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2011 NHL Free Agency: What Options Exist For The Dallas Stars?

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When the offseason began for the Dallas Stars and the fans, bitter disappointment was immediately met with a ray of hope; Tom Gaglardi took steps towards becoming the next owner of the franchise and the long ordeal of a promising team held back by financial handcuffs would soon be over. For many, the feeling persists that the Dallas Stars have been a team on the edge of being truly good, that the mediocrity experienced for three straight seasons was a combination of lack of top-end defensive talent and the inability for the general manager to make the moves necessary to bolster a roster that was showing tremendous promise.

Now, nearly two months since the end of the regular season, we still have no idea as to what direction the Stars are headed. There have been no rumors as to who Joe Nieuwendyk might hire as the next head coach nor when, we've yet to hear any news on the impending sale of the team and with free agency just a month away the freedom that we all hoped the Stars would enjoy come July 1st is slowly slipping away. 

There's no way to accurately predict just what is going to happen with the Stars a month from now. There's a good chance the team depart for the draft without a head coach, while there's also the chance the Stars hit free agency with the ability to spend up to $20 million to add to a promising roster. 

This wide spectrum of possibilities makes it nearly impossible to perform any sort of accurate analysis or prediction as to what the Dallas Stars can or need to do when free agency does begin. We'll do our best, however, and to start with we'll take a look at the players available this summer and who might be worth targeting if the Stars financials were freed up -- even just a little.

Who's available:

Here's a list of some of the names the Stars could target this summer, as well as their salaries in 2010-11.

James Wisnieski - $3.25M
Tomas Kaberle - $4.25M
Anton Babchuk - $1.4M
Kevin Bieksa - $3.75M
Roman Hamrlik - $5.5M
Bryan McCabe - $5.75M
Ian White - $2.99M
Steve Montador - $1.55M

Forwards - 
Ville Leino - $800K
Erik Cole - $2.9M
Brooks Laich - $2.06M
Radim Vrbata - $3M
Tomas Kopecky - $1.2M
Tim Connolly - $4.5M
Simon Gagne - $5.25M
Michael Ryder - $4M
Scottie Upshall - $2.25M
Joel Ward - $1.5M
Raffi Torres - $1.0M

I think that we can safely say the Stars, no matter what the budget might, will not be going after players like McCabe, Hamrlik, Kaberle, Gagne, Connolly or even perhaps Ryder. Even without the contract of Richards on the books, it's just not worth it to spend that sort of money on older players -- except perhaps Gagne, who is going to be a very hot commodity this summer after his performance in the postseason for the Lightning.

Instead, look for the Stars to target valuable and productive players such as Leino, Laich, Ward, Upshall, or White. 

It's quite possible that right now, considering the the state of the team and what we're looking at on the roster for next season, Kevin Bieksa is most likely the best the Stars can likely get -- and he'd be a very welcome addition as well. 

Over the next month, we'll take a look at these players specifically and -- hopefully -- start to get some sense as to what the Stars will be able to do when free agency actually hits.