The Dallas Stars are entering an offseason looking for a fresh start, a time when the team and franchise can finally take a breath and look ahead to changes that need to be made in order to get the team back on the right track. For four years now the Stars have been stuck in neutral, handicapped by the lack of support from ownership and an attempt to stay competitive during the lean years that not many knew were coming.
With Tom Gaglardi holding the checkbook now, however, the Stars have the opportunity to finally get aggressive in building a team that can be competitive in the Western Conference and actually have a shot at the postseason -- rather than an attempt at the playoffs predicated on one long hot streak and luck.
The actual presence of an owner has fans talking free agency and acquisitions and who can be added to help the team. The first question that needs to be answered, before we even start to look at lists of free agents, is to determine just what needs the Dallas Stars have on the NHL roster and in the system.
After the jump, we take a look at the updated depth chart for the Stars and try to determine just what sort of players the Stars should be targeting this summer -- not just the big-name players but ones who realistically are able to be signed by Dallas and improve the team.
A couple of quick notes on this depth chart: All salaries listed are the NHL salary cap hit of each contract. Also, you'll note that there are a few notable names missing; I do not have any of the UFA or RFA players listed, so we can get a good idea of just what the Stars currently have under contract.
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
||3.300||Vernon Fiddler||1.800||Michael Ryder||4.100|
|Eric Nystrom||1.400||Tomas Vincour||0.800|
|Matt Fraser - AHL||.576||Scott Glennie - AHL||1.620|
|Curtis McKenszie - NCAA||---||Matthew Tousignant - AHL||0.561||Alex Chiasson - AHL||0.900|
|Alex Guptil - NCAA||---||Tristan King - AHL||0.533||Austin Smith - AHL||0.875|
|Brett Ritchie - WHL||---||Travis Morin - AHL||0.525||Eric Godard - AHL||0.725|
|Perttu Lindgren - SM Liiga||---||Matej Stransky - WHL||---|
|Stephane Robidas||3.300||Adam Pardy||2.000|
|Patrik Nemeth - AHL||0.900||Jamie Oleksiak - AHL||1.400|
|Jace Coyle - AHL||0.536||
Brenden Dillon - AHL
|Hubert Labrie - AHL||0.531||Patrik Nemeth - SWE||---
|Troy Vance - OHL||Alex Theriau - AHL||---|
|John Klingberg - SM Liiga||---|
|Jack Campbell - OHL||1.370|
|Tyler Beskorowany - AHL||0.845|
Once again, here are the players entering free agency this summer:
2012 NHL Unrestricted Free Agents (2011-12 Salary):
In the system:
2012 NHL Restricted Free Agents (2011-12 Salary):
In the system:
We are going to take a good hard look at the UFAs on the team next week, but this gives us a good idea of just what the Stars are looking at this summer as far as needed additions.
The Stars currently have just 13 players under contract at the NHL level next season and need to find a way to fill the roster without overspending, while still attempting to find a way to make a "splash" this summer. There's also the fact that the Stars have 31 players under contract for next season with a total limit of 50 for the organization. That's what is important to consider when we're talking about how many players may be retained as Restricted Free Agents, or are given a contract as a UFA.
Some of the NHL roster may be supplemented by a few players from the AHL, with Brenden Dillon, Scott Glennie and Alex Chiasson all likely getting the chance to make the NHL roster out of camp next season. What about free agency, however?
The Stars have a desperate need at center. We know that Jamie Benn is returning but the Stars must find a way to find better balance on the third and fourth lines, in order to allow Benn to actually play offense instead of a checking role. Ideally, the Stars would fill out the wingers first -- which would then allow Steve Ott to take on a more substantial role on the third line.
Adding a scoring winger to the top two lines is the #1 priority for the Dallas Stars, but not just a winger who can put the puck on net. The Stars need to go after forwards who are capable defensively as well and can play a defensive style from a top-six position, something the Stars struggled with at many times last season. The addition of just one legitimate top-six forward will help to significantly balance out the offense of the Stars and allow several players to fall back into the roles in which they are most comfortable.
There's also the young players to consider and how many roster spots should be reserved for players like Glennie, Chiasson or Smith. Do the Stars fill out the NHL roster with free agents and allow all three to continue to learn in the AHL or do they allow themselves the room and space for a few of these players to make the team? Glennie is looking like he could become a more-than-decent checking line center, but the issue with Chiasson and Smith is that both are better suited for top-six minutes.
When we look at the organization as a whole, one thing sticks out: the Stars still need defensemen. With Oleksiak and Nemeth making the jump to the AHL next season, the Stars wil have just three defensemen developing between the NCAA, WHL and Europe. The Stars still need players moving up that pipeline, especially with Grossmann being traded.
The number one priority -- and something we'll definitely get into more detail on later -- is the need for a top-six center prospect. While it's always important to not draft for absolute need in the first round and go with the best talent available, the Stars need to take a good hard look at taking a center in the first round that can help this team as soon as possible. I wouldn't be surprised if the Stars draft several natural centers this summer.
So, taking a look at the overall system -- what do you feel are the biggest needs for the Dallas Stars? Remember the restrictions on the number of contracts the Stars are allowed.