Earlier this week I posted a comprehensive list of the current depth chart in the Dallas Stars' system, as well as our updated chart of the Stars' salary cap situation.
Many of you noticed a few names missing, not only from the NHL side but deeper in the system as well. The Stars have a number of players hitting free agency this summer -- most notably Brad Richards, of course -- and Joe Nieuwendyk is going to have some difficult decisions to make with a few of the role players on the team.
Much of the focus the past few months has been about getting an owner and a budget in place in order to sign Brad Richards; what we've failed to focus on is that the Stars are going to sign more than just Richards to fill the roster and if the Stars hope to actually improve next season then the budget is going to be more important than just Richards.
There's also some decisions that have to be made regarding a number of prospects who are set to be free agents this summer, and Nieuwendyk is going to have to do some tricky maneuvering to keep who he needs to if there isn't a solid budget in place.
After the jump, we take a look at all of the pending free agents in the system -- both restricted and unrestricted -- and debate on exactly who should get an offer should the Stars have the ability to sign them.
Brad Richards - $7,500,000
Jamie Langenbrunner - $2,800,000
Brian "Darren" Sutherby - $812,500
Brandon Segal - $550,000
Jason Williams - $500,000
Karlis Skrastins - 1,375,000
Jeff Woywitka - $650,000
Sean Backman - $900,000
Richard Bachman - $825,000
Colton Sceviour** - $775,000
Guillaume Monast - $600,000
Brad Lukowich - $1,000,000
Severin Blindenbacher - $1,112,500
Aaron Gagnon - $600,000
Ray Sawada - $575,000
Trevor Ludwig - $525,000
Travis Morin - $500,000
Brent Krahn - $500,000
*Salaries listed are each player's 2010-12 NHL salary.
**I'm uncertain whether Sceviour's ELC is up or not.
Estimated NHL Salary Cap in 2011-12: $62.2 million
Estimated Salary Cap Hit for Stars in 2011-12: $39.5 million, 16 players signed
Estimated Cap space: $22.6 million
Actual NHL payroll: $37.8 million
Open NHL contracts: 7 open spots on NHL roster (9 forwards, 5 defensemen, 2 goaltenders signed)
We're going to play the "what if the Dallas Stars don't sign Brad Richards" game next week, but for now let's assume that the Stars do find a way to sign Richards for a salary cap hit of around $7 million. This leaves the Stars with around $15 million of cap space in which to sign a remaining 6 players.
Of course, this is assuming signing Richards means the Stars have the ability to spend to the cap. If you notice, signing Richards to a contract -- with his actual salary for 2011 being closer to $6 million -- means the Stars are already right up against that $45 million payroll figure we've heard so much about. This season, the Stars spent much closer to $52 million in reality, so who knows exactly what Nieuwendyk has the ability to do, if there is no owner.
Before we look at who on the NHL roster should stay, let's take a look at the prospects in the system to see who's ready to make the jump to the NHL and fill those spots first.
Tomas Vincour showed some great potential, even with just one goal, and it's very likely he makes the NHL squad out of camp next year. Philip Larsen is close to being NHL-ready and with two veterans facing free agency and the Stars still needing to sign a much more talented veteran (hopefully) it's safe to assume that Larsen can go ahead and be penciled in on defense as well.
This leaves four spots, six players unsigned. It's tough to say that any other currently signed players in the system are primed to make the jump to the NHL -- although it's aways possible we get surprised. Matt Fraser has the potential to make the same jump Jamie Benn did -- from CHL playoffs hero to the NHL -- although it's much more likely he's in Austin next season.
Of the players left, we can assume that Jamie Langenbrunner is at the top of the list of players Nieuwendyk wants to keep. The G.M. didn't make this trade with the intention of Langenbrunner being just a rental player; he planned on seriously taking a look at keeping the veteran should he prove useful for the Stars.
While some may feel that Langenbrunner brought nothing but bad luck to the Stars, the team -- and I -- see him as a gritty veteran that was one of the few bright spots during the horrendous days of the final months of the season. He no longer has the ability to carry a team himself, but as a third or fourth line veteran he's very valuable for a team in transition. If he's willing to take a paycut, I can see him staying in Dallas.
Brandon Segal deserves to stay and he deserves a one-way contract, but I see him getting a better chance elsewhere. Same with Brian Sutherby. Both players may be victims of the Stars continuing their "youth movement", especially if some of the prospects start getting ready to make the jump.
With the Stars needing massive changes on defense and improvement in all areas, I just don't see Woywitka and Skrastins staying. Skrastins could be approached as a 7th defenseman, especially if the Stars are unable to improve via free agency due to the budget.
Of the AHL players and prospects, it's much clearer who definitely deserves a new contract:
Sean Backman, Richard Bachman and Colton Scevious will all likely receive offer sheets from the Stars.
Bachman proved to be a reliable and steady goaltender at the AHL level this season, providing a solid force in net for a team that was lacking the veteran leadership from one year ago. He's made incredible strides since leaving Colorado College as a sophomore and he's going to be ready for the NHL in a very short while.
With the development of Tyler Beskorowany, Bachman could also be valuable in trades as well.
Aaron Gagnon, Trevor Ludwig and Travis Morin will all definitely be given offers by the Stars before hitting free agency, we hope. Gagnon showed a lot of promise with the Stars before fading a bit, and could fill a roster spot for Dallas out of training camp as well. Travis Morin, coming off an incredible season with Texas, will get a good hard look by the Stars in training camp and after showing tremendous potential in limited NHL minutes, he'll get a shot out of training camp as well.
Unfortunately, it's likely the end of the road for Brent Krahn. A great goaltender and an even better person whose knees just couldn't keep going any longer.
What say you? What players in the system do you want to keep? Who do you see making the NHL roster?