The Free Agent class of 2010 is looking slimmer and slimmer by the day, but rest assured that some cavalier general managers out there will find a way to overpay some folks in an attempt to give their fans something to grasp onto in the long wait between July 1st and the October start of the season. The Dallas Stars will not be one of these clubs. Our owner, who was a good owner for a great many years, has fallen on hard times and has flushed the financial flexibility of his hockey team right down one of his gold toilets. The result is a team, that was perennially in the conversation for the big free agents in years past, sitting on the sidelines as July rolls around, watching and waiting to perhaps pick off a low end straggler after the fun has died down. And even that might be a stretch.
However, if you've found your way here and you're looking to see what exactly the situation is in Dallas as we enter this frenetic and tumultuous portion of the NHL off-season, you've come to the right place.
Roster Size: 18 players under contract. 11 forwards, 6 defensemen (Larsen included on NHL roster presently) and 1 goaltender.
Cap Space: $18,116,667
Expected Budget: ~$45 million. The exact figure is not known, but for the third straight season the $45 million mark is a rough estimate. Sean Avery's $1.9 million salary is not though to be included in the teams budget.
Key Needs: A backup goaltender and extensions for forward James Neal and defenseman Nicklas Grossman are all that the team is expected to consider in addition to small contracts for F Fabian Brunnstrom and possible D Matt Niskanen. Salary could be moved in order to fit these deals under the target budget.
Defense is the real "key need", but no outside defensive help can be added due to budgetary constraints and the pending sale of the team.
RFA and UFA list after the jump...
James Neal: The burgeoning power forward had a sensation rookie season and then backed it up with even better numbers in his sophomore campaign. He's a nearly proven 25 goal scorer who is looking for a long term deal rather than the bridge contract the Stars want him to take. He is only 22 years old but believed to be looking for a deal in the $4 million/year range. Could take a look at offer sheets. Stars would get drat pick compensation (a 1st and a 3rd) if their budget leaves them unable to match.
Nicklas Grossman: Little is known about the Grossman negotiations at this time. The 25 year old made $1.05 million last season and is likely looking to double that or more. Played first pairing minutes often with Stephane Robidas in the 2010-2011 season. Expected to re-sign in Dallas
Matt Niskanen: 23 years old and $805k in a disappointing third year in the league. Lack of options means the Stars will likely re-sign him with a minimal bump in salary.
Fabian Brunnstrom: A disappointing sophomore season saw Brunnstrom all but disappear, but the Stars are expected to offer him a two way deal. His qualifying offer was under $900k.
Marty Turco: The franchise goaltender is being released out into the market, as you well know. Potential landing spots are thought to be Philadelphia, who may or may not have already made him an offer he turned down ($2 million per) depending on who you believe, and San Jose who is rumored to be interested.
Mike Modano: The face of the franchise and Dallas icon will listen to offers from "familiar, Western conference teams" and make a decision on his playing status in the coming weeks, but the smart money is on Mike playing next year, and playing in the Pacific division. TSN thinks the Red Wings will also be a player. Salary expectations are $1 - $2 million.
Jere Lehtinen: Like Modano, he has not made up his mind, but because he's one of only 2 right handed forward on the whole team, he has a role here if he wants it. Unlikely he could play for another team (or would) but if Mike Modano is expendable then anyone is fair game.
Matt Climie: The goaltender helped lead the Texas Stars to the AHL Calder Cup Finals but now finds himself unable to reach a deal with Dallas and will test the free agent waters. Could his AHL success make him attractive to another team or will he reach a deal to return to the Stars to compete for the backup job behind Kari Lehtonen?
At this time the Stars are not expected to target anyone in the initial stages of free agency, but rather keep the focus on extending the RFA's under the enormously difficult budgetary constraints. One possible exception could be a backup for Kari Lehtonen if the price is extremely low. Lehtonen's health is a question mark so the position of backup will be an important one. Stars AHL/NHL Free Agent Matt Climie could also continue talks with the club to backup Lehtonen or play in Cedar Park again. The trading of Mike Ribeiro is still an idea, however unlikely, that is on the table.