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For Dallas Stars, Free Agency About More Than Just 2011-2012 Roster

At 12:00pm EDT tomorrow, things are going to change. Rosters will fill out. Contenders will die and be born. The value of the dollar itself may slip even lower [sarcasm] because of the contracts (and bonuses, keep your eye on bonuses) thrown around at mediocre talent tomorrow, all in the name of reaching the cap floor, which has suddenly become a more important factor league-wide than the cap ceiling.

For the Dallas Stars changes could range from minimal to revolutionary, depending on what path Joe Nieuwendyk takes through the mine-field. While the minds of most Stars fans concentrate on where the team is on April 10th, 2012 in the playoff standings, there is so much more at stake here. The cap floor and forced spending of hundreds of millions of dollars, all of which will be surely lost next year by a host of teams could redefine labor negotiations next summer.

The league is approaching a place similar to the 2003-2004 seasons where the disparity of the "haves" and "have-nots" is so great that more than 50% of the leagues franchises are absolutely hemorrhaging money while trying to keep up. The interesting thing from a Dallas perspective is that the Stars were one of the franchises throwing around dollars like it was monopoly money last time and now sit squarely on the other side of the ledger, deeply in the red.

It's that red ink that has them floundering while looking for a new owner. It's that red ink that has them waving goodbye to a good soldier in Brad Richards who would have had a real conversation about re-signing here months ago if not for the tumultuous uncertainty of the future in Dallas.

One need only look at his possible destinations this weekend to catch a glimpse of what stable, deep-pocketed ownership can do for a team. Tampa Bay considers themselves Richards contenders, having solved the ownership woes that served as the genesis for his expulsion from there in the first place. Terry Pegula is doing a number on the Buffalo Sabres including signing Christian Ehrhoff to a TEN year, $40 million deal that uses the CBA as proverbial toilet paper, and they traded for Robyn Regehr just prior. They're spending money aggressively and gaining a favorable reputation amongst the players as an ownership group that will treat people well and is committed to winning.

The activities tomorrow will tell us much about the future of the league and labor negotiations but they'll also give us another update, so to speak, about the clout the name "Dallas Stars" carries in this league. Once upon a time, not too long ago, Dallas was a premiere destination; A first class ticket and a first class organization that had all the perks to go along with perennial contendership.

Last year the ownership fiasco was just starting and Dallas wasn't looking to be players in free agency. This year the ownership situation is dragging on interminably, not unlike some other unsavory scenarios throughout the league, while the team has declared that they DO want to be active in acquiring players.

The market was therefore unable to give commentary on the Stars situation as a franchise last off-season, but this year, possibly as soon as tomorrow, we will know the extent of the damage one way or the other. Do the Stars need to overpay to compensate for their extenuating circumstances? Is this an undesirable situation for free agents? Will agents field calls from the Stars in the same manner as calls from other teams?

Terry Pegula has been called a "wealthy, determined Sabres fan" and it's starting to pay off. How much will not having a wealthy, determined Stars fan in the front office this summer affect the next 72 hours or so?

While you worry about the state of the 2011-2012 Stars roster on the ice, remember to give a thought to their "big picture" as well as the state of the league and a CBA that must be re-negotiated next summer.