The Salary Cap spurs roster movement every offseason. Teams against the cap have to find some way to be cap compliant while maintaining quality rosters. These circumstances provide the Dallas Stars with an opportunity to find some otherwise unavailable talent for the 2016 season.
Who are some teams that are in trouble?
The Lightning are in much bigger trouble next off season, but it isn't out of the question to think they could clean up some of their cap this year. With a very well managed roster the Lightning are poised to be very good for a while, but like all teams in the cap era they're going to have to make some cuts at some point.
Tampa has 18 NHL skaters under contract for 2016 with a projected two million in space per Hockey's Cap. That's certainly manageable. All of their signed defensive corps makes over four million, but no one has broken the bank. They have Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, and Jonathan Drouin for less than the price of Steven Stamkos. It's an enviable situation.
Next offseason when Kucherov is off of his entry level deal, Braydon Coburn is unrestricted, and Alex Killorn is restricted looking for a raise from 2,550,000 the situation is going to get hairy. Tampa could move Ben Bishop and a defenseman to make the situation more manageable. Maybe they would move a defenseman now and get a jump on the situation.
Weird, the other participant in the Stanley Cup Finals is also up against the cap. That must be why they are bleeding money. Just kidding, they aren't bleeding money unless they are the most poorly run franchise in professional sports.
Stan Bowman has a job on his hands. He always seems to have a big obstacle to face recently. Brent Seabrook is an unrestricted free agent after next season. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are signed to matching contracts with cap hits of 10,500,000. Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp are signed for over five million each. Corey Crawford somehow makes 6,000,000. Even Bryan Bickell brings home four.
Chicago has 14 players under contract for 2016 with about seven million in projected space. Wishful thinking has the Hawks moving Seabrook. Perhaps they will. Who knows what he is seeking as a free agent next year. I wouldn't be shocked if it was a crazy high number. Let's think with our heads though. As is the Hawks basically only use four defensemen per night. Do they really have the depth to make moving Seabrook their prime goal?
What Chicago does have are forwards. Their scoring was down significantly this year, but they have such depth that you have to think this is where they will start. Sharp is coming off of a very down year at 5,900,000. At 32 he isn't on the upside of his career. Bickell is just a guy. Cap teams can't pay him that much. With Teuvo Teravainen doing his thing and the recently signed Artemi Panarin in the fold they can easily absorb dealing an expensive forward or two.
Seabrook is someone the Stars could covet, but Sharp would make a lot of sense here too if the Stars move on from Ales Hemsky. Would the teams make a trade in the division though?
The Penguins have three incredible building blocks . Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Kris Letang are an almost unrivaled trio. Unfortunately for them the Penguins have had trouble putting talent around them. Between the three of them they take up 25 million from the available cap space.
Also taking up resources is Marc-Andre Fleury at almost six million. Rob Scuderi makes close to four. Patric Hornqvist, Brandon Sutter, David Perron, and Chris Kunitz all make over three million. These aren't all bad players. Hornqvist, Perron, and Kunitz are in fact all desirable. However, a team with so much money tied up in three players is going to have trouble competing without a serious infusion of productive youth and/or significant production from players on extreme value contracts. Neither situation fits the Penguins. They only have about 11 million in space and so many needs.
They could continue to patch the holes year in and year out, or they could do something drastic. There have been rumblings that Malkin wants out. That remains to be seen. We'll cover the possibility in depth soon, but could you imagine if the Stars could pull that off? It would definitely cause issues later, but there would be no team in hockey more fun to watch for a couple years.
Los Angeles seems to be perpetually up against the cap, yet always able to manage it. They have so many good forwards locked up to reasonable deals, some terrific young talent, and depth defensively. The Slava Voynov situation is hanging over their heads and Andrej Sekera is unrestricted. With only seven million in space the Kings can't keep Sekera and Justin Williams without getting creative. They also can't seek much in the way of improvements to a team that missed the playoffs.
Should the Kings decide to move a scoring forward the Stars would be an excellent fit. Undoubtedly they will attempt to find a resolution to the Mike Richards situation first. He still has five years left at over five million per year remaining. The Kings are going to have to retain serious salary if they hope to move him or just release him outright. Either way, they won't get the full amount of cap opened up.
They may need to make some tough choices if they plan to make improvements
Another member of Conference III is going to be up against it. They have 14 million in space with 15 players under contract. Among the players currently without contracts are long time Blues defenseman Barrett Jackman and dynamic scoring winger Vladimir Tarasenko.
Tarasenko is going to get paid. Coming off of scoring 37 goals as a 23 year old it's hard to imagine him not being among the higher paid Blues next year. Vladimir Sobotka is likely returning from the KHL too. He owes the Blues one season at close to three million. If the Blues retain Jackman, count on Sobotka, and re-sign Tarasenko that trio is likely taking up about 12,000,000 dollars. This leaves them no space for improvements, particularly in net where their most glaring hole exists.
Enviable depth is a calling card of the Blues. If they wanted to create some room they could look to do it by dealing a forward. The Stars could find a match here.
They're in a bit of a pickle. New York has only seven forwards signed with a hair over 11 million in cap space. Martin St. Louis is a free agent. Carl Hagelin and Derek Stepan are restricted free agents.
Dan Girardi and Dan Boyle combine to make ten million dollars. With that removed the Rangers are probably fine.
Looking up the Rangers was educational. I had no idea Derick Brassard was making adult money. The Rangers owe him 20 million dollars over the next four years. Brassard did register 60 points in 2015, but his previous career high was 47 and he's never scored 20 goals. It seems a bit excessive for a forward who was 201st in the league among forwards with greater than 30 games in even strength goals + primary assists per 60 minutes.
The Stars are in need of a backup goaltender. Cam Talbot has been mentioned, but given how cheap his contract is why would the Rangers move him? The Rangers cap crunch may not benefit the Stars via trade, but how nice would the Stars top six look with St. Louis added? Given his age he isn't going to need a long term deal. The days of 100 points are over, and if he isn't willing to take some level of pay cut it isn't happening, but stranger things have happened.
Minnesota being a Cup contender has been a feel good story for...someone I guess. The core of the club is going to likely remain intact, but they have some work to do. Currently the Wild have ten million in space with Devan Dubnyk, Kyle Brodziak, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Sean Bergenheim, and Chris Stewart as free agents.
Minnesota didn't become a contender last year until the goaltending situation stabilized. They can't reasonably sell their fans on being a contender next year without bringing Dubnyk or a suitable replacement back. A goaltender plus Granlund is going to eat up most of their space.
Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville seem superfluous for the Wild given their salaries. Moving one of their higher priced wingers is the most obvious way for the Wild to make some room should they need it. Either could theoretically be a fit for the Stars.
Other teams could fit the bill too, but these make the most sense. The Stars can open up close to 30 million in space if they were inclined to move Hemsky, Kari Lehtonen, and Trevor Daley. As is they have 16 million in space. They're in an enviable spot to make big time improvements to the roster. It will be interesting to see if the Stars match up with any of these teams for a trade.