2014 NHL Free Agency: Looking at the Dallas Stars' Pending Unrestricted Free Agents

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Vern Fiddler seems to be the biggest question mark here.

2014 NHL Free Agency.

It's just one month away, you know, and so we thought we'd start taking a look at what's out there to be bid upon - but of course one must look within before seeking answers elsewhere. These are the Dallas Stars' pending unrestricted free agents on July 1st.

How many will stay? Will any?

Chris Mueller:

28-year old and extraordinarily useful as a waiver-exempt callup the coaching staff liked this season. That attribute goes away and several other younger players start becoming more attractive options in a pinch - is there room for Chris Mueller?

There's value in having veteran AHL guys in the AHL. It's not sexy from an organizational standpoint but it's good for those individuals, who usually sign pretty good AHL deals, and it's good for a business that you'd like to see stay afloat. To win.

He can help them do that. His future at the NHL level...that's anyone's guess.

Tim Thomas:

Thanks for playing. A decent start and a, at times, disastrous finish, nearly cost the Stars all that they earned this season. That step they took forward. Dan Ellis turned out to be a rare misstep (so far) for Jim Nill. Tim Thomas looked like a genius pickup in contrast when Kari Lehtonen went down after the trade deadline.

Neither was quite prepared to really carry the load in a true tandem situation. Does a team need that? Isn't that a little too much to ask?

The margin for error is so razor-thin in the West that those questions simply must be asked, unfair though it may seem. Jack Campbell is not ready (in all likelihood) to back up out of camp. They'll be after another name this off-season. The question is who.

The question is not about Tim Thomas, whose time in the NHL is likely done.

Ray Whitney:

The wizard. The ageless one. All he did was record points after the lockout. All he did was produce and produce. He was the Alex Chiasson whisperer, and all of that. It was a head-scratcher of a deal when it was signed, but a very productive 2013 season put all that to rest.

Until Tyler Seguin and Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt, etc, etc started taking over the big minutes. And the team wanted to play fast. Very fast.

"It was not a great year [in Dallas] ... I'm not sure there are a whole lot of options out there," Whitney told the Edmonton Journal. "The legs are still there, but it's nearly impossible to get the legs moving when you're over 40 and playing eight to 10 minutes and only on the power play."

"Phoenix could be the easiest solution, but I don't know what their plans are. My daughter's in Grade 7 now and it's time to get her settled, get the family all set. Moving around is all done for them."

Sounds like a guy who's about ready, but we know his character and his drive. He may wait until September for the phone to ring, then exit stage-left if it does not.

He's had a hell of a career and is a model of how to prepare and take care of one's body when most of your peers have faded - but Dallas' style of play last season all but precluded and meaningful presentation. His assertion that he'd need more minutes to get his legs moving doesn't hold water in this young man's league.

He did nothing but record points in the lockout shortened season. This last one the game may finally have caught up to him. He will not be back.

Vernon Fiddler:

He was sensational for the Stars at times. He was the absolute worst in plus/minus rating for much of his tenure here. He had memorable goals, big penalty kills, and he reportedly asked for a trade.

He's so old, anyway.

Right?

Well, actually he's just barely turned 34, and of all the Stars' UFAs he seems the most likely to stay, given the team's tenuous situation down the middle.

Elliotte Friedman of CBC says that Nill "made an offer" to Fidds. That's liable to not matter much, as Nill's would be something sensible and age-sensitive, i.e. a one-year deal, we'd assume. He's likely looking for something along the lines of three years, and given the fact that Ray Whitney was able to get two out of the Stars a couple of summers ago, it's likely he could find it somewhere in the market place.

I am responsible in my speculation. Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal goes out a limb and reports it as straight fact here...

Shawn Horcoff did an excellent job for the Dallas Stars in the playoffs and is sticking around. But while Dallas loves Vern Fiddler's competitive level, plus his work in the faceoff circle (60.4 per cent success rate in the playoffs), they won't give him three years on a new deal, so he'll be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Fiddler would be perfect on the Oilers, but they already have a like-minded player in Boyd Gordon. I could see the ex-Coyote Fiddler in Calgary with the Phoenix/Treliving connection. The Flames were the worst faceoff team in the league.

Fiddler's ties with Western Canada aren't getting any weaker as he makes himself available for off-season comment with The Province about Willie Desjardins.

Coyotes fans are already considering him as an option.

The final word on these kinds of things tends to be the incomparable Mike Heika - and his attitude is that Fiddler will test free agency, though the Stars remain outwardly interested in a possible return. Or it appears so.

Though reportedly unhappy with his role to start this last season and the one before it, he ended both campaigns, and under different head coaches, in high regard and increased minutes. That's a character, veteran guy most coaches would like to have.

He's a guy that hasn't been to the NHL's second round. You'd like to think that would be his aim in free agency, more than the years or the greenbacks. But life in sports isn't always as romantic as we'd like.

Aaron Rome:

Nah, I'm just kidding. He's got another year.

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