogard's ice time, and Montreal releasing Georges Laraque? Perhaps its the end of the pure enforcer era, where a guy could simply fight and not be expected to do anything more. Raymond Sawada could be on the right wing, although the better-than-expected play from late season pickup Brandon Segal could dictate yet another cut by the Stars for Sawada, potentially ending his chances to play in the NHL with the Dallas Stars.
Fortunas and Larsen should get significant looks on defense, but their playing time will be determined by whether or not the Stars retain the services of Daley, Niskanen and Skrastins.
This should be an exciting summer! Buckle up.