What a difference a week makes, eh?
A week ago at this time, Dallas Stars fans were wondering exactly what Jim Nill's plan was. Sure, the team's general manager had acquired goaltender Antti Niemi to address the Stars most glaring weakness from last season. And both he and owner Tom Gaglardi were repeating a company line that they wanted to give the group time to mesh together rather than making another summer of wholesale changes.
The Stars now have two more major pieces in Patrick Sharp, acquired in trade, and Johnny Oduya, signed as a free agent. The moves have taken most, though crucially not all, of the cap space amassed for this season.
Cap space and especially lack thereof, as the Chicago Blackhawks have demonstrated so wonderfully this offseason, can dictate a team's entire approach to their personnel decisions. So with what looks like the final piece in place now, at least in terms of major additions, here's how the Stars stand in that category:
|Player||Position||Cap Hit (in millions)||Years Remaining|
The forward cap situation hasn't changed since the last time we looked at it this past weekend. The Stars have an average cap hit of $2.98 million per forward, including Garbutt's retained salary, and have three waiver exempt players in Valeri Nichushkin, Curtis McKenzie and Brett Ritchie.
The caveats about the bonus salary and why my numbers look a little different also apply.
The defense is where the change was with this final signing:
|Player||Shoots||Cap hit (in millions)||Years Remaining|
Even with the addition of Oduya, the Stars average cap hit per defenseman is still only $2.27 million. This average, and the cap as well, is significantly aided by the $1.19 million in cap hit the San Jose Sharks retained for Jason Demers.
Oduya slots into the salary structure as a No. 3 defenseman, or fourth if you consider Demers whole salary and not just Dallas cap hit, and that's likely the role the Stars envision for him. That's a nice piece of cap management from Nill, as Oduya may be slightly overpayed for a fourth defenseman, but players who can succeed with deep zone starts are pretty valuable in their own right.
Finally, the goalies remain the same as well:
|Player||Cap hit (in millions)||Years Remaining|
The overall total with 24 roster players is $70.379, or $1 million below the $71.4 million cap.
But wait, you might say, that includes one too many players on the roster. That's absolutely fair. The Stars will have to send down at least one player on this list out of training camp, barring trades in the interim of course.
The cheapest option of those is Curtis McKenzie, and he is waiver exempt for at least 34 more NHL games. For the hypothetical maximum cap hit the Stars could start the season with using these 24 players, that takes his $675,000 salary out of the equation, leaving a cap cost of $69.704 for 23 players, or $1.95 million in cap space.
If a more expensive player like Brett Ritchie is sent down, that space grows by about $250,000. If Stephen Johns makes the team over another young defenseman, the cap hit would increase by about $100,000 (Johns carries a $1 million cap hit heading into an RFA offseason).
As I mentioned above, the ELC bonuses for Nichuhskin and Ritchie could offer cap relief as well. Nichushkin has $1.2 million in potential bonus money and Ritchie $84,000. Achieved bonuses count against the cap, but since teams don't know what those will total until the end of the season, the Stars would be allowed to exceed the cap by that $1.284 million if they wanted, giving them $3 million to play with. The risk is that if the achieved bonuses push the team over at the end of the season, that overage amount comes off of next season's cap.
All things considered, the Stars are still in an extremely enviable position. They swapped out a top-four defenseman for a better fit for their needs, added a top six winger and a starting-caliber goalie while still retaining enough cap space to cover for both injury call ups and potential trades later in the year.