With the NHL Free Agency period starting to today at 11 a.m. CT, Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill will begin the second phase of his makeover of this team in which a very interesting path will be laid forth. Last summer Nill was aggressive in overhauling the Stars roster and coaching staff and it resulted in the first postseason berth the team has had since 2008.
Now, the pressure is greater than ever before. How will he follow up the stroke of genius that was the Tyler Seguin trade and more importantly, what will the future of this team look like? The decisions made in the coming days will have a very direct effect on the direction of the team -- the Stars are hoping to improve for next season without hamstringing the plans for the future at the same time.
It's a delicate balance to strike -- too many teams have tasted the postseason only to falter and never truly build on that momentum and instead fell victim to the pressures of succeeding. Too aggressive and the team's assets are now compromised in such a way that when it comes time to really dig inside the organization for help, there's nothing left. Too conservative and too focused on potential and you run the risk of the team never living up to expectations and all of a sudden your window has passed.
The Stars are a team caught between those two extremes and Nill has made it very clear he's focused on carefully walking that fine line between them. He knows this team desperately needs a second line center and scoring help in the top six, but he also knows that he doesn't want to sacrifice a talented and deep farm system with the same move.
That same farm system is also driving the decision about the defense at the NHL level, and it's created a bit of controversy amongst Stars fans. It's tough to say that Nill thinks the defense is "fine" and nothing needs to be done to fix it; it seems as though he feels that at this time center is the higher priority and there's only so many assets to go around to address these issues.
There's no telling what's going to happen today, if anything even will. The Stars could be busy but on what front we don't know -- the free agent market today is going to be one of the more interesting in quite some time given the buyouts of the past few days, and there are some attractive and affordable options out the for the Stars.
If Jason Spezza is going to be traded, it's going to happen after the first wave of free agent signings occur. The Senators will see where Paul Stastny lands and then go to the loser of the sweepstakes and try and move Spezza then. There are many who feel that Stastny could certainly end up in St. Louis, which would then leave Spezza available for Dallas. We know that right now only the Blues and the Stars remain in on the trade talks -- but as of yesterday nothing was happening.
The same goes for Joe Thornton, but any potential trade seems incredibly unlikely at this point. The Sharks, however, could try and force him out but once again any move will likely happen after centers start getting signed.
We always expect the Stars to be quiet on the first day of free agency, but we've been wrong before.
First discussion thread will go up at 10:45 a.m. CT.