Last year at this time the thought of the post-season had long since been put out of the minds of Stars fans. It was all about Mike Modano, Marty Turco, and Jere Lehtinen. There were (not very) clever story lines about the Stars visiting Minnesota and the symmetry it provided for what looked like the end of Mo's career. There were tears, and there was much lamentation already about what the roster would look like next season.
This year we have been fortunate enough to avoid all of that, and the last game of the year has snuck up on us with nary a word about who we might not see in a Stars uniform ever again. There isn't exactly a legendary class of UFA's leaving this summer but there are a few names worthy of discussion as they enter what COULD be their last game with Dallas and I have yet to see anyone say "Hey, this could be the last time we see ________ ."
Most notably that one guy. You know.
The core of this team will return next season, regardless. Or will it? Can it still be "the core" if it loses it's best player? On a basketball team, no. On a hockey team there's wiggle room there. Morrow, Ribeiro, Benn, Eriksson, Ott, Robidas, Grossman, Daley, Goligoski, Wandell, Petersen, Fistric, Barch and Burish. That's your core returning.
Jeff Woywitka, Brandon Segal, Karlis Skrastins, Jason Williams, Jamie Langenbrunner, Brian Sutherby and Brad Richards are the UFA's you might not see again.
Some of them people will be happy to see the back of. Others not quite as much...
Jeff Woywitka: He's gone, right? That's the prevailing public opinion but what if the Stars manage to get some nice pieces that are real #3 and #4 guys on other teams. Jeff Woywitka is not a bad #7 guy to have, and he filled in as a #4 quite admirably for a lot of the season whether you want to admit it or not. Still, the odds don't look too favorable that he will be back.
Karlis Skrastins: This team has come to rely a lot on Skrastins over the last two seasons. He closes close games. He kills penalties. He blocks shots. He's not that bad with the puck and as Razor pointed out last night, he's not all that bad joining the rush either. He has been a great, great value signing for Joe Nieuwendyk. With the hope of more money to spend on the horizon is he the kind of guy you want to sign up again? At 37 years old next year, probably not, but in Skrastins you know what you're getting and you know that it's cheap. If he does go, we wish him well and think he's a pretty good dude.
Jason Williams: Gone. They needed bodies, he came in...that's been the end of it really.
Brian Sutherby: I like Brian, but it's hard to see them re-signing him. When you don't have one particular thing that you do real well and you're a healthy scratch as many times as he's been over the course of the last two seasons, the writing is probably on the wall. His contract was done at the very end of the Hull/Jackson era and now that it's over...
Jamie Langenbrunner: This one's a little more difficult. Fans will have split opinions on his time here from January through April 10th. I think he's had some rough patches but for the most part has done what he's been asked to do. He's been great with Wandell recently. He's scored a big goal every now and then. He had eight points in March when everyone's production was slipping. The coaching staff's opinion and Joe Nieuwendyk's opinion of his time here is not known, so we can't hardly guess what will happen there.
Brandon Segal: Having been burned by his two-way deal with the Langenbrunner trade, Segal could be hesitant to sign another, but will anyone offer him a one-way, and what kind of pay cut would he need to take? I don't see it, as fun as he is. Great dude to talk to, but with Vincour waiting with his right handed shot, it's tough to fit Segal into an already crowded forward group next season.
And then there's Brad Richards.
You will have to watch the television on Sunday evening and you will have to wonder if Brad Richards will ever play for this team again. You will likely think about it even more if the Blackhawks win tomorrow afternoon. It's a sad state of affairs, but the ownership situation is still completely up in the air and no progress has been reported. Does he believe this team is moving in the right direction? Will he give them a fair shake when July 1st comes around? (Hopefully sooner?)
So relish the fact that you might be seeing _______ play their last game for Dallas if you don't like them, but take stock of what else is out there and how much you could miss it. Or, if the Red Wings win, don't think about any of that!