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Dallas Stars Daily Links: Have We Seen the End of NHL Bridge Contracts?

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As the NHL looks for rising talent, are bridge contracts about to disappear? Plus, the league officially begins the expansion process, and the Benn brothers rock their stars (and stripes).

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It's hard for Dallas Stars fans not to notice the quiet surrounding the team's efforts during the 2015 free-agency period. What we may not have noticed is that it's been relatively quiet everywhere.

James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail did, and he makes the case that in the future, restricted free agency will be more important than its more established older brother — and that we may be witnessing the death of both the bridge contract and the huge paydays for veterans entering unrestricted free agency.

Mirtle notes the sea change in general managers' attitudes toward offer sheets, which seemingly all at once have gone from the nuclear option to the weapon of choice:

For the first time in the NHL, it appears the attention has shifted toward where the really valuable players are: restricted free agency. Ten years into a salary cap world, GMs unhappy with the quality of UFAs available have finally begun to view offer sheets as a useful tool to pry players away from their teams.

And it's working.

Stars fans know a thing or two about the importance of rising stars, having woken up one April morning to learn that the team had confidently signed RFA defender John Klingberg to a seven-year extension with a cap hit of $4.25 million. With the new emphasis on #fancystats in the salary-cap world, Mirtle finds evidence that Klingberg-style deals may be the next wave:

What the cap has forced GMs to do is find as much value for their $71-million and change as they can. That means eliminating overpays, which means eliminating legacy contracts for veterans who are paid for their name more than their production.

It also means targeting players entering their prime rather than those leaving it.

The NHL is becoming much more advanced analytically speaking, with at least a dozen teams now employing a full-time staffer charged with crunching numbers. Again and again, these analysts have shown that peak performance in the NHL is between age 22 and 27, earlier than many in the game previously believed.

...

It's a shift that makes plenty of sense, but one that's also led to a large number of contract stalemates around the league. Teams on a budget or with limited cap space still want to give their young players the so-called "bridge" contract - with a lower cap hit until they get closer to UFA and prove their value - but the landscape is shifting rapidly in the favour of players such as Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis), Derek Stepan (the Rangers) and Braden Holtby (Washington), who can all make a case they deserve to be paid like stars.

It's a long and interesting read. You should go get it. [Globe and Mail]

*****

Happy Dallas Stars Development Camp! The 2015 edition begins today and continues through Saturday, July 11. If you can, go to Dr Pepper StarCenter Frisco and meet the prospects. They're as glad to be here as you will be to see them.

As Stars prospects move one year closer to possible NHL careers in the Murder Death Kill Division, Jordan Dix takes a look at the strengths and weaknesses of every team in the Central. [The Hockey Writers]

The NHL officially began its expansion process yesterday, so if you asked for application materials, watch your mailbox. Oh, and make sure you have about $500 million lying around somewhere, too. [TSN]

So what else happened while we spent the weekend grilling and watching fireworks? Well, the first ice hockey teams from Jamaica and the Falkland Islands met in Allison, Ontario to play their first games in their first tournament. [The Hockey House]

You can follow Team Jamaica on Twitter @JOIHT. The squad is the brainchild and long-term project of Graeme Townshend, the first Jamaican player in the NHL. (Fun fact: NHL'ers of Jamaican descent currently include P.K. Subban and Wayne Simmonds). [CBS Sports]

You may know that Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom struggled with injury last season, but you may not know just how much. [NBC Sports]

Connor McDavid scored five goals in an Edmonton Oilers scrimmage last night. I'm just surprised I have to tell you this.

The Chicago Blackhawks have made some agonizing cap-related decisions recently, but they still want to keep top-flight free agents Marcus Kruger (RFA) and Johnny Oduya (UFA). For their parts, Kruger and Oduya are being patient with the process. Having a brand-new Stanley Cup probably helps with that. [Chicago Tribune]

Elsewhere, the Ottawa Senators have launched a new look and new logo to celebrate their 25th anniversary.

Remember TSN's Franchise Faceoff 2014? Of course you do. Of course you do. They're at it again this summer, which means Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin have yet another chance to win their bracket and still get vetoed by the Quizmaster. Only this year's alternative to a Benn victory is so, so, so much worse than Evgeni Malkin. I'll just leave this here. [TSN]

More falling action from the 2015 NHL Draft: The Arizona Coyotes have signed No. 3 pick Dylan Strome to an entry-level contract, calling him a "key building block" for the franchise. [KPHO]

Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Flyers have signed defenseman and No. 7 pick Ivan Provorov to his own three-year deal. Will he be in their opening lineup in October? [NBC Sports]

The Los Angeles Kings are hoping for better things this season, with new additions like left wing Milan Lucic and goalie/former Star Jhonas Enroth, and the start of negotiations to extend core centerman Anze Kopitar. Will accentuating the positive get them past the issues that dogged them last season? [Los Angeles Times]

Finally: For Independence Day, Jack Campbell reminds us why he's called Captain America.

And did you have as much fun as the Benn brothers did this July 4th? The answer is no. No, you did not. [Sports Day DFW]

4th of July with these beauts @jamiebenn14 @jordiebenn

A photo posted by Justin Courtnall (@justincourtnall) on