2013 NHL Free Agency: Looking at the Dallas Stars' Available Cap Space

Ronald Martinez

We review the Dallas Stars' financial situation in relation to the newly lowered 2013-2014 salary cap of $64.3 million.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins sure are good hockey teams right now, and there are some that think those fanbases should enjoy watching it while it lasts. Because it simply cannot.

Chicago has over $62 million committed to next season's $64.3 million cap with eight pending UFA's and RFA's. Boston has nine players in need of contracts, including both goaltenders, with over $60 million already committed.

Keeping the "band together" for either will be difficult, bordering on impossible, and several others (Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, Vancouver) will face similar issues in the post-2012-lockout economy.

Dallas has made some big signings in the last year including Kari Lehtonen and Jamie Benn's extensions, giving $10 million to Sergei Gonchar, and acquiring Erik Cole's $4.5M hit for the next couple of years. With free agency beginning three weeks from today let's take a little look at the situation going forward.

To review, because it's been a while and because league's financial season is upon us, this is from the negotiated terms of the new CBA released in January...

The Payroll Range for 2013/14 shall be as follows:

Lower Limit = $44 Million
Midpoint = $54.15 Million
Upper Limit = $64.3 Million


Beginning in 2014/15, and on a going forward basis, the Payroll Range will be calculated as follows:

a) The Midpoint will be calculated in accordance with the formula utilized in the expired CBA, including with respect to the year-over-year growth factor and using 50% as the applicable Players' Share.

b) The Upper and Lower Limits will be determined as follows:

x Upper Limit: +15% of the Adjusted Midpoint
x Lower Limit: -15% of the Adjusted Midpoint
x Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Upper Limit shall never fall below $64.3M during the
term of this Agreement and the magnitude of the Payroll Range shall never fall below
$16 million and never rise above $28 million (from Lower Limit to Upper Limit).

The midpoint calculation remains the same, but the players' share is now 50% instead of 57%. The math on the floor and ceiling changes from a hard $8 million in either direction from the midpoint, to now 15%, which will slow the growth of the floor - but perhaps not for long.

For now we think (think) we need be more concerned about where the ceiling is, and for 2013-2014 it was negotiated at a hard $64.3M. Does the Gonchar signing put the Stars in a bad way? Not even close.

Forwards Salary (millions)
Jamie Benn 5.25
Ray Whitney 4.5
Erik Cole 4.5
Loui Eriksson 4.25
Vern Fiddler 1.8
Alex Chiasson 0.9
Reilly Smith 0.9
Cody Eakin 0.637778
Antoine Roussel 0.6125
Ryan Garbutt 0.575
Lane MacDermid RFA
Eric Nystrom UFA
Defensemen
Sergei Gonchar 5
Alex Goligoski 4.6
Stephane Robidas 3.3
Trevor Daley 3.3
Aaron Rome 1.5
Philip Larsen 1.025
Brenden Dillon 0.9
Goaltenders
Kari Lehtonen 5.9
Backup
Eric Godard Buyout 0.233333
Total 49.7~

Capgeek lists Jamie Oleksiak, but there's little reason to believe he'll definitely be on the NHL team to begin the year at this point with the defense stuffed as it is, so let's operate under the assumption that that money is fair game for spending for the moment.

The Stars have approximately $14.6 million, give or take, to play with here, and that's after making what could ultimately prove to be one of league's biggest acquisitions this summer in a $5 million deal for Gonchar.

Kari Lehtonen is now the the team's highest paid player. That sounds about right.

Dallas is spending nearly as much (19M) on their defense as they are on their forwards (23), and this is where one would expect things to change in the off-season if the right opportunity comes along.

With the Oleksiaks and Gaunces of the world simmering in Cedar Park, and Jordie Benn's future uncertain, there are options on the blue line, but even more so there is a log jam where skillset is concerned. The Stars have a small, quick defense that is, theoretically, adept at moving the puck. Add to that Kevin Connauton, who would have to pass through waivers to get out of camp and to Texas.

Rome and Dillon provide the physicality and size, but perhaps not enough. Which leads anyone looking at this would-be roster to the inexorable conclusion that one of Trevor Daley, Stephane Robidas and Philip Larsen could be a candidate to be moved on in one form or another if Nill and company so desired.

Teams will be looking to exercise compliance buyouts to reach the $64.3 million cap - or not. If a team wants to dump a salary they will look first to trade and get value back in the form of picks or younger, cheaper players. Those in the market for upgrades will be hoping for the buyouts, and the discipline of the group will be challenged. It will take only one or two GM's out there to bite and create a market for players on bad contracts.

Eric Nystrom will likely test free agency, it would seem, and his return is far from a sure thing. He'll be looking for a raise on a $1 million salary and a few years as well.

The Stars are short on penalty killing forwards. Without Derek Roy and Nystrom on the roster the forward who killed the most penalty time last year behind Vern Fiddler was... Cody Eakin. That's no reason to overpay what's largely an energy player, impeccable character and charisma aside.

When it's all said and done the acquisition(s) that will have needed to take up the most of that $14.6 million is a center, but the market is bare.

Any way you slice it the Stars are in good shape moving forward this year and next, but it could be a case of having cash burning a hole in your pocket and nothing to spend it on that you actually need.

The good news is that the topic of this conversation is cap hits and where they are in relation to the ceiling, rather than talking actual salaries, the "internal budget", and the need to meet the cap floor.

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