NHL Free Agency: Texas Stars Have Depth, What Does That Mean For Dallas?

USA TODAY Sports

Texas Stars have a lot of veteran unrestricted free agents coming due for contracts.

The backbone of every contending team is the depth of their prospect pool. Dallas has done a great job of turning that around in recent years, and Texas has been reaping a lot of the rewards from the improvement in prospects coming through Cedar Park. In the last four seasons, Texas Stars have won their division and been top of their conference while making the playoffs for three of those seasons. They're sitting atop their conference at this point in the season and look like they're going to cruise to another postseason berth.

One thing that will affect whether a player is re-signed is the 50 contract limit the league allows the Dallas Stars to hold. Dallas is currently right at that limit between the various levels of the organization. Another fun wrinkle that makes free agency unique in the AHL level is the veteran rule:

Of the 18 skaters (not counting two goaltenders) that teams may dress for a regular-season game, at least 13 must be qualified as "development players." Of those 13, 12 must have played in 260 or fewer professional games (including AHL, NHL, IHL and European elite leagues), and one must have played in 320 or fewer professional games. All calculations for development status are based on regular-season totals as of the start of the season. [Hundred Degree Hockey]

Essentially, six veterans are allowed as skaters on the team. With only six allowed on a roster, would part of the veteran leadership in Texas end up gone this summer? I sat down with Stephen Meserve of Hundred Degree Hockey this weekend to talk about the various free agents in Texas. Today, we look at the unrestricted free agents.

Cristopher Nilstorp

30 years old, 6' 3" 190, Catches right, Goaltender

Reasons to sign: Provides a solid backup to push Campbell at AHL level, steady AHL goalie when healthy; Dallas goalie system isn't very deep at the moment, as many are still in juniors.

Reasons to let go: Injury issues, could steal starts from future NHL tender Campbell, could be expensive

We say....

Taylor: Nilstorp is a good option at backup - they already know what they're going to get. I think it comes down to money and the rest of the depth at goal throughout the system (which I'm not particularly sold on at the moment.)

Stephen: Nilstorp has been a solid interim option for the Stars goalie situation in the AHL. It's time for Jack Campbell to own the Texas Stars net so a more reliably healthy and cheaper AHL backup will probably be sought for the coming season.

Colton Sceviour [Veteran]

24 years old, 6' 0" 200, Right shot, Center

Reasons to sign: Cheap and effective third line winger, defensively responsible, confidence from top scoring season in AHL

Reasons he could be traded: top scorer in AHL, can contribute at NHL level

We say...

Taylor: I think he gets re-signed, but probably to a two year, one-way deal in Dallas. He's ready to provide depth scoring at this level and that right shot isn't something Dallas has a lot of.
Stephen: Depending on how things go the rest of the way, Sceviour could spend the post-deadline season in the NHL. He could easily do that in a non-Dallas jersey. Likely to be kept and re-signed as youth movement player but could be a Fraser-like trade piece. If signed, I expect two-year deal with the second year being one-way.

F Chris Mueller [Veteran]

27 years old, 5' 11" 210, Right shot, Center

Reasons to sign: top AHL mentoring talent, effective bottom-six NHL callup

Mueller has a very healthy contract, earning 300k at the AHL level. It was what Texas wanted, in terms of getting a well-compensated AHL difference maker on an NHL contract.

We say...

Taylor: Being a right shot center in a system of nothing but left shots is appealing. I think they keep him if the money isn't insane for depth. He'd be insurance for injuries for the big club and provide that veteran presence for the youngsters in Texas.
Stephen: If they think they can get this cheaper or rely on Morin for another season like this one, Mueller becomes more expendable. There aren't a lot of Chris Muellers around the league though. If signed, I expect a one-year, two-way deal.

Maxime Fortunus [Veteran]

30 years old, 5' 11" 202, Right shot, Defenseman

Reasons to sign: Defensive depth, captain of Texas Stars provides veteran leadership for the young defense Texas is going to have next year

Fortunus was on a two-year AHL deal until mid-season injury issues caused Dallas to sign him to a one-year NHL deal. That deal cancelled the AHL contract.

We say...

Taylor: I see him getting another one-way deal like he had before the Dallas contract broke the original one.
Stephen: I don't think he is renewed on the NHL side, but he will probably get a new AHL deal and continue to lead Texas with the "C".

Francis Wathier [Veteran]

29 years old, 6' 4" 210, Left shot, Left Wing

Reasons to sign: Intangibles (leadership, community presence, loyalty)

Wathier has always been a faithful Dallas Stars foot soldier but his effectiveness has dropped off. He has been a healthy scratch many nights this season, often due to his status as a veteran.

We say...

Taylor: I want Wathier back in Texas. He's a big part of the team, and he's huge in the community involvement the team does down in the Austin area. Wathier has done everything the Stars have asked of him. I think there's a strong case to keep him as the leadership veteran for Texas next season, but if he gets an opportunity to get a better contract elsewhere I'd be happy to see him go.
Stephen: My best guess is an AHL contract elsewhere.

Toby Petersen [Veteran]

35 years old, 5' 10" 195, Left shot, Center

Reasons to let go: Frees up a contract, negligible impact to Texas roster

It's probably the end of the line for Petersen, who will miss much of the last part of the season with an injury. He has been a healthy scratch on occasion but injured quite a bit as well. When in the lineup, he's not been as effective as he was years ago in the AHL.

We say...

Taylor: I just can't see Petersen back in the Dallas system after this year. I wouldn't be surprised if he actually ends up retiring -- he'd be on the other side of 35 at the start of next season.
Stephen: Veteran status does not help matters.

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