With the season now complete and a long summer ahead, we begin the process of taking a close look at what changes will be made in the coming months for the Dallas Stars. It has been hinted that some major change could happen this summer, depending on just how aggressive the Stars are in changing the culture on this team. Before we get to all, however, we need to take a look at where the Stars currently stand in terms of payroll and free agents.
Most of the change this summer will happen because of this situation, with several Stars becoming UFA's or RFA's. Of players that were on the NHL roster for most of this season, 11 are set to become free agents of one sort of the other. That's nearly half the players the Stars would play last season and for some, they won't be back next season.
The decisions the Stars are going to be forced to make with these players is directly tied to the plan for the building process this summer. Will the Stars be aggressive in free agency or are trades to be made? Will the Stars allow space on the roster for a few of the young prospects? These decisions will all influence which players will stay -- especially if the Stars are going after some high-priced free agents.
After the jump, a detailed breakdown of the Stars roster and payroll for next season:
2012 NHL Unrestricted Free Agents (2011-12 Salary):
Radek Dvorak ($1.5 million)
Adam Burish ($1.15 million)
Jake Dowell ($800k)
Toby Petersen ($775k)
Sheldon Souray ($1.65 million)
Andrew Raycroft ($650k)
In the system:
2012 NHL Restricted Free Agents (2011-12 Salary):
Jamie Benn ($821k)
Tom Wandell ($775k)
Ryan Garbutt ($590k)
Mark Fistric ($1 million)
Philip Larsen ($850k)
Richard Bachman ($550k)
In the system:
Dallas Stars Under Contract:
Total Players: 13
Salary Cap Payroll: $40.55 million
In the system under contract:
Total Players under contract: 30
So where does this leave us?
First of all, the Stars already have $40 million going to 13 players on the NHL roster next season. That's a big change from this season, when the Stars needed 27 players on the roster to finish at a $49 million salary cap hit at the end of the season.
There's a lot of talk about the Stars going after Ryan Suter AND Zach Parise but we have to keep in mind a few things. Even though Tom Gaglardi has said he will spend money to build this team, there's nothing that says he's suddenly going to spend right up to the cap. The other problem is that we don't know exactly what the cap is going to look like next season -- and there's a very good chance it is lower than the $64.3 million salary cap from this past season.
So, for posterity's sake, let's assume the cap next season is $60 million (and that's being very optimistic). That means the Stars have $20 million in cap payroll to fill 10 roster spots. If the Stars want to go after these big-name free agents, then it's likely the team could quickly have $10 million allocated to just two players. In reality it would likely be closer to $12 million. This leaves just $8-10 million in cap space to fill up the remaining seven or eights spots on the roster. Is Gaglardi willing and able to go right against the cap to fill those remaining spots?
We'll be diving into these scenarios in detail in the coming weeks but it's good to keep these situations in the back of your mind when we discuss possible plans for the summer.
The Stars also have 20 contract spots available next season, between the NHL and in the system. A few spots will likely be opened up with the Stars buying out Eric Godard and perhaps a few other AHL/ECHL players. Michael Neal is another possibility. There's talk about the Texas Stars wanting Dallas to help pay for AHL veterans to help shore up the team, which could also eat up a few contract spots.
All good things to keep in mind. So with that being said, who do you think will return for the Stars next season?