For the majority of the life of the NHL salary cap the Stars have had little need to even really know what the upper salary limit actually is. The Stars low salary commitments have kept them from worrying about it, but the new ownership and the lower salary cap coming mean the Stars will need to be prepared to work with the cap for the first time in a while.
The actual problems they will face in regards to the cap are up for debate. Some would shrug the issues off, but as crazy as it sounds the Stars could face some cap issues in the near future IF they are going to legitimately compete. Below is a list of all of the Stars commitments for 2013/14 that, at this moment, you can definitively count on to be on the roster.
For all intents and purposes the Stars have about 30 million committed to the 2013/14 squad. That money is spread amongst three forwards, five defensemen, and a goalie. This is for a team that has missed the playoffs for four straight years.
Let's look a little closer at the situation, starting with the forwards.
The following is a list of all of the Stars forwards under contract for the 2013/14 season:
The notable omissions are Jamie Benn, Derek Roy, Brenden Morrow, Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder, and Tomas Vincour. Benn and Vincour are restricted free agents. The others are unrestricted. There is no reason to believe that Benn, Roy, or Vincour will be going anywhere. So, let's add them to the three forwards from before to push us to six. We can conservatively estimate that Benn, Roy, and Vincour will combine to make 11.5 million dollars.
That puts the Stars at six forwards for roughly 22 million dollars. The recent run of solid drafts should allow the Stars to fill in some bottom six roles for relatively cheap with solid players. From the list of signed prospects it would be an upset if both Cody Eakin and Alex Chiasson weren't regular depth players in 2013/14. Ryan Garbutt is an obvious fourth line spark plug as well. Those three will combine to make 2,112,778 next year. We now sit at 24,112,778 for nine forwards.
The problem is where the Stars still need help. The forwards mentioned consist of four who you can realistically count on as top six options, two third liners, two fourth liners, and a wild card in Chiasson. Someone like Reilly Smith or Chiasson developing into a top six option very quickly would help significantly, but that can't be counted on immediately. Right now, to be a legit playoff team, the Stars will need to find two more forwards for a total of seven million per year, and another in the 2-3 million range to fill out the third line.
*** The Defense ***
The Stars defensive commitments are below:
The defense is where things get tricky. One would imagine that the top seven guys listed would be, as of right now, the Stars top seven defenders next year. The same problems that have plagued this group for several seasons remain. Namely, they still need a top pairing guy. Those guys aren't cheap. Let us assume that the Stars find one, and that he conservatively costs 5,500,000 per year.
What then? The Stars would have the unnamed top pairing guy, Goligoski, Robidas, Daley, Larsen, Rome, and Dillon on the roster with Oleksiak ready to roll. It seems that the Stars would either keep Oleksiak in the AHL or move an older vet on a short deal (Robidas) to free up the roster spot. The Robidas option seems most likely given that they need to find young pieces to add to the core. So, let's assume the Stars move Robidas for a pick if they pick up someone to skate on the top pair.
***The Final Roster***
This is what the 2013/14 roster looks like with only one drastic change: a top pairing defender in with Robidas dealt:
|Top Pair D||5,500,000|
Note: I didn't spend time talking about the goalies. I'm ballpark guessing Bachman to be around 1,700,000.
The situation isn't dire, but you can see how quickly the Stars get pushed to the cap as early as next season if they're putting on the full court press to fill their real holes. This was with conservative estimates on the salaries of Derek Roy and Jamie Benn, as well. More liberal estimations of their salaries push them to the brink.
A strong finish to the year by Reilly Smith or Alex Chiasson could alleviate some of the problems. If either player can grab a top nine role they can save the Stars considerable money.
The reality is that the chances of the Stars adding two top six forwards, a third liner, and a top pairing defenseman in the same offseason are slim. Realistically, the Stars resign Brenden Morrow for the third line opening and hope two of Smith, Chiasson, and Eakin can handle the top six minutes with a marginal improvement added to the blueline.
Will that be enough to make the Stars a legitimate playoff team? Most likely not, but unless they push themselves to the new cap that is what they will likely be working with.